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Aug 18, 2009 01:42 PM

Trip Report: Oahu, Big Island, Maui

First off, as a native NY hound (who lived in Phx for a year), I am very appreciative for all of the wonderful advice I received from this board (especially from Bill Hunt, who was a big reason I absolutely loved my year in Phoenix!). I just spent 11 days on these 3 islands for my honeymoon, which was made even more special with some great chow. And since I always take from these boards, I'd like to give back as well:

Was mostly a blur (from a 23 hour trip!)...We ate first at Benihana's out of convenience which I'd skip next time. If you are staying at or near the Hilton Hawaiian Village, there is a great, local coffeshop/diner next door called Wailana Coffee House. It will save you tons of $ from the traditional hotel breakfasts and is typical, good food. Had banana ice cream at Cold Stone (I know--not very local!), had some delicious cocktails at the bar at the Royal Hawaiian (which you should check out regardless of where you stay), and ate at Alan Wong's on our last night there. The food was amazing! I called one night without reservation and they were able to seat us promptly at the chef's counter which was so fun because you can really check out a kitchen up-close. I had the 5 course tasting menu, which is a lot of food so go on an empty stomach!

Big Island:
Wow--interestingly there are just not a lot of options on this huge, sparse island. Most of the food we did have was great, don't get me wrong. It's just that, if you have a dream of opening a restaurant in a new, exotic place, this would be ideal! No joke. Fairmont Orchid-FABULOUS hotel. We dined at Huli Sue's for some delicious BBQ on picnic tables and I loved every second of it. Try the ice cream soda (in a jar). We also ate at Norio's, the sushi restaurant at our hotel. Good, fresh fish, fun cocktails and a nice ambiance with the entertaining Norio himself. We had breakfast every morning at Hawaiian Style Cafe--an absolute must! These are not merely big portions; they are offenisively huge portions of great, cheap food that will keep you full until dinner. After a long, exhausting day hiking around the Volcanic Crater, we drove back one night only to find that nearly everything was closed by 8:30 pm. Very reluctantly, we headed to Cafe Pesto, which had been recommended to us by several transplants. Reluctantly I say, because I fortunately have access to wonderful Italian food/pizza in NY and my gut feeling was that this would not be good. Go with your gut! This place had disgusting pizza and sub-par entrees. No offense to those who enjoy it...I suppose if you are living on a little island in the middle of a gigantic ocean, this would qualify as pizza, but if you are a lover of good pizza and Italian food, this is a must-skip. Also worth checking out on Big Island is Greenwell Coffee Farm. They have great samples of their Kona coffee and a very interesting free tour.

We stayed at the Four Seasons which we rarely left because it's such a gorgeous hotel. If you can splurge here, definitely do it, it's worth it! We dined poolside; good, but as you'd expect, expensive. We had a couple of breakfasts at Kihei Cafe, alright but not outstanding. The macademia banana pancakes were quite tasty though. One night we ate at Roy's in Kahana. I'd never been to one so I wasn't sure what to expect. The food was delicious! Simple, yet elegant even though the ambiance was not the best, and the food was rather expensive for the mediocre setting (you're actually in a strip-mall). The yummy chocolate souffle is well worth the wait. We dined at Hali'imaile General Store for lunch one day as well. Fantastic! One of the most memorable meals of the trip. The pineapple upside down cake is moist and gooey and deliciously sweet. Another winner from Maui is Mama's Fish House. This place is VERY expensive, but for a special occasion, it cannot be beat. You have the beautiful location, very attentive service, strong and tasty cocktails and the freshest fish you can imagine. They even sat us at one of the window sunset tables when I mentioned it was our honeymoon! Also on Maui...I tried plate lunch at Da Kitchen by the airport and was less than impressed. I really wanted to love the authentic, local food but it just didn't do it for me. Finally, we found the best malasadas ever at Komoda Bakery--so good that I'm going to add a separate post so that there will never ever be any confusion again about where to go for these delectable treats.

All in all it was a fantastic trip and thanks again for the great suggestions!

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  1. so sad your trip to the volcano area didn't include some of the really good food available there. could have had an early dinner before you headed back. Ah well, next time. Glad most of the rest of your meals were so good.

    1. Nice report and I totally agree with your Hotel selections. Both the FS on Maui and the Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island are beautiful properties. We really enjoyed Norio's at the Fairmont as well. The miso marinated and grilled butter fish was incredibly good.
      Did you try Browns Beach House at the Fairmont?
      The Greenwell Coffee farm tour is well worth a stop as well as Kona Joes. I suspect KJ really depends on the season from the size of the parking lot. When we go it's a quiet and peacful spot to enjoy a french press Kona with a great view. I do tend to favor the Hawi shop but the view in Kona is incredible. There are some photos in my profile of the Greenwell farm.
      Just a few more moths before we return!

      KM Please share some of the places you mention being good near VNP.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Fritter

        First, avoid any food in the Park, especially Volcano House. It is a disgrace that the NPS allows food like this to be served in one of Hawaii's most popular destinations.

        Kilauea Lodge: Only open for dinner, really good food in a wonderful room. Their soups are especially good and the range of entrees is surprising. Never had anything except an excellent meal there (ok, once on Christmas eve service was "off")

        Kiawe Kitchen: Best known for their thin crispy pizza and sandwiches, open for lunch and dinner, closed mid-afternoon

        Thai Thai: this thai restaurant serves very good food, pleasant service, reasonable prices. It is in front of the hardware store

        Lava Rock Cafe: This is more on the iffy side, mostly good for burgers and such, every once in a while not so great. The general store in front of Lava Rock usually has a bowl of soup on the counter, usually its pretty decent.

        Volcano Golf and Country Club: I have never been. Heard the food "isn't bad." Open for lunch and dinner.

        Farmer's Market: EARLY (6:15am) on Sunday Mornings at Cooper Center, a really good (by Hawaii Standards) farmers market.

        Volcano Winery: Closer to the Golf Course. I have never found any of their wines palatable, but it is an interesting place to visit.

      2. We visited the Ueshima Coffee Company's plantation ( in Holualoa on the Kona coffee belt. This is not to be confused with their retail shop in Captain Cook as described in Trip Advisor. The real plantation has a sales kiosk where free coffee and assorted types of macadamia nuts and chocolate covered coffee beans were provided by the very helpful salesman. We were given free reign to roam on the coffee estate with its wonderful view of Kailua and the oceanfront 1000 ft below. The Ueshima Estate beans they grow (and only sold there) is wonderful, and we ended up taking some back to our vacation condo and also for home when we got back, and the gift bags for neighbors.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dpan

          dpan thanks for the link. That looks intersting. We will be there in December to enjoy the harvest.