Top Five Sunset Dining Spots on Hawaii, the Big Island

Fine dining is a significant part of the travel experience for our nation’s 79 million baby boomers.

Furthermore, when a baby boomer is spending time on Hawaii, the Big Island, nothing is more alluring than fine dining with tiki torches aglow, a gentle ocean breeze, and a beachfront table to watch the sun set into the Pacific.

We have now journeyed to Hawaii, the Big Island for the past five winters.  We  have sampled nearly every romantic, sunset dining experience up and down the western side of the island, and feel eminently qualified to share with you what we think are the best of the best.

Top Five Sunset Dining Spots on Hawaii, the Big Island

#1 – Pahuia at the Four Seasons Hualalai

The restaurant Pahuia enjoys a beachside location in  Hawaii’s only resort to garner both a AAA Five-Diamond Award, and a Forbes Five-Star Award.  Pahuia  has been a AAA Four-Diamond restaurant for the past consecutive 12-years, and is also a member of the distinquished DIRONA list.

At your table, Executive Chef James Babian and his team pay homage to Hawaii’s bounty and the surrounding Pacific Ocean, all while you enjoy Four Seasons legendary service and hospitality.

After you settle down with a nice bottle of wine from Pahuia’s extensive wine list, it’s now time to order appetizers. We recommend Hawaiian Ahi Poke (sea asparagus, ogo, maui onions, white shoyu sesame oil – prepared table-side),  Island Shrimp (tapioca crusted, yuze ogo butter hijiki), and Baozi (lilikoi barbecued wild boar, steamed bun).  Wow!

For your main course, specialties include Keahole Lobster Curry (heirloom carrots, fennel, kabocha pumkin big island curry sauce, pilaf style bamboo rice), Ahi (furikake crusted local shrimp, kabocha pumpkin puree, tobiko-miso butter sauce), or perhaps a nice piece of local Opah (atop short rib succotash).

The perfect ending to your romantic sunset dinner just might be Pahuia’s Soufflé of the Evening.

We greatly enjoyed our experience dining at Pahuia, and highly recommend it to you as our #1 pick.

Dress is resort casual.  Price range = $$$$

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Note: click photographs for large view and available slide show.

#2 – Beach Tree at the Four Seasons Hualalai

I thought long and hard about putting another Four Seasons restaurant on our list.  However, the simple truth is, it’s our #2 pick!

The Beach Tree restaurant, named after the tree on the right, also resides in a beautiful beachfront location in the Four Seasons Hualalai.

This restaurant is described as having “barefoot elegance” as guests are welcome in their shorts and flip-flops.  Further, the cuisine is best described as Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with California and tropical influences.

Once in a while, a dish comes across my path that makes me want to jump atop my table and do a happy dance.  The Veal Osso Bucco Lasagna (hamkua mushrooms) is one that had me giving it serious consideration.  Veal Osso Bucco in Lasagna?  Who ever heard of such a thing!  Holy Mouthgasm Batman!

Two other stand out dishes include Gnocchi Ox Tail Ragout, and Chef Nick’s Paella – For Two.  Both were unbelievable!

After you’ve filled your belly on these remarkable dishes, don’t forget to sample a Beach Tree Banana Split!

Dress is casual.  Price range = $$$

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Note: click photographs for large view and available slide show.

#3 – Manta & Pavillion Wine Bar in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

This restaurant sits in the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel built by Laurence Rockefeller in 1965.  The resort is the Island’s #2 resort, behind the Four Seasons Hualalai, and has a list of accolades as long as your arm.

The setting for our dinner at Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar was one I imagine to be written in the pages of a romance novel.  We sat under tiki torches and watched the sun set and then sizzle into the Pacific ocean.  As darkness approached, a spotlight shined into the gentle waves of the ocean as a sort of calling beacon to any nearby manta rays.

Carol and I started our meal with a shared bowl of Kabocha Pumpkin Soup (Kalua Pig, Volcano Ohelo Berries, Truffle Marshmallow).  Let me just say that this was hands down, the best serving of pumpkin soup we have ever encountered.

For our entreés, we enjoyed  Seared Ahi, and Braised Short Ribs.

One of the unusual features of this restaurant is the Enomatic wine dispenser.  It’s kind of like a soda fountain for wine.  With the Enomatic, you’ll be able to enjoy small tastes as you chose from 48 of the world’s best wines.

When visiting, make certain that you leave time to stroll and enjoy the architecture, and artifacts on display, of Laurence Rockefeller.  It’s a wonderful way to walk off your dinner.

Dress is resort casual.  Price range = $$$$

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Note: click photographs for large view and available slide show.

#4 – The Canoe House at The Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

My first impression of The Canoe House restaurant, after walking through the beautiful resort to reach this beach-side location, was of the multiple spotlights shining down from the trees onto the crashing waves.  Once the sun had set, the spotlights lighting up the azure waves against a completely black Pacific ocean backdrop was really quite remarkable.

Here, Executive Chef Sandy Tuason has developed a market fresh menu focusing on the Island fresh ingredients of Hawaii.

Here we were joined by Bree Dallwitz (the Aussie Director of Public Relations) for dinner, and before long we were sipping on a flute of champagne, and enjoying beginnings like Duo of Ahi Tuna, a Crudo TastingPumpkin RavioliKabocha Squash Soup, and Hamakua Springs Heirloom Tomatoes.  Wow!

As we continued our sampling into the main courses, we noshed on OpakapakaOno, and incredible Colorado Rack of Lamb w/ potato pancake, Beef Short Ribs, and Hamakua Mushroom Risotto.  As our side dish, we couldn’t resist Baked Mac N’ Cheese (Gruyere, White Cheddar, Comte with Truffles).  Holy jump up and down Batman.  Absolutely astounding!

And of course, our waiter wouldn’t let us leave until we sampled the Cloud Forest Farm Organic Coffee Rice Pudding.  Oh!  That was good, and required a letting out of the belt one notch.  Wowza!

Dress is resort casual.  Price range = $$$$

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Note: click photographs for large view and available slide show.

#5 – Huggo’s Restaurant

Our fifth choice will take us out of the beautiful resorts of the Kohala Coast and into the heart of Kailua Kona.

Huggo’s opened in 1969 as a casual, gathering spot where you could get a good steak, a slab of fresh fish and pile it on at the salad bar. With its waterfront location, it proved to be a favorite haunt for local fisherman who gathered to share a salty tale or two.

In the 35 years since, it has earned a reputation as Kona’s premiere restaurant for fresh seafood, oceanfront ambiance and casual elegance.

This is the most casual restaurant, with the most casual setting of the bunch.  But, it still offers great food, sunsets, and fun.

Here we enjoyed  Half Dozen Big Island Farm Raised Kumamoto Oysters (Local Citrus Mignonette and Wasabi Tobiko), Locally Caught Ahi Tuna Poke (Maui Onions, Hawaiian Chili Peppers, Exotic Chips and Poi Vinaigrette),  and then shared  Island Fresh Catch (Swordfish, Spicy Sichimi Togarashi, Molokai Sweet Potato Puree, Asian Sprout Salad, Lemongrass Haupia Sauce).

Wow!  This was right up there with the best fish we ever had.  Absolutely fantastic!

After dinner, as this restaurant is located in the historic district of Kailua Kona, you’ll want to take a walk through the areas shops, boutiques, and art galleries.

Dress is casual.  Price range = $$$

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Note: click photographs for large view and available slide show.

There you have it, our Top Five Sunset Dining Spots on Hawaii, the Big Island.  All sit on the beach, all offer beautiful sunset views, and all offer outstanding cuisine.

Disclosure:  all of these marvelous dining experiences were provided to us by the individual restaurants.

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4 Responses to “Top Five Sunset Dining Spots on Hawaii, the Big Island”
  1. Huggos, really??? I mean, don’t get me wrong it’s a “nice” location but the food, service and general ambiance is definitely not in the same league with your first four choices. I would think Sansei, Merriman’s, Sushi Rock, Brown’s Beach House or Norios would be a choice more in alignment with the others…

    • David Porter says:


      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your point of view. As with anything, when you draw a line in the sand, someone is likely to oppose you. Brown’s Beach House (another fav of ours), and some of the other’s you mention are certainly worthy contenders. However, as we were considering our final pick, we wanted to get out of the resort scene and pick something more casual, and perhaps celebrate something with deep roots on the Island. Certainly, the fare is significantly different than, say, the Four Seasons, but we had a wonderful experience, greatly enjoyed our meal (Purple Molokai Sweet Potatoes were the bomb),and walking around historic Kona after dinner was an added bonus.

      Again, we appreciate your feedback, and hope to hear from you again. Mahalo!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] 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. […]

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