Japanese, American and Polynesian cuisines collide in Hawaii, making the archipelago state a tantalising place to eat out. In the district of Kona on the Big Island, casual dining is king but don’t let the flip-flops fool you – the food here is top-notch, especially the fresh-as-it-gets seafood. Here’s where to go for drinks, dinner and more.
You could go with a classic and order a triple stack of pancakes but that’s not all Big Island Grill has on offer. Pick from the Local Menu for a breakfast of noodles topped with char sui pork, scrambled eggs, wontons and hot mustard, the sort of east-meets-west fusion you’ll only find in Hawaii. Whatever you go for, you won’t leave hungry – the servings at this popular spot are famously supersized.
75-5702 Kuakini Highway Kailua-Kona; 96740-1717
Best shave ice
Feel like a kid again and cool off with an overflowing, rainbow-hued cup of shave (no, not shaved) ice. This quintessential Hawaiian treat has a softer, smoother consistency than its close relative the snow cone and at Scandinavian Shave Ice (locals call it “Scandi’s”) you can pick from 65 different flavours, which are then topped with sweetened condensed milk or coconut cream. Tastiest brain-freeze ever.
75 5699 Alii Drive, Kailua Kona; (808) 326-2522
Lattes are served with a view of the ocean at Island Lava Java, the Kona coffee spot that’s been slinging organic espresso since 1994. Grab yours to go or take a seat and stay for a plate of fresh fruit or a bowl of paw paw, yoghurt and granola.
75-5801 Ali'i Drive, Building 1, Kailua Kona; (808) 327-2161
Best food truck
For the best selection of food-on-the-go head to the Waimea Midweek Farmers Market, open Wednesdays from 9am to 2pm. Here, you’ll find up to 40 different vendors selling fresh produce, organic snacks, cookies, fresh juices, lau lau (a traditional Hawaiian dish of pork wrapped in luau leaf) and tasty toasted sandwiches.
Pukalani Stables, 67-139 Pukilani Road; (808) 747-4300
Best beachside bar
Looking for a drink with a view? The Beach Tree Bar and Lounge at the Four Seasons is just steps from the sand, so you can watch the waves roll in as you snack on kingfish crudo and mahi tacos or sip a bespoke cocktail like the Waimea Burro (vodka, lychee puree, cucumber, lemon juice and ginger beer). It’s open all day but you’ll want to stick around for sunset.
72-100 Ka`upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona; (808) 325-8000
Two scoops of poke, one scoop of rice and one side dish: that’s what goes in every bowl at Da Poke Shack. This real-deal eatery offers 14 different kinds of poke (choose from sweet, spicy or soy sauce-slathered tuna or shrimp) and sides such as kimchi, seaweed salad and sesame garlic edamame. While the official opening hours are 10am to 5pm daily, the shack closes when it runs out fish for the day, so get in early.
76-6246 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona; (808) 3297653
Best restaurant for kids
A mom-and-pop joint of 15 years, Jackie Ray’s Ohana Grill is all about down-to-earth hospitality – for guests young and old. Kids can enjoy serves of fish and chips, chicken tacos and cheeseburgers while the adults sip quality wines and enjoy linguini with fresh clams or grilled lamb chops.
75-5995 Kuakini Highway, Kailua-Kona; (808) 327 0209
There’s no shortage of sushi in Kona but for the best Japanese in town, you want Sushi Shiono. This relaxed restaurant plates up fresh sashimi, lobster tempura and udon noodles alongside all the nigiri and California rolls you could dream of. Thirsty? There’s a long sake list for that.
Ali'i Sunset Plaza 75-5799 Alii Dr Kailua-Kona; (808) 326-1696