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Mar 6, 2011 04:50 PM

Request for Pahoa (Puna) Big Island Suggestions and Waikiki Reality Check

Aloha Hawaii Hounds, my partner and I will be visiting the last week of March/first week April. Our plan is to spend three days in Waikiki (hotel) and then a week in Hawaii (Kapoho apartment with kitchen facilities). I've been scouring the boards here (mahalo all for the excellent suggestions!) and the internet in general for chowing tips, but haven't come up with much for Pahoa, which seems to be the closest town to where we will be staying. I am also overwhelmed by the abundance of choices in Honolulu!

By way of background, we won't have a car in Oahu but will have one for the Big Island. We also aren't really looking for fine dining experiences on this trip -- just good, basic food that won't cost an arm and a leg -- and are just as happy to get suggestions for grocery stores/markets as we are for restaurants. Any cuisine will work for us (except for the real heavy, deep-fried stuff); Asian cuisines are always good.

Just so you have a sense of what we're thinking, here's what I've come up with so far:

Pahoa and environs(?)

-- Ning's Thai
-- Paolo's Bistro
-- Farmers Markets at Pahoa, Kalapana (SPACE), Kea‘au Village, and Maku‘u (the "" site is fantastic!)

We plan to spend a couple of days at the Volcanoes Park, so for Volcano:

-- Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant
-- Thai Thai Restaurant
-- Kiawe Kitchen (I found some comments that this might be closing?)

Also, we hope to do some hiking north of Hilo, which was the most promising in terms of choices so far, but also farther than we want to drive every night.

-- Ken’s House of Pancakes
-- Cafe 100
-- Hilo Bay Café
-- Cafe Pesto
-- Hilo Lunch Shop

Just in case you're not tired by now, I'd also love a reality check for our Waikiki and Oahu choices. Again, we decided to give the high-end places a miss this time around and focused on more casual dining.

For breakfast, Wailana Coffee Shop, Duke’s (Egg n Things was in the running for a while but was knocked off the list by reports of long waits and high prices ...)

For lunch, Diamond Head Market & Grill, Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood Co.

For dinner, we will definitely try to make it to Ono Hawaiian for one night.

For the other two nights, Morio's, Irifune, Kaiwa, Hiroshi, Matsugen or Sansei. I am tending to favor the places that have the happy hour deals but couldn't tell if it would be impossible to get in mid-week, so any insight into lines for the happy hours would be much appreciated. Also, a couple of reports said that the Waikiki Sansei was going downhill -- should we strike it off the list?

Other than that, we plan to bumble around the food courts in the International Marketplace, Ala Moana shopping center and Ward Centers while in town, tracking down some interesting reports of poke.

We've also contemplated trying to see if we can explore a bit more of the island by bus, so I have an extensive list of places in Haleiwa such as the shrimp trucks, LuiBuenos and Opal Thai.

Many thanks in advance for your comments.

Irifune Restaurant
563 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

Cafe Pesto
308 Kamehameha Ave # 101, Hilo, HI

Hilo Lunch Shop
421 Kalanikoa St, Hilo, HI 96720

Thai Thai Restaurant
19-4084 Volcano Rd, Volcano, HI 96785

Paolo's Bistro
333 Pahoa Rd, Pahoa, HI 96778

Hilo Bay Cafe
315 E Makaala St Ste 109, Hilo, HI 96720

Kiawe Kitchen
19-4005 Haunani Rd., Volcano, HI 96785

Kalapana Cafe
12-5032 Pahoa Kalapana Rd, Pahoa, HI 96778

226 Lewers St Ste 215, Honolulu, HI 96815

Cafe 100
969 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant
19-3948 Old Volcano Rd., Volcano, HI 96785

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  1. you have obviously done your homework. the bus is not a bad way to see Oahu, but painfully slow for the long trips (i.e. haleiwa is over two hours each direction from waikiki)

    other than that your lists look great.

    5 Replies
    1. re: KaimukiMan

      Thanks KM, you can probably tell that I've read all your posts :-). As for the bus, we're still dithering over whether to rent a car for the day or not...we were hoping to be car-free in Oahu, but that might not be practical if we want to get out of town for a bit.

      1. re: À la carte

        consider renting a car for a single day and going up to the north shore and then driving back along the windward side. there are advantages to either driving north from Kaneohe, or south from Haleiwa, in reality its not a whole lot different either way. You can do it on the bus, but it is an all day affair and you can't suddenly stop to check out a shrimp truck, the waves at sunset beach, or decide you really want to get a pie from Ted's bakery.

        1. re: À la carte

          Da Bus is cool, and well worth the effort, in its own right, but I would rent an auto for the day, do things on YOUR schedule, and tarry, where the spot beckons - whether for dining, or just hanging out.

          Not saying that any auto ride, around much of O`ahu, would be quicker than Da Bus, or that it would be more interesting, than Da Bus, but i am sort of an independent soul, and also a "citizen of the West," where public transportation is highly limited. I like the "open road," even if it's right behind Da Bus... [Grin].

          What I really love is that if I see some spot, off the beaten track, that has "that look," I just pull in, and check it out.

          Now, you mentioned LuiBueno. Just dined there for lunch, a couple of mos. back, and it was great.

          If you order white wines (really some interesting options there), please do yourself a favor and ask the server to NOT use the frozen small glasses, and ask for the larger bowls, at room-temp, as the whites are chilled too much. Depending on your server, you might get a "knowing grin."



          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Yes, it looks like we'll have to save our car-free urges for another time. Thanks for the tip on LuiBueno! Now I'm thinking we should have spared more time for Oahu...we're not going to be able to fit all my planned chowing in. I guess we'll just have to plan another vacation to Hawaii :-)

            1. re: À la carte

              "But there never seems to be enough time
              To do the things you want to do
              Once you find them"

              Jim Croche, "time in a bottle"

      2. For Pahoa, Paolo has always been the best in the area, but there are a number of other options that would seem to fit your requirements.

        For Volcano, Thai is probably best choice for value and good taste...Kilauea Lodge is fine dining, or nearly, and usually quite good, but definitely not for a modest budget. Kiawe Kitchen would rank in between...very tasty pastas, pizzas and salads, but the prices are on the high side for what you get. If you will be there on a Sunday, the farmer's market at the community center on Wright Road is a must. It starts early, but there is some very good prepared food to chow down on or take with you for later, in addition to produce.

        The "upper" store, next to Kiawe Kitchen, usually has very tasty spam musubi, if you want a snack, and they also sell hard-boiled eggs on the counter next to the musubi. That combo with a drink makes a very inexpensive meal on the road. Nice going in there anyway with the original wood floors to give you a feel of what a genuine old-time plantation village store was like.

        Hilo...Cafe 100 is famous as the home of the original Loco Moco, but not a place I would send anyone unless their cholesterol and sodium levels are dangerously low. Hilo Bay Cafe is always good, as is Cafe Pesto, and if you are in Hilo, the Wed and Sat farmer's market is the best on the island, if not the state (maybe only KCC in Honolulu compares). Ken's is reliable...a classic diner, and open 24 hours...I'd pick that over Cafe 100.

        For Oahu, you can't go wrong following K-Man's recs. However, you might try the breakfast at Moose McGillicuty's on Lewers...there is usually a 2 for 1 coupon in the tourist mags, and you get straight ahead good chow, large portions, and friendly service.

        Hilo Bay Cafe
        315 Makaala St, Hilo, HI 96720

        Cafe Pesto
        308 Kamehameha Ave # 101, Hilo, HI

        Kiawe Kitchen
        19-4005 Haunani Rd., Volcano, HI 96785

        Cafe 100
        969 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

        2 Replies
        1. re: macaraca

          Forgot to recommend Cafe Ono in Volcano, at Volcano Garden Arts, at the bottom end of Old Volcano Road. Reasonably priced and very good vegetarian fare freshly prepared daily, lunch only.

          Cafe Ono
          19-3834 Old Volcano Rd, Volcano, HI 96785

          1. re: macaraca

            Thanks Macaraca, particularly for the scoop on Cafe 100 and the Hilo farmer's market. I've added your other suggestions to my list. Now I feel confident that we'll find some good chowing!

            Cafe 100
            969 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720