Food being as expensive as it is in Hawaii, you definitely want to be sure your vacation spending money isn’t going to waste on subpar food. Although I didn’t have a single bad meal in Hawaii (food there is very good it seems, no matter where you go!), there were definitely some meals that stood out among the rest.
I hope my personal experience can serve as a guide for choosing the dining options that will exceed your expectations in the Aloha State! I haven’t been to Oahu yet, so unfortunately you’ll have to wait until my next Hawaiian adventure for that one.
Hanalei Bay Pizzeria
Located just a short drive from the start of the famous Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hanalei Pizza is the perfect place to chow down after a strenuous day of hiking. My husband and I both agree that this was our favorite meal while in all of Hawaii (this could also have something to do with the fact that we were starving at the time, but the pizza was phenomenal). The pizzas have funky names and ingredients like Kalua pork and Canadian bacon, and the pizzeria also serves appetizers like cheese sticks, wings, and a bunch more.
Art Café Hemingway
Located right across the street from the ocean in Kapaa, the Art Café Hemingway can’t be judged by its cover. The food is more upscale than the atmosphere suggests and the menu is always changing with unique items like Moroccan lamb, prawns with lime curry, and lots more. They also have some great cocktails on the menu including some of Hemingway’s favorites. Although we went for dinner, I think the café is more well-known for their brunch on the weekends.
A large luau near the airport in Kauai, I chose Luau Kalamaku above any other luaus because of the great reviews. The buffet food was tasty and there is entertainment all throughout the night on the stage so it’s not horribly boring waiting your turn for the buffet. You are allowed to watch the pig being taken out of the ground, although I didn’t watch because of the crowd. The open bar, fresh flower lei, and handicraft market are nice touches. This luau was great, but very touristy. Does anyone know a local family in Hawaii that hosts small luaus for tourists? Ha! Would have loved something a little more local, but not sure if they exist. I think all of the luaus open to tourists are pretty large like this one.
Hee Fat General Store
Selling mostly souvenirs and general merchandise, Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa has a little-known shave ice stand in the back of the store! Granted, it is the only shave ice I’ve ever had so I don’t have much to compare it to, but it was delicious! Be sure to get the macadamia nut ice cream with one of the real fruit syrups. There isn’t anywhere in the store to sit and eat it so you can simply walk down the street and meander past other shops while enjoying it. One to share is usually enough–they’re huge!
Located in cute and artsy Paia (probably my favorite town in all of Hawaii), the Flatbread Company serves flatbread pizzas that have been cooked in an enclosed earthen mound. They use fresh and local ingredients and have unique and organic pizza toppings like goat cheese, kalamata olives, and free range pork shoulder. Grab a Hawaiian craft beer and enjoy one of these mouthwatering flatbreads for a night out you won’t forget.
Paia Inn Café
Attached to the Paia Inn boutique hotel, the Paia Inn Café serves some of the best breakfast and brunch in the area. It can be a bit pricey, but the unique menu and delicious dishes make it completely worth it. They have an extensive drink menu with lots of specialty coffee and tea drinks. I tried the golden milk and it was awesome. I got lox and eggs and Kevin tried the huevos rancheros, and both were delicious. Not only that, the atmosphere is quaint and funky on the outdoor patio with lights strung above, which is a plus.
Garden Gourmet Café
Actually a food truck at the Garden of Eden arboretum right off the Road to Hana, the Garden Gourmet Café serves quick meals with the freshest of ingredients. Their chicken and beef tacos with fresh cabbage and salsa are to die for and this makes for a great lunch stop amongst a long day of sightseeing along the Highway, even if you’re not visiting the arboretum. Watch out for the begging peacocks!
Because of the expense of food in Hawaii and also just because we enjoy cooking and checking out local ingredients, there were a few days on our trip where we went to a local supermarket and picked up a few things to prepare back at our condo. Mana Foods is an organic grocery store located in Paia (can you tell I like that town?) and was so much fun to walk through, even if you don’t need to purchase anything. It made me feel like people in Hawaii eat a lot healthier than we do on the “mainland”. There were some really unique snacks, a pharmacy area (which was strange because the pharmacy cashier sent our selection from there up to the front checkout while we continued shopping, which has never happened in a grocery store I’ve been to before), and an extremely robust produce section. I saw the largest mango I’ve ever seen in that store and wished we had a Mana Foods back home!
HAWAII’S BIG ISLAND
Volcano House Restaurant
View of Halema’uma’u crater from some of the tables at Volcano House Restaurant!
Located in Volcano National Park, the Volcano House restaurant offers seating with a breathtaking view of Halema’uma’u crater and the smoke billowing out from within. The restaurant offers lots of local specialties like Kalua pork, poi, fish and chips, and more. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon after exploring a bit in the national park. We even hiked there and back to burn off the huge meal we devoured there!
One of the few restaurants in the town of Volcano, HI, the Ohelo Cafe can be pretty busy in the evenings. We got a seat on their outdoor patio on a rainy day (it’s covered) and it was actually really nice. The burger and fries there is one of the best I’ve ever had. They also have beer flights so you can sample some of the local drafts!
Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant
Also located in Volcano, HI at one of the popular lodges in the area, this restaurant is really cool because it feels like simply lounging at your grandmother’s house or a tucked away ski lodge or something. The seating is in front of a big fireplace with lots of Hawaiian artifacts covering the walls. It’s a great place to spend a chilly evening (yes, it does occasionally get chilly in Hawaii!) and sip a beverage or try Italian dishes like Seafood Mauna Kea or risotto. We visited here after coming all the way down from the elevation of Mauna Kea, so the warm lodge feel was just what the doctor ordered. You can even reserve a table online!
Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill
Roy’s is located in the heavily touristed area of Waikoloa on the Big Island. Because there are Roy’s restaurants all over the country now, I wanted to see where it all began. It’s definitely a restaurant for a special occasion or a romantic night out. We had a seat near the window overlooking a manmade pond filled with ducks and lined with palm trees. The asian fusion food was delicious and we certainly had a difficult time deciding what to order. I would highly recommend the lamb and an appetizer sampler!
I’d love to hear some of your favorite Hawaiian eateries in the comments! I’m definitely going back so will need some new places to try!
Eating my way around the world!
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS