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Recent Hawaii trip feedback & faves

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Just got back from an unbelievable trip through Oahu, Maui, The Big Island & Kauai and thought I'd post some of our feedback because I appreciated the resources I found on this site during my pre-trip searching (excuse the spelling!):

We only spent one night on Oahu (I'm not crazy about Oahu but my husband wanted to see the North Shore so we went up there), we stayed one night at Turtle Bay resort - the resort was nice but both the dinner and the breakfast buffet we had at the 'medium priced' restaurant on the premises (called 'Palm Terrace' - the 'fine dining' restaurant was closed Mondays) were sadly lacking. The breakfast actually used 'edible oil' product as opposed to whipped cream for the waffles.

Spent 5 days on The Big Island. There's a great place that I think is called something like "The Coffee Shack" very close to Honaunau (the Place of Refuge) and an amazing spot for snorkling called "Two Step". Go snorking from 8 - 10 AM (spinner dolphins come swimming through and check you out) and then head up to the Coffee Shack on the side of the Queen K highway for an amazing breakfast with unbelievable sweeping views of the coast. Wicked Mahi Mahi Eggs Benny, good cinnamon buns, strong Kona Coffee, solid basic bacon & egg combo with great homemade bread. The views on the lanai would be good enough, the fact that the food is delicious is even better. We did this 2 days.

The only other dining out we did on the Big Island (we had our own kitchen at our B&B) was dinner at the Four Seasons and then the Brunch the next day - both at their Pahu i'a restaurant. Dinner was phenomenal - local, fresh, great service & right on the beach. It was expensive, but not blow-your-mind-expensive - I've easily spent more on dinner in Toronto. If you want a special dinner with a beautiful setting (the beach, and the restaurant) on the Big Island, you can't go wrong with this. I had fresh fish, my partner had the local grass-fed steak, a selection of appetizers and two desserts - not a sour note in the whole meal. We had the brunch there as well and it's far better than your average brunch for about the same price that you would pay at an average hotel. There are decent vegetarian and asian options if you're not big on eggs & bacon - whole wheat pancakes, fruit, waffles w strawberry compote & real maple syrup. The grounds are beautiful and it's worth it just to sit and soak up the ocean breezes while reading your complimentary papers and they don't rush you. You eat breakfast there and you don't need anything else for the rest of the day!

Didn't do much dining out on Maui except for one night at Kimo's in Lahaina (I was there when I was a kid so I wanted to try it again) and one night at Roy's in Kahana. Kimo's was your standard 'chain' restaurant. Cheesy decor, heavy-handed service by young and inexperienced waitstaff - but the food was decent. My partner had the prime rib, I had the mahi mahi. Nothing special, but not bad either. Nice view, overlooking the harbour, and a great ocean breeze sailing through. You felt like you were in Hawaii.

The actual meal at Roy's was far far superior, however the place had zero atmosphere. Although the atmosphere didn't scream 'hawaii' , it was nice to eat again at a place that had Hawaiian influenced food and used local, or close to local, ingredients. We had the appetizer platter and by far the standout were the potstickers and the short ribs. The poke and the shrimp cocktail were merely adequate. Do yourself a favour and just order at least one order of the potstickers - I'm swooning just thinking about them. The Maui Cattle company steak was very good - grass fed again, so a different flavour & feel than USDA - and my fresh fish was also much better than the average fish I'd had on the island - not only fresh but served with a well matched sauce and some local produce. Then we had dessert. And oh my, how it delivered. Hot banana cream cake and a molten chocolate cake. Heavenly till the last bite.

The next stop was Kauai where we ate out every night. I was hesitant to go to Duke's Canoe Club because it's run by the same chain that runs Kimo's in Lahaina. Duke's is on the Marriot grounds - a lovely walk there by koi ponds and extensive landscaping. The restaurant itself is divided into a downstairs bar and upstairs restaurant. Both were hopping - we had a drink downstairs while we waited for our table upstairs. Good music played, people were laughing, having a good time, it was a lively atmosphere. We went upstairs and got a great table by the railing overlooking the ocean (it was dark, but still nice). My partner had the wontons to start, which were fantastic. My calamari was crap - plain and rubbery with standard cocktail sauce. The salad bar was lacking. But the FISH. I didn't expect this - the fish was awesome!! It was pretty much the best we had on the island. Not only crazy fresh, but the preparation was a little different than the standard 'macadamia nut crusted' that you see everywhere else. Definitely worth going to on Kauai.

Went to Scotty's Barbeque in Kapa'a. Good food, big portions, good seating (in a tier so everyone gets a view of the ocean). Nothing regional but if you have a craving for some solid ribs or pulled pork, this is your place.

Went to Hamura Saimain in Lihue because the guidebooks all raved about it. It WAS good noodles (had the special and dumped my barbeque chicken skewer in there to add to it), but if you're like me - spoiled with an abundance of great Asian food & noodle houses in Toronto so it's not anything you're not going to find at home. If you like noodle bowls and don't have a lot of this at home, this place is a definite must. Fragant broth, loads of chopped green onion & egg, just enough pork & noodles. Make sure you make yourself a side dish of mustard & soy and dredge your noodles through before you slurp.

Went to Duane's Ono Char-Burger TWICE (in Anahola). You CAN'T miss this place. Get the Nui Nui with cheddar, an order of onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake, park yourself on a sunny table amidst the roaming roosters and cats, and enjoy a good half hour of heaven. Seriously, these burgers are AWESOME. Make sure you get the double burgers (the Nui Nui) because they're pretty thin. But they're sooooo tasty - and they really do have a great 'char' taste.

Bubba's Burgers in Kapa'a are good, but they don't hold a candle to Duane's.

Drove down for a fancy dinner in Poipu at the Beach House - because everyone was talking about it. It was okay, but you're really paying for the view there. It's set right on the ocean and is angled to take in the best view of the sunset. Overzealous service focuses on selling you extras, and while the appetizers, fish and beef, & dessert were good, they were no better than Duke's. You won't be disappointed, but you won't be blown away either.

Finally, last dinner was at Coconuts in in Wailuia. I wasn't expecting much when we walked in because it's got pretty cheesy decor, and it took forever to get noticed, get seated, and to get a drink. Our waitress preferred to look off into space rather than at us, they didn't have the wine we ordered, and no one arrived to take away our appetizers before they decended upon us with the mains, BUT - the food was some of the best we had there. Crispy calamari with a tangy sauce wasn't rubbery, not- too sweet coconut shrimp with a just-vinagary-enough dipping auce, Super fresh ono with a lovely herbed horseradish crust, I had the filet mignon with decadently creamy/cheesy potatoes. A wonderful last meal in Hawaii.

Last - but not least - we found enormous pleasure in visiting local markets and cooking some of our meals at home. If you're visiting Hawaii, consider getting a place with a kitchen/barbeque & lanai and experiment on your own with local ingredients. Some of my nicest memories are of early morning breakfasts on the lanai overlooking the coast, with roosters crowing, downing Hawaiian oranges, pineapples & local smoked fish.

Hope this is helpful for anyone doing their own reseach on an upcoming trip!

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  1. In Sept. we were at the TBR and had included The Palm Terrace, as our first meal on Oahu, after 9 days on Kauai. We were not expecting much, though had heard that the restaurants on premisis had been completely re-done. We did ala-carte a TPT, and were very surprised at the meal and service. As I had stated in a review of that trip, TPT is a dual restaurant, doing both a buffet and an ala-carte menu. We are not fans of buffets, regardless of where they are, and had already chosen the menu. I did walk over to the buffet, and was underwhelmed - think it was Italian Night. It appears from your review, that you went the buffet route. If you are back, do try the menu. The other two restaurants at TBR, 21◦ North, and Ola, are very good, especially considering what the dining scene used to be on the North Shore. IIRC, we did the breakfast at TPT twice and the cafe at the golf center twice. All four times, we did the menus, and had very good "resort" food and excellent service. As for buffets, even the much vaunted Sunday Brunch at the Halekulani, Waikiki, left a lot to be desired.

    Sorry that you didn't find anything special with the food at the Beach House. I'd gotten recs. that were across the board - good, great, so-so, poor, but tried them for our first time on that last trip. Everything that we ordered was great and matched the sunset. Other than having to work a bit, to get good glassware for our Montrachet, all was excellent. Maybe that is why the reviews are all over - they are uneven in their prep.

    Thanks for the report,
    Hunt