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Sep 24, 2006 06:43 PM

Looking for Big Island (Hawaii) Tips

This is my first post. I'm vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii in October. I'll be staying in Waikoloa, where I know there aren't a lot of value places, but I was hoping that folks could give me tips for spots on the west side of the island. Though I'm generaly open for ideas, it would be great to find affordable Hawaiian, Japanese, or fish places. Thank you.

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  1. There was next to nothing in Waikoloa and Kohala other than food at the resorts. I suggest you drive down to Kailua Kona, for Japanese (curry, sushi, etc.), Fujimama's was great and really cheap. There is a vietnamese place called Ba-Le in the Kona Coast Shopping Center that was amazing and dirt cheap. If you make it to the Hilo side of the island, try the Puka Puka Kitchen. Little hole in the wall with ahi katsu don that is crazy good and excellent prices.

    A real gem was Huggo's on the Rocks in Kona (next to the expensice Huggo's) has happy hour prices that includes some tasty little seafood goodies you can order off the menu. Best place I could find to nibble, drink and watch the Kona sunset.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Cher D.

      Just got back from the Big Island, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the price of Vietnamese sandwiches at Ba Le. Definitely not dirt cheap relative to prices here in the S.F. Bay Area or L.A. I think I paid around $5 for a sandwich, which would normally cost around $2.75. Didn't try any of the other items, so can't comment on them. And, while I ate my sandwich on the plane about 2 hours later, it was decent.

      There is a popular mix plate restaurant across the street from Ba Le called, of course, Kona Mix Plate. Another popular place with the locals appeared to be Cafe 100 in Hilo. Cafe 100 had a different style of plate lunch that I haven't had before, which was pretty tasty.

      Finally, check out Two Ladies Kitchen in Hilo if you like freshly prepared mochi.

    2. This is a really old rec & perhaps a local can update, but there was a restaurant on the public golfcourse in the actual town of Waikoloa that was fairly reasonable & good food. Is it still there? Any reviews?

      1. I'm going to keep an eye on the responses to this post as I am also going to the Big Island (Kona and Hilo) at the end of Oct.

        Cher's tips are great!

        Puka Puka
        Huggo's on The Rocks

        All are now on my list!

        More please!

        1 Reply
        1. re: elmomonster

          I have more, we were there in July, ate a LOT!

          Brown’s Beach house at the Fairmont Orchid in Kohala is excellent, but expensive. They have Kona lobster bisque with Tahitian vanilla custard that is like crack. My husband gets misty just thinking about it.

          Went to a party catered by O’s Bistro in Kona, they food was really great. Didn’t eat in the restaurant, but the use of fresh local ingredients blew my mind. They even did the cocktails such as a yellow passion fruit martini – yummy!

          Kona Brewing Company also has good pizza. I had a cold piece of the spicy shrimp pizza on a late night graze of someone’s fridge, even cold, it was darn tasty!

          Up the road from Waikoloa village, toward the hills, there are a few places to get food too. There was a little buger place that had a good burger and Loco Moco in a pinch. Don’t remember the name of it, but it was next door to Tony’s Italian Irish Café. How could you forget that!

        2. In the Hilton Waikoloa (about 4 miles from the town) there's a good Chinese place called Kirin (Hey, I didn't name it), with excellent dim sum every day from 11 to 5.
          In Kailua town about 25 miles south is my favorite island place, Big Island Grill, or Biggie's as it's known to locals. Wonderful local food, run by and priced for locals. Also good eats & priced for locals is Kau Kau Kona, a Chinese joint across from Biggie's. Keep a night for dinner at Jackie Rey's on Kuakini, about a mile out of Kona.
          Even further south in Kainaliu is Kee`i Cafe, fresh food imaginatively prepared.
          I second the Fujimama suggestion, and Huggo's on the Rocks is a gorgeous place for drinks or morning coffee. But keep in mind, the best food is NOT where the best views are. Nuff said.

          Up in Waimea, 15 miles north of Waikoloa are two gems. On Saturday morning at the Waimea Farmer's Market, Auntie Maha cooks breakfast for the farmers & the shoppers. Broke da mouth good. Hawaiian Style Cafe opens at 7 am and closes when the food is gone - usually about 12-1. Go early with a huge appetite: the largest portions on the island. And if you're in Waimea on Saturday (or anywhere and you see a sign for) Huli Huli chicken, cooked by the side of the road, is an island specialty.

          Cross the island for Kaikodo and Nori's in Hilo, one expensive, the other not. Get a buttermilk stick from Lanky's & your coffee from Kope Kope, and take Banyan Drive to the park. Bingo: Great food AND great views!
          Take the scenic drive north from Hilo and stop at What's Shakin' for fresh tropical smoothies & homemade sandwiches. A little further north on the Hamakua Coast is Tex's for lunch and malasadas.

          You can check on for further ideas and reviews from other locals.

          Don't leave the island without having Spam musubi, and a plate lunch. Big Island Mo' Betta!

          1. First, a strong second to konaho's excellent suggestions, along with a couple of additional points. In the mornings (until 10:30 or so), the Huggo's on the Rocks spot is actually occupied by a different business, Java on the Rocks. Their breakfast menu is quite healthy, mostly steamed eggs wrapped in tortillas, with additions to make them American, southwestern, Greek, etc. The real star of their show, however, is their coffee, locally grown and processed Kona coffee that is the best I've had at a food establishment on the Big Island. Two versions are availble, Mountain Harvest, and the very hearty Three Stone. While not outstanding, the food is good, and the great coffee along with their location makes a morning visit very worthwhile. Note: even in Kona not all restaurant coffee is good!

            At the top of the breakfast spectrum is the buffet at the Pahui'a Restaurant at the Four Seasons. Pricey, of course, but a full range of top-quality fruit, baked goods, smoked salmon, traditional breakfast fare, fresh juice, and made-to-order omelettes in a beautiful setting on the ocean. And the coffee's good. Definitely worth a splurge if you can.

            A much different breakfast experience can be had at the Paniolo Grill in Waimea. For fans of huevos rancheros, I can highly recommend their version. The restaurant is a truly local place, although they serve an eclectic mix of Italian, Mexican, and American food. Other than the huevos, it's not particularly a food destination, offering basically adequate food at reasonable prices.

            For Thai food in Kona, I like the Orchid Thai restaurant, in an area known as the Old Industrial Area. It's small and family-run, and the vegetables in their various curry dishes are always impeccably fresh. A downside is that they seem to have had a recent surge in business without a corresponding surge in service, making a meal, especially on a weekend, a somewhat drawn-out affair. Bring your own alcohol (also to the Big Island Grill mentioned by konaho above).

            The Kona Brewery has good brewpub food, and very good beer. Their India Pale Ale is special, as is a seasonally available barleywine-style ale that can be had by asking. It isn't always mentioned on the menu.

            Food on the Big Island is, in general, a little expensive, but it is a truly wonderful place to visit!

            1 Reply
            1. re: konatom

              There are some new tips to me here, so thanks, especially for the barleywine and huevos rancheros suggesions, will check them out.

              I ate at Orchard Thai once, and don't remember it that favorably. Yes, it was very slow, which is what I remember most...