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Jun 9, 2007 05:37 PM

Hilo, the volcano and Kona

A short 10 days on the big island.

We really liked Hilo but started out with a bad experience at Restaurant Kokaido./ Very stylish, with an interesting room and attractive menu offering. However they have some sort of kitchen problem which meant the courses were extremely slow in appearing and not all of the food was hot.

Ken's Pancakes. Wow! We loved this place, it is open 24hrs and has a huge menu. We went twice and both times the wait staff was fantastic. I had a bowl of Saimin that ranks as one of the best I've ever had. Casual, friendly and affordable.

Up at the volcano we tried Thai Thai and found it to be just okay but nothing to shout about. We tried dinner at the Volcano House and, as at Thai Thai, the food was just okay but the view from the dining room of the caldera made up for shortcomings with the food.

In Kona, the best experience - twice!, was at O's Bistro. Casual and at least $10 less per person than the equivalent on Maui for really superb food. No view . Make a reservation as it ain't that big and then go and enjoy a wonderful meal.

We had a decent lunch at the Kona Inn, and a disappointing lunch at the Fish Hopper .

Dinner at Kenichi found us underwhelmed.

We also did the Vanilla Luncheon at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. The meal is homemade and you learn about where vanilla comes from = an orchid as it turns out. This was one of our highlights this year.

Near our condo in Kona was Lava Java. It's on Alii Drive and offers casual, affordable food.

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  1. I wanted to add - Ke'ei Cafe where we had a very nice lunch, and the Coffee Shack where lunch was okay and my doppio espressio was not. These are both around Capt. Cook.

    We also bought a loaf of Hawaiian sweet bread at Punalu'u Bake Shop in Naalehu, Hawaii. The Southernmost bakery in the US. The sweet bread was really quite wonderful - we were glad we stopped.

    3 Replies
    1. re: DriverPhil

      I am always heartened, when someone mentions Hilo. It is so often overlooked on the Big Island - wonderful and very interesting little town. It is almost a time-capsule, and we loved it.

      I had hoped that you would mention Cafe Pesto, where we had two very, very good meals and also the family-owned restaurant, just south of Hilo on the lagoon. Unfortuantely, I have lost its name, and cannot seem to locate it via Google, et al. It sat on pilings in the lagoon and seemed to have been there from the 60s. Very good food, and over-the-top service, even though it was more of a 'family" restaurant, than a true fine-dining spot. The name was similar to Merriman's, which is on the Kona-side.

      Anyway, glad you had some good food, though it appears that all was not paradise. I've encountered the same on the Kona-side. Some great, some good, and some, that we'd never go back to.

      Thanks for the reports. Next trip back to the Big Island, we'll have to go back to Hilo for a few days. Last few trips have all been to the Kona-side, as I have millions of Hilton points, and there is only one Hilton on Hawai`i and it's on the Kona-side.


      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Our Hilo B&B host had suggested Cafe Pesto or Hilo Bay - but I picked Kaikodo based on the very attractive old building they were in. I was wrong!

        1. re: DriverPhil

          You know, sometimes a place looks "right," but often it isn't. I do not recall either Hilo Bay, or Kaikodo, but then it's been years.

          Glad that you did find some good food there though. Also, I do not know if Cafe Pesto is STILL good, but (again on recs. from our B&B - an orchid farm at the base of the volcano) after we dined there, we made it back at the end of the week, and were not disappointed on either excursion.