The Big Island of Hawaii is perfect for anyone with a large appetite. If you’re on the prowl for Poke or the search for Spam Musubi, you can find unique traditional plates scattered across the island. You can also find a variety of farm-to-table options made possible by local growers and excellent agricultural conditions.
Hawaii is a land of diverse ecosystems and culinary influences. The food found here is an amazing blend of Pacific Rim plates tweaked and adapted over generations to become authentically Hawaiian. Fresh seafood is a must, but there are also some intriguing options for adventurous and eager eaters.
Here’s a guide to some of the best restaurants on the Big Island. It’s hard to pick a top choice, and each of the following is worth visiting, so all of the below come in no particular ranking order. Be sure to try them all if you can!
Poke is Hawaiian food at its best. If you’re not familiar, poke is a sushi bowl with fixings. Ahi tuna is a standard option, but there is plenty of other fish and seafood to choose from. Da Poke Shack offers some of the best Poke on the Big Island and is a popular stop for locals and visitors. They always use fresh fish to deliver a delectable quick lunch. The Shack is open daily, but they sell out early most days. Be sure to arrive well before closing time if you want to sample one of the island’s best staples.
Manta is another one of the best restaurants on the Big Island and offers upscale dining in a casual atmosphere. Part of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, but open to the public and guests alike, Manta serves up a unique and delicious variety of Pacific Rim specialties. The restaurant serves breakfast and dinner. Waking up early to enjoy a tropical start to your day is more than recommended. The menus will change with the seasons and what is available locally, but you can count on it always being amazing. The dinner scene is more upscale without being stuffy, so you can get away with wearing slippers (flip-flops) and a Hawaiian shirt while diving into fresh-caught seafood and live music.
This spot is a local favorite for sure. It claims credit for the original version of the must-try fully Hawaiian dish called Loco Moco. Cafe 100 serves 30 different styles of this favorite dish, but the traditional is a bed of rice covered with a beef patty, gravy, a fried egg, and an assortment of sides. It might sound strange, but I promise you, it’s incredible. It’s also a good place for a burger or bento box, showcasing the many influences that have come together to create Hawaiin cuisine. Cafe 100 opened its doors as the first drive-through in Hilo, and it’s been around for over 50 years. If you want huge Hawaiian portions and the opportunity to try something new, this the place to go.
For the craft brew lovers out there, Kona Brewing Company offers an assortment of local beers and top-notch pub fair to help wash it down. The brewpub first opened up in 1998 and has been serving the public and community regularly ever since. The burgers and pizzas here are solid and pair perfectly with your choice of brew. You’ll want to try the Hawaii Kai Pie to see how the dish tastes in its homeland. The Pawai Pepperoni Rolls are another highly recommended favorite.
Honu’s is a great spot to enjoy fresh culinary creations in a beachfront setting. Set on Kailua Bay’s shores, this is an award-winning restaurant that focuses on fresh and local farm-to-table ingredients. It can be found in Kona as part of the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Breakfast and dinner buffets keep the resort crown funneling in at a steady pace but don’t let that keep you from visiting. The food is excellent, and the vibe authentic. Who doesn’t enjoy beachside dining with fresh, local food and an enlivening atmosphere?.
Umekes is another great Poke spot that also has a vibrant bar. You’ll feel the aloha spirit emanate from the doors, and this is a friendly location, great for the family or a late night with friends. You can expect a variety of local dishes using only fresh ingredients. Boat to bowl is the norm here and makes for some of the freshest seafood on the island. There is room to spread out, and the restaurant is as comfortable as it is inviting.
L&L can be found on all of the Hawaiian Islands and is basically a fast-food joint. But it still makes the list of best spots on the Big Island because Hawaiian Barbecue is downright awesome. This franchise chain serves up some of the most famous Hawaiian dishes, and with locations all over the island, you can get a quick bite and sample something new. Be sure to try the Kalua Pork, Spam Musubi, and Chicken Katsu – all local favorites. Fast and affordable, L&L is a good pre or post-adventure stop.
This is yet another local favorite that is lesser-known with the tourist crowd and not as easy to find, but well worth a stop for breakfast or lunch. The Hawaiian Style Belgian Waffle comes smothered in bananas, coconut flakes, macadamia nuts, while the Fish and Chips platter is a signature dish and oh so fresh. The fish tacos are also excellent. They have a kids menu, so it’s a good spot to take the little ones for a quick bite. It’s a bit hard to find, being tucked away inside King’s Shops at Waikoloa – a mall of sorts. But ask around or follow your nose, and you’ll be rewarded.
This list just scratches the surface of the many amazing places to eat on the Big Island. There are plenty of other options to explore, and we have an entire post dedicated to Merriman’s, which is another best option not mentioned here worth a more in-depth look. Every option you’ll find above is affordable, delicious, and packed full of the aloha spirit. Make yourself and your taste buds happy by visiting any or all of them on your visit to Hawaii.