Best restaurants on the Big Island
Manta may be known for their breakfast buffets, but a must-try is one of their most popular dinner entrees: the Macadamia Nut Encrusted Mahi Mahi. The fish is super tender with a hint of nutty sweetness. No matter when you visit, you’ll experience open-air fine dining on a gorgeous patio overlooking Kauna’oa Bay—oh, and you’ll probably encounter a few resident cats strolling among the flower beds.
It may feel like you’re playing hide and seek as you try to find Island Fish & Chips, but rest assured this walk-up joint is tucked deep inside the King’s Shops at Waikoloa set alongside a koi pond. Must-try items include flaky fish tacos, coconut shrimp and the crispiest fish and chips you’ll ever encounter. The sweet pineapple slaw side is an added bonus.
For a local take on happy hour, visit this waterfront venue for lilikoi (yellow passionfruit) cocktails. You’ll also find plenty of regional flavors on the dinner menu, with pineapple chili glazed pork belly and coconut rice stuffed kabocha squash. Service speed can be hit or miss depending on how busy the restaurant and lounge are, but the atmosphere and taste are worth the trip.
Chef Peter Merriman has a handful of eateries across the Hawaiian Islands, and the flagship Merriman’s in Waimea has been a local favorite for more than twenty years. The focus here is on local ingredients and regional flavor. It’s a pricier night out, but there’s a solid selection of sharable side plates and award-winning entrees: Lobster pot pie? Yes, please.
Fill up on liquid aloha during a brewery tour before settling in for a casual patio lunch. Pair a hand-tossed pizza or Kalua pork tacos with a beer flight, or get your veggie fix with the popular chickpea “burger” served with chipotle yogurt sauce. Love the brews? Visit their Growler Shack for big beer takeout. Note: You’ll find the best parking around the back of the pub.
Loco Moco is a must-try no matter which island you’re visiting, but legend has it Cafe 100 is the original home of this Hawaiian dish. Imagine a bowl of white rice beneath a juicy beef patty, layered with rich gravy and topped off with an egg sunny-side up. It’s a quirky combo at first, but classic comfort food Hawaiian-style. Try it any time of day and be prepared for follow-up cravings.
A popular spot for locals and tourists alike, this Kona Bay lounge boasts a cozy waterfront setting. Enjoy live local entertainment while you sample a poke bowl and sip one of the best Mai Tais in town; for your main course, try the Bulgogi fried rice bowl featuring island style marinated beef. Beach bums will feel at home with the sand floor of this super laid back venue.
The Hawaiian plate lunch is a local classic meant to fill you up on the cheap. Take two scoops of rice, add a side of macaroni salad and enjoy a featured item ranging from marinated chicken to garlic shrimp. L&L Hawaiian Barbeque isn’t fancy, but this is where you want to go for a traditional plate lunch. Ramen fan? Try the SPAM Saimin noodles for a Hawaiian spin.
Tempt your taste buds with a variety of fresh poke at this classic shack. Spicy Pele’s Kiss is a local favorite, but you won’t go wrong with garlic and sesame. Or why choose when you can order a plate with four poke selections? There may be a line of folks waiting to order, but service is fast and friendly. Visit early before the daily menu is sold out.
Bring your big appetite or party of friends to Longboard Legends for super-sized pizzas. Pie dough is hand-tossed and made with taro flour, something you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Dining solo? Pick up the slice of the day for a few bucks. Keep in mind 28” pizzas require extra oven time, so call ahead to avoid the wait.
While there are burgers and plate lunches to be had here, everyone goes to Tex Drive In for the Malasadas—thick, eggy Portuguese donuts sprinkled in sugar and celebrated island-wide. The local favorite is Tex’s Bavarian cream filling. There’s a no-frills walk-up counter certain to have a line-up, but you’ll find plenty of outdoor seating.
Relax along the coast with a Bloody Mary Brunch, every Sunday from 10am to 2pm. The a la carte brunch menu features a Hawaiian take on Eggs Benedict, bacon waffles and nine Bloody Mary variations. Not a fan of breakfast foods? Make a reservation to dine during sunset over Waikoloa Beach, during which you’ll be surrounded by glowing tiki torches and entertained with live music.