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Jan 26, 2009 05:16 PM

Big Island of Hawaii -- Kailua/Kona/Waimea

Seattle hound here. We're taking a family vacation (wife, me and two boys (7 and 4)) to the Big Island next month, staying in a condo at Waikoloa. I've reviewed the various posts on the board and would appreciate updates and guidance on the following possibles, including updated news regarding recent closings:

Fine Dining: The wife and I will probably go out for one or two nice meals sans kids. Merrimans sounds like a "must." We had a great meal at the Maui Merriman's last Aug. I'm also intrigued by the Holuakoa Cafe in Holualoa. Doesn't seem to get a lot of attention on the board but what it gets sounds very good. We've done Hualalai several times and while we have had singularly excellent experiences there, I'm interested in trying some place new. Plus with AW departing and the hotel changing hands, I'm curious if it's still performing up to snuff. Daniel Thiebaut also sounded like a "possible," but reviews were more mixed.

Japanese/Thai: We'll probably get the whole family out (if that's appropriate in these places) as my kids love Asian food. I'm looking at Teshima's or Kenichi for Japanese and Original Thai or Bangkok House.

Casual: In no particular order
- Waikoloa Beach Resort fish and chips stand (does anyone have a name for this one?)
- Manago Hotel (how long is the drive from Waikoloa Village?)
- Hawaiian Style Cafe (just how "Korean" is this place? Candidly, while I love most Asian food, Korean is not my favorite)
- Big Island Grill
- Huli Sue bbq
- Pine Tree Cafe
- Boston Basil's
- Kona Brewery (do they have much that kids would like?)

- Coffee Shack (I'm a little concerned this will be a long way to drive for a cup of Joe)
- Kona Joe's


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  1. We finally did Merriman's on Maui, and were impressed. I am sad, that we have not made the original on the Big Island. We will recify that on our next trip.

    Cannot help you with the mid-level, or the more ethnically-oriented fare, sorry.

    I am probably one, who touted Thiebaut's, but they impressed us for both lunch and dinner in the same day, with the same drive from Waikoloa.

    We were very pleased with every aspect of Pahu i`a (but also AW's). Will be interesting to see what happens there. My wife informed me that she would not stay on the Kona-side of the Big Island, except at the Four Seasons, even when the Hilton Waikoloa was free. I wonder how she'll be impacted.

    Please do a review of all of your dining decisions. There are many, who request a full spectrum of ideas, and seem to go wanting. Unfortunately, my recs. are for the fine-dining venues only, and that only helps a very little. Also, as has been pointed out, it has been a while, since our last visit. Unfortunately, with tourists, reports can only happen, as do the trips.

    Canoe House has been getting some good reviews, as of late. Seems that they have made major changes. I'll definitely include them on our next trip, just to see. The venue was great, and if the food and service improve, it *should* be really good.

    Again, as you have a wonderful vacation, please think of hounds "back home," and report on your dining. Too many consider the Big Island a dining "wasteland," and I thought not. Same for Kaua`i.

    Safe trip,


    1 Reply
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Bill, many thanks for your reply. I read with interest your many good posts. I'll do my best to report on our culinary escapades from the BI.

    2. The fish & Chip stand is at the King's shops .It is called "Island Fish and Chips" Located on the back side facing the lake. A little tricky to find. Take-out window and a few adjacent tables. Nice light tempura batter.
      Manago Hotel is a bit of a drive south of WBR. We usually try to hit it for lunch if we are in the coffee country area. Delicious pork chops. Really basic place. You do mean WBR not the village right? If not , the drive is further yet.
      Pine Tree cafe is another spot near the airport with a lot of local flare. Good basic offerings.
      Kona Brewery has decent pizza...if your kids are into that.
      February is a great time to visit the Big Island.
      Hope you have your vehicle reserved ..prices have been skyrocketing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: easily amused

        EA, thank you for your input. Very helpful information. We are staying at the beach, not up in the village, so we're not far off the highway. Still, it's a haul to get south of Kona. Thanks also for the rental car reminder. That's the one thing I hadn't done. Cheers.

      2. The Manago and Teshima's are a good hour or so south of Waikoloa. More if the traffic backs up. But if you're making a run down the coast to visit Pu'u o Honaunau or South Point or whatnot, they're definitely worth the stop.

        Hawai'ian Style Cafe is Island cooking. Think plate lunch: two scoops rice, scoop mac salad (if I recall correctly, they actually do a potato-mac salad, but you know what I mean). There are some Korean-influenced dishes on the menu (Korean fried chicken, galbi ribs, etc.) but it's a far cry from a Korean restaurant.

        Have a great trip!

        2 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          Alan, plate lunch I can handle. Thanks.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            Teshima's is awesome if you like homey environments and maybe you'll be lucky to have Grandma Teshima (103 years old) come visit with you

            Teshima's Restaurant
            79-7251 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI 96750

          2. We literally just left the Big Island yesterday...plan on posting a full review on our blog ( in a few weeks, but for now, I can provide you with a quick run down of our highlights.

            Merriman's is a must...enjoyed the Kalua pork quesadilla, locally raised beef filet, steamed Kona Kampachi entrees and Chocolate phyllo purse dessert (one for each of us).

            Holuakoa Cafe/Gardens was quite good and popular with the locals. Their menu changes with what's seasonally available, Only one fish entree,,,rest was chicken, beef, pork, etc. Beautiful outdoor seating, very friendly and attentive staff.

            Rapanui Island Cafe - one our best dinners on the BI. Located in the kitschy All'i Drive area of Kailua Kona. The couple that runs it are from New Zealand and the food has an Indonesian twist. My husband loved the Thunder Steak and I thought the Macadamia Shrimp stir fry was awesome, Make sure you opt for the house rice (made with coconut and onions). It's a bit hidden in terms of first to clarify exactly where they are at.

            Huli Sue's - my husband said their pulled pork sandwich rivaled the BBQ he had at Big Jake's BBQ (much further south from where you're staying, near Captain CooK...the ribs from Jake's literally fell of the bone).

            We didn't go to Hualalai Grille since Alan Wong left...we didn't think it would be the same as the last time we went.

            Tried Ceviche Dave's, behind the Costco and close to the airport. Small joint offering fresh catch of the day in 4 varieties of ceviche. A quick, healthy lunch,

            Roadhouse Cafe (lunch), Mi's Italian Bistro (homemade pasta and local ingredients) and Keei Cafe (again, all much further South from where you are staying) were excellent meals as well.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ladybugthepug

              as a local farmer and food supplier we are happy that you had a good culinary experience...come again soon and share your comments/recommendations with future Big Island visitors...mahalo nui loa

              1. re: holualoa farmer

                Holualoa Farmer,
                Scarecrow here. We're on the BI now. I'll give a more detailed report when the trip ends but for now I can tell you we've had great meals at Merriman's, Big Island Grill and Island Fish and Chips. We are staying near the King's Shops in Waikoloa Beach Resort area.

                Two questions: First, we went to the farmer's market in Kona on Sat. Do you have other recommendations for where we can find fresh, local produce during the week? Second, can you recommend a coffee plantation tour? Thanks!

                1. re: scarecrow22

                  if you're still there...the fish market in Kawaihae is tour: Holualoa Coffee Co (organic coffee farmer and processor...good luck

              2. re: ladybugthepug

                LBTP, timing is everything! Rapanui Island Cafe sounds like a great suggestion. I don't recall seeing it discussed before. Cheers.

                1. re: scarecrow22

                  Scarecrow-Rapanui really delivers and prices aren't too ridiculous. I think I originally read about them via reviews on

              3. I winter in Kona and summer in Seattle. Don't know if you've left yet, but there have been a couple positive reviews of the newly reopened Mauna Kea fine dining restaurant called Manta (Here's one from


                Manta is the new fine dining restaurant located in the Mauna Kea Hotel. Five of us headed over there the other night, most of us serious foodies, and were truly impressed! The room is fresh and sleek, but most of the tables are outside overlooking Manta Ray Point-gorgeous. They now feature a wine bar with countless numbers of wines available by the glass,including a tasting size pour. The menu features lots of local products, and they are done well. The chef's favorite salad is asparagus over a grilled flatbread with local greens and topped with a fried egg and parmesan-it's now my favorite too! We also had the goat cheese ravioli and beet salad as starters and both were delicious. One friend had a Kahua Ranch New York steak that was cooked perfectly, my husband had scallops that were also cooked perfectly and wonderful.They offer 2 souffles for dessert, both are excellent and probably the best desserts. For a restaurant that has been open for only 5 weeks, they did an amazing job. I was never a big fan of the old Pavillion restaurant-boring food, surly servers. Many of the old waiters have returned,but with fresh attitudes and smiles. It's not cheap, about what you would expect for a resort fine dining restaurant. Entrees run from $35-$45, apps and salads $11-$15. I'm just going to say it-this restaurant rivals Pahu'ia at the Four Seasons! It's that good.

                As far as the other recommendations, I heartily recommend Holuakoa as having the best dinner on the West Side. The wine list is sorely lacking, the service is not terribly refined, but the food and presentation are great. Also a new Thai restaurant in Kona called Krua is quite good.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sergad

                  thanks for the info on Manta; very, very pleased as well to know that they have a large, by-the-glass offering.