The Big Island has the most diverse and unique restaurants of any of the Hawaiian Islands. Since I was raised on the Big Island, I know a thing or two about both local favorites and the eateries that are popular with visitors. If you want to find the best Big Island restaurants, ask a local where to get the best “grinds” (Hawaiian slang for food). Yelp should be your last resort!
Stay at the amazingly kid-friendly Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and book the Ho’onanea Villa, which can easily accommodate a a family of four and offers access to your very own Suite Concierge who will book restaurant reservations and activities for you. (Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book here)
The Best Restaurants in Hilo
Let’s first start on the East side, Hilo, where you probably would fly into the Hilo airport. When you land you will truly feel like you are stepping back in time of old Hawaii with Hawaiian songs playing over the intercom in calm waiting areas.
Local Japanese Spots in Hilo
Delicious combination of local favorites with Japanese foods and American. My very favorite meal combo is saimin (ramen) with a BBQ chicken stick. World renowned chocolate mochi – Must try!
Local style Japanese and Korean foods. Which they also serve pretty good American favorites like a hamburger and fries. Best chicken katsu, teriyaki chicken or beef.
Puka Puka Kitchen
Serving up local favorites like chicken katsu with curry rice and a beautiful fresh salad. Must try the sautéed ahi (tuna), the best! Note: best time to get a table when they first open at 11am.
Visitors & Local Favorites in Hilo
Ken’s Pancake House
Open 24 hours; serving up breakfast all day long. American and local entrees from pancakes to burgers and pretty much anything you can think of or haven’t heard of before and sounds ono (yummy). Home to the infamous “SUMO” saimin. If you love ramen noodles you will want to have this!
Naung Mai Thai Kitchen
Traditional authentic Thai entrees from curries to pad Thai noodles made with locally sourced ingredients. So fresh and made to order! I always order pineapple chicken curry with jasmine rice and papaya salad and spring rolls with my family. It sounds like a lot of food but it is worth the left overs or not.
Dressy Restaurants in Hilo
Hilo Bay Café
Local and American infused dishes. Serving sushi, burgers, French onion soup and salads. A great place to dine with a small or big family. The atmosphere is an amazing view of Hilo Bay. Tip: best to make reservations.
Pineapple’s Island Fresh Cuisine
Another great place to try a local twist on American favorites. From locally caught fish and chips to classic burgers or pastas. Located in the heart of downtown Hilo. Note: reservations are greatly recommended.
Upscale local and American dishes serving fresh seafood such as Ahi (Tuna) and Ono (Wahoo), pastas, prime rib, steak and lobster. While dinning on the water of Hilo’s ice pond near open windows.
The Best Restaurants in Pahoa
Driving out of Hilo heading further east and 30 minutes later you will be in Pahoa town. A small and quant town that feels like you are back in old Hawaii with buildings dating back to the early 1900’s. Pahoa is where I grew up and here are a few of my most favorite eating spots, from my childhood.
Mexican Food in Pahoa
Luquin’s Mexican Restaurant
Updated June 2017: Unfortunately this restaurant has closed for good.
Authentic Mexican food and great American foods. My very favorite things to eat are the homemade chips and salsa. The beef enchiladas and this is going to sound weird with a chocolate milk. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s a yummy combination. It is the only place, I believe in the state of Hawaii where you can have Mexican and American food together.
Fish & Chips in Pahoa
Pahoa Fresh Fish and Chips
This place is truly a hidden gem. Serving up big chunky pieces of fresh caught fish from ahi (tuna), mahi (dolphinfish) and ono (wahoo) with sides of waffle shaded fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce. Just two orders of the five pieces of fish could feed a big family. It is totally worth the drive out to Pahoa town.
The Best Restaurants in Kailua-Kona
If you are staying on the east side of the Big Island and want to see the west side, Kona, the drive is very scenic no matter which route you take. Saddle Road goes right in between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two beautiful dormant volcanoes. Or the second route would be the Hamakua Coastline. Both routes are about exactly the same time to get to Kona, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Kona brings back so many childhood memories as well. This was our vacation escape on the weekends and summer times off from school with my family.
French Vietnamese in Kailua-Kona
Ba-Le Sandwich Shop
Serving up Vietnamese style flavors like Pho soup and Banh-mi sandwiches with Local favorites like chicken katsu and BBQ chicken. The freshly baked French breads are the best! My all-time favorites are the Vegetable saimin (ramen) with the chicken katsu plate. This is an amazing combination! Everything is so fresh.
Mexican Food in Kailua-Kona
Pancho & Lefty’s Cantina
An all Mexican cuisine from burritos, tacos, and enchiladas served with beans and rice. I love the enchiladas! The chips and salsa is the best, I highly recommend you take a cup of it back to your hotel room to eat later. Their location is right on Ali’i Drive. Great walking distance from your hotel. Tip: perfect to walk Ali’i Drive before or after you eat or do both to look at shops and the ocean.
Ocean View Cafes in Kailua-Kona
Island Lava Java
Gourmet restaurant and café open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Serving amazing local favorites like Portuguese sausage with pancakes, eggs and a side of fresh fruit or a slice of papaya with a side of Kona Coffee for breakfast but if you are craving lunch there are burgers, sandwiches and fresh fish dishes. Dinner is my very favorite time to eat here with my family. To watch the sun set while eating delicious dishes from island raised beef burgers to green salads and local infused Italian pizzas. I can’t forget their desserts! Chocolate decadence cake and Big Island ice creams or if you love pastries they got you covered. Located on Ali’i Drive and right across from the beautiful pacific sea.
The Big Island is truly unique with many different types of restaurants to choose from. Locals and visitors alike enjoy all of them! These are just a few picks of my most favorite spots to eat at. More restaurants are yet to be discovered by you and your family, no matter what your tastes are, you can find it on my home island. For more ideas on where to eat when traveling to Hawaii, check out Live Your Aloha’s Visiting Hawaii: The Definitive Guide.
WANT DAILY TRAVEL INSPIRATION?
Subscribe to Top Flight Family Daily ...for a daily dose of luxury family travel ideas!
About Summer Martin
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Summer Martin is a passionate photographer, future world explorer and always trusting in the Lord. Summer graduated from Hawaii Community College with a Digital Media Arts Certificate. Follow her adventures on her blog and on Instagram.
Click here to read Summer's articles