Best Restaurants on Hawaii, the Big Island
Now that we have spent the last five years visiting the Big Island, and have eaten at literally scores of restaurants, we feel qualified to provide our list of recommendations to you.
Our recommendations will vary between what is perhaps the best restaurant in all of the Hawaiian Islands to a little Thai restaurant we found in the very small town of Pahoa, near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
We’ll take you from having breakfast on a picnic table at a local farmers’ market, to sunset dining at some of Hawaii Island’s most posh resorts.
There’s something for everyone is our compilation, and there’s not a one in the bunch that we haven’t personally savored.
Note: restaurants are listed geographically, starting in Kona and heading clockwise around the Island.
Best Restaurants on Hawaii, the Big Island (West)
Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe – located in Holualoa town, on the mountain slope above Kona, lies this most delightful “slow food” restaurant. At night, thousands of twinkle lights make for a very romantic setting. We enjoyed grilled local Ahi Tuna with Risotto.
Huggo’s Restaurant – located ocean-front in historic Kona, this casual restaurant has been serving Hawaii Island for over 40 years. Get there for sunset and make certain to try their Ahi Tuna Poke. It’s ‘da bomb!
Splasher’s Grill – across the street from the Kailua pier, and billed as the place where the locals meet to eat. We popped in for lunch and greatly enjoyed their Ono Fish Tacos in fresh corn tortillas. Very casual.
Pahuia at the Four Seasons Hualalai - this is our favorite restaurant on Hawaii, the Big Island. Pahuia has garnered a prestigious list of awards and accolades. Your table will sit a stones throw from the ocean, and you’ll nosh on some of the best cuisine available in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Their Ahi, Hawaiian Sea Bass, and Keahole Lobster Curry are renowned. Be certain to get there for the sunset.
Beach Tree at the Four Seasons Hualalai – this, our second favorite restaurant, is located just down the beach from the Pahuia (listed above). Billed as “barefoot elegance” because you’re welcome in your flip-flops. We will never, ever forget the Veal Osso Bucco Lasagne. I want some, right now! You’ll also find pizza, burgers, pastas, and fresh fish on the menu. But, don’t mess around, get the Veal Osso Bucco Lasagne!
Roy’s – even though Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine can be found in 22 restaurants from Hawaii to Florida, we have always enjoyed the experience. The fish preparations are always top notch, and the chocolate soufflé never disappoints.
Kamuela Provision Company - located in the Hilton Waikoloa Village, this restaurant is worth visiting just to view the beautiful property. After a tranquil boat ride to the restaurant, you enjoy pupus, steaks, fish, and if you get there at sunset, young, hunky Hawaiian men lighting the Tiki Torches.
Brown’s Beach House Restaurant – this AAA Four-Diamond restaurants hold a very special place in our hearts. It was our first romantic ocean-front dinner on the Big Island. Located inside the Fairmont Orchid Resort, the sunset, live Hawaiian music, and the outstanding preparations of Walu, Mahi Mahi and Grilled Ono are certain to leave a lasting wonderful memory.
The CanoeHouse Restaurant – this is one of our favorites, and we’ve returned numerous times. It got the #4 spot in our top five sunset restaurants. You can enjoy Opakapaka, Ono, an incredible Colorado Rack of Lamb, and don’t forget to end the evening with Cloud Forest Farm Organic Coffee Rice Pudding.
Manta & Pavillion Wine Bar in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel - this is another of our favorites. Here you’ll be sitting in a stunning ocean-side setting, looking down at manta rays swimming in the spotlight, in the Island’s #2 resort built by Laurence Rockefeller. The Kabocha Pumpkin Soup (Kalua Pig, Volcano Ohelo Berries, Truffle Marshmallow) was a real standout, and we enjoyed sampling wines from their Enomatic wine dispenser.
Best Restaurants on Hawaii, the Big Island (North)
Cafe Pesto Kawaihae – originally a small take-out pizzeria, Cafe Pesto has morphed into an award-winning restaurant. We’ve probably eaten here 10 times. It’s one of our favorite lunch spots when we’re nearby. They still make wonderful pizzas, but have added wonderful salads, fish, pastas, and desserts.
Bamboo Restaurant & Gallery – a favorite of Rachel Ray and The Roaming Boomers®. Their pupus are awesome: Chicken Sate Pot Stickers, Thai Coconut Prawns (AWESOME), Kalua Pork Quesadilla. Order The Big Bamboozler and get all three.
Merriman’s in Waimea – With Chef/Owner Peter Merriman being a three-time finalist in the prestigious James Beard Awards for Best Chef, Pacific Northwest and Hawaii, you are certain to have a wonderful dining experience. You can expect the best local, hand-crafted Hawaiian cuisine available. Great spot for dinner.
Waimea Town Market – If you’re anywhere near the north side of the island on Saturday morning, then by all means head for the Waimea Town Market. You’ll not only find fresh items to bring back to your hotel room, it’s also a GREAT place to grab a picnic table and enjoy breakfast.
Pau – in Waimea, this is a great little place for pizza and fresh seasonal quick cuisine.
Tex’s Drive Inn – We haven’t eaten here, but we love their famous Malasadas. Make sure you stop by on your way to explore the eastern side of Hawaii Island.
Best Restaurants on Hawaii, the Big Island (East)
Cafe Pesto Hilo – this is the sister restaurant to the original listed above. Consistently great food!
Hilo Bay Cafe – this is our favorite restaurant in Hilo. Stunning cuisine served in a strip mall near Walmart. Go figure!
What’s Shakin’ – they’re famous for fresh fruit smoothies and great sandwiches. We’ve eaten here many times.
Ning’s Thai Cuisine – absolutely the best Thai food we’ve ever had! It’s a “hole-in-the-wall” kinda place located near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Did I tell you that it’s the best Thai food ever? For heaven’s sake, get the Thai Chicken Pineapple Curry! Yabba Dabba Doooooo!
Sombat’s - Sombat Saenguthai is well known on the Big Island for her exotic Thai cooking. This one is located right in Hilo.
Kilauea Lodge – this is German cuisine in the town of Volcano. Stop by and get yourself some Antelope Schnitzel. We stopped in for lunch and I tried a Hawaiian favorite: Volcano Loco. That was just ok.
Best Restaurants on Hawaii, the Big Island (South)
Punalu’lu – the southern end of Hawaii Island is sparsely populated. However, when you’re driving in this neck of the woods, enjoy lunch at Punalu’lu. It’s the southern-most bakery in the United States, and they’re world famous for their Hawaiian Sweetbread.
Do you have a favorite restaurant on Hawaii, the Big Island? We love to hear about it. Share it in the comments section below!