We all know and love the tropical flavors of Hawaii — mango, passion fruit, pineapple, guava and so on. It’s pretty hard to beat the delicious cocktails you can make out of these great fruits, but they’re pretty great in food, too.
I’m here on the big island of Hawaii as I write this, and am on day 9. Every day has been one of relaxation, swimming, great food and a plethora of good cocktails and wine. We’ve had some pretty spectacular meals, so figured I’d share where to go when you’re on your next trip to the big island.
Owned by the same people that own the Lava Lava Beach Club (see below), this is a casual, ocean-front restaurant that’s a great place to go for a cocktail, happy hour or dinner. The fresh fish is tremendous, cocktails are creative and delicious, and the ambiance is fun for groups and couples alike. The bar next door, Huggo’s On the Rocks, is also a great stop, particularly for happy hour and live music in the evenings. Great spot to watch the sunset too!
- Jackie Rey’s
This is a fave with locals, and you’ll see why. The place is owned by a husband/wife team ad is named after their daughter, and it feels like a family kind of place. The staff is very friendly and welcoming, the drinks are great (full bar avaialble), and the food is fresh and comforting. Portions are very large, by the way. The fish tacos are excellent, as are the mai tais.
- Rays on the Bay
Located at the Sheraton just south of Kailua, this restaurant is fairly new. The name references the large numbers of rays that swim in the bay just below the hotel. At night, the bay is lit up by the hotel and by boats to have better viewing. Pretty cool! The open-air restaurant has a great view of the bay, and serves very good food. Can’t say much about the staff (they’re mostly here for the sun and surf, less so the food and service), but the food is well prepared, fresh and delicious.
- Kona Brewing Company
Yep, it’s a real brewing company that makes that great beer you see the logo for all over the place. The restaurant is located at the brewery site, which means the beer is fresh, but the locale is a bit industrial. That said, they’ve done a great job of landscaping the grounds so that you feel like you’re in a lush part of the island. The food is quite good, and believe it or not, the pizza is damn tasty. Wash down a few slices with your choice of Kona beer, and you are set!
In the Waikaloa area:
- ‘Ulu Ocean Grille
This restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort is a must-visit. We had the best meal of our entire trip at this gorgeous, romantic, ocean-front restaurant. The menu is a blend of Asian influences, borrowing from Thai, Japanese, Korean and of course Hawaiian. The crab potstickers in a coconut curry sauce were to die for, and you cld say the same about the corn and coconut soup. Any of their fish preparations are going to be fresh and flavorfully prepared so those are a great choice, but really, you can’t go wrong with this place.
- Roy’s Waikaloa Bar & Grill
Yes, it’s part of a long-standing chain from Roy Yamaguchi, but this chef is still serving great food that is highly Hawaiian based, with lots of other Asian influences. Their signature blackened Ahi is always a winner, and so are all of their fish dishes. The chile Ahi was also very good, the Kona coffee rubbed steak a total winner, and the appetizers are great to share. Nice wine list too
- Lava Lava Beach Club
Fresh fish specials daily are the thing here, either grilled solo or in a sandwich, bu tthere are terrific drinks and appetizers too. And the salads and burgers are excellent. Really a fantastic place to go for lunch or dinner, particularly for the ambiance — right on the beach. Incidentally, the Lava Lava Beach Club is a great place to hang out for the day. There’s a beautiful public beach right in front of the restaurant, which is all outdoors so you can enjoy the view and the breeze. Just down the beach is the beach hut in front of the Marriott, where you can rent all sorts of sports equipment to play in the warm, clear water. Lava Lava Beach Club also happens to be where we stayed the majority of our time in Hawaii…they have 4 well-appointed cabanas right on the beach and our group took them all. Great place for a quiet, relaxed vacation as well as a good spot to go for a meal!
This small restaurant is in the Kings Shops in Waikaloa, as is Roy’s (above), but is worth a visit. Terrific Japanese food with a great selection of sushi and rolls. They have some dishes with a distinct Korean influence (like the delicious stir-fried pork with kimchi), which are also a treat. Decent wine and sake menu, as well as a good selection of beers to choose from.
That’s pretty much the round up of great spots we visited this week. Hopefully just reading about it gives you a little bit of island flavor (and island fever, too).
Mahalo and e ‘ai kāua (let’s eat)!