Greetings fellow food enthusiasts!
I have to confess: one of the main reasons I love traveling is for the marvelous culinary experiences that await. Nothing quite compares to savoring new flavors and dishes, especially when accompanied by a breathtaking view or a charming atmosphere. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Recently, my boyfriend and I embarked on another gastronomical adventure to the Big Island. As self-proclaimed foodies with an insatiable appetite for deliciousness, we’ve become well-versed in scouting out the finest dining spots this island paradise has to offer. From luxurious resort restaurants to humble family-owned eateries that pack a flavorful punch – we’ve tasted it all!
Now, you might be wondering what scrumptious delights await you on your own Big Island escapade? Fear not! After countless hours spent sampling dishes (no regrets!), comparing notes, and weighing various factors, I’ve put together an irresistible list of top 8 must-visit restaurants just for people like you who crave exceptional dining experiences.
Warning: Side effects may include severe cravings for Hawaiian cuisine and daydreams about stunning tropical sunsets.
Without further ado, let’s embark on this mouthwatering journey together as we uncover hidden gems and indulge in unforgettable culinary delights!
#1 Brown’s Beach House – Luxurious beach restaurant with farm-to-table meals
Address: 1 N Kaniku Dr, Waimea, HI 96743
This gorgeous and spacious restaurant has the most beautiful venue on the island, with well-spaced-out tables among palm trees overlooking the sunset. (As you would expect from an AAA Four Diamond restaurant.)To experience the best Hawaiian sunset dine here. They also have an extensive menu with great portions and a separate vegan menu.
We frequent this restaurant for romantic date nights, and the service is always top-notch. The waiters are efficient, friendly, and well-knowledgeable about the food they serve. Ingredients are mostly locally sourced and the fish is always incredibly fresh and well-prepared. My favorites from the menu include the coconut lobster bisque, honey-glazed pork belly, and the coffee venison with carrot puree.
For dessert try the mud pie or my favorite, the pineapple crème Brulee. They have great drink options including some one-of-a-kind cocktails. But really it’s their extensive wine menu that will win you over. Ask for the wine list, and make it a perfect couples evening.
Brown’s Beach House is the best restaurant on the Big Island because:
- The food is locally sourced farm to table with incredibly fresh ingredients.
- They have a gorgeous open-air venue right on the beach and among the palm trees.
- It’s the perfect romantic date destination with a stunning sunset.
- There is an extensive vegan menu and a top-notch wine card both by the bottle and glass.
#2 ULU Ocean Grill & Sushi Bar – Oceanfront restaurant in the Four Seasons Resort
Address: 72-100 Ka’upulehu Drive Ka’upulehu, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
This fish and seafood restaurant is also an amazing sushi bar. Located at the Four Seasons Resort, it has well-spaced open-air seating, incredible food, and is located right on the beach. Needless to say, it has a beautiful sunset setting, and it is a great spot for breakfast or dinner. The restaurant also locally sources about 75% of its ingredients.
I am a fan of their charcoal barbecued octopus and corn and coconut soup with Lobster Mushrooms. If you are a sushi lover, look no further, because the sushi lounge has the freshest, buttery, and well-cut pieces I have tried on the island. Ask for the chef’s assorted sashimi special.
Dessert lovers can’t miss the mango lime tart (Yummy!) and pineapple upside-down cake. Whatever you choose, trust it will be fresh, tasty, and beautifully plated.
Service here is friendly and there is no waiting to be seated (at your reservation time). Even when they get busy the waiters are friendly and helpful. They are also very knowledgeable about their food. This is another amazing date night spot, with wine cards from all around the world.
Don’t miss out on the perfect romantic night at the ULU Ocean Grill & Sushi Bar because:
- The venue is gorgeous with an oceanfront view and well-spaced tables overlooking the beach.
- The food is locally sourced and incredibly fresh.
- The sushi bar serves the best quality fish on the island.
- Service is good and they have an extensive wine card with options from all around the world.
#3 Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill Kona – The local go-to for seafood specials and wine
Address: 75-5995 Kuakini Hwy STE 1, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
This is a great authentic restaurant for an elegant local experience. They have a great happy hour drink and starter menu at incredible prices. Also, they have weekday daily specials like Philly Cheese Steak and Shrimp Scampi over Linguini. But for the full experience, I highly recommend having dinner here.
The restaurant is small but perfectly set up with both booth and round table seating (with bar options). It’s elegant and true to Hawaii in decoration and atmosphere. So we always feel really welcome here. Service is good and accommodating. They are attentive without rushing guests.
If you decide to visit for lunch, don’t skip the Guava BBQ Glazed Baby Back Ribs and the house-made crab cakes. For dinner try the Pan Seared Sea Scallops with black forbidden rice. End your meal with the Lilikoi Cheesecake or Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake. Everything is made from scratch here
The prices here are great and the portions are large. It’s just a great place to have a hardy and fun dinner without a pretentious atmosphere. The wine and cocktail options are great, with lots of options served by glass or bottle.
We love visiting and revisiting Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill at Kona because:
- They have great specials like happy hour and weekday daily specials.
- The food is diverse with lots of vegetarian, beef, pork, and seafood options.
- The atmosphere and service are local and friendly, very relaxed.
- It’s an opportunity to support a local restaurant with amazing food and an authentic vibe.
#4 Keei Café – inventive American cuisine and local art
Address: 79-7511 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Kealakekua, HI 96750
This is a truly local spot, not part of any chain or hotel. The atmosphere is amazing and so is the service. Here you can dress up for date night, or just come in casual after a beach walk, and you won’t feel out of place. They have both inside and outside seating (limited), and often your dinner will be accompanied by live local music. The music perfectly sets the mood without being overpowering or loud.
We come here when we need a change in menu. The food here is a mixture of everything, including American, Latin, and Mediterranean. Meat lovers (like my boyfriend) will love the Pan Seared Ribeye Steak and Roasted Half Chicken with gravy, rice, and vegetables. My favorite is the Seafood Pasta with tons of fresh shells and a well-seasoned sauce. Whatever you choose the portions are big, and you won’t leave hungry.
First-time (and many times after that) visitors will love the creative and beautiful artwork displayed by local artists. We love Keei Café because it’s a fun and relaxed place to enjoy live music, drinks, and a hardy dinner. Service can sometimes get disorganized when they are busy, but we don’t mind. (after all, we are on vacation and not in a hurry anywhere).
Check out this local hidden gem because:
- It’s authentic in its food, decor, atmosphere, and service.
- You can enjoy large, high-quality portioned meals at great prices.
- It’s a place to have a few drinks and enjoy live music.
- This is a locally owned and run restaurant, and it’s great to mingle with the locals and support their businesses.
#5 Merriman’s Big Island – Mountainside restaurant with regional dishes
Address: 65-1227 Opelo Rd B, Waimea, HI 96743
Merriman’s offers lunch, Sunday brunch, and a pre-fixed dinner menu. The restaurant is spacious and elegant. You won’t feel cramped, and there is enough privacy for a great conversation or a dinner date. The restaurant is owned and run by the chef (Peter Merriman), and they use over 90% of local and regional ingredients right from the island. The restaurant has been here since 1988.
I really love this restaurant because it’s different from the beachside atmosphere. The setting is beautiful next to the lush green mountainside. The tables are set in white, and everything is elegant, but still comfortable if you didn’t dress up.
The pre-fixed three-course dinner menu is full of amazing and well-thought-out options. For the main course, they have great lamb, tenderloin, steak, and fish options (including the catch of the day). For dessert, try my favorite, the Lilikoi mousse with white chocolate crumble. If you are thinking about having a cocktail try their Mai Tais with Lilikoi foam on top! Whatever you choose, you will leave your dinner stuffed.
Whenever we visit we have a great service experience (from host to server). The staff is well organized and efficient regardless of how many guests they have. They know their food and many very well and are more than happy to answer any questions. They also have restaurants on other Hawaiian islands, so if you travel across Hawaii you will know one great restaurant you can count on.
Merriman’s Big Island is a great restaurant because:
- The menu is diverse with lots of protein and vegetable choices.
- Most ingredients (over 90%) are sourced locally from Hawaii and it shows in the freshness of ingredients and taste.
- The venue is elegant and beautiful, yet contrasts with the beachfront atmosphere.
- They have top-notch service and extremely professional and friendly staff from start to finish.
#6 Huggo’s Restaurant – waterfront steaks and pasta with tiki drinks
Address: 5308, 75-5828 Kahakai Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
This is a funky, Hawaiian spirit restaurant with quality food and a beachfront view. The restaurant has been running since the late 60s and it has great tradition among the locals and tourists. I love them because the food is delicious. The location is also breathtaking.
When we visit we take advantage of the “Liquid happy hour” and then continue our evening for dinner. They have local live music several nights a week. It adds to the atmosphere without being too loud to talk. This is a great place for dinner with friends or just a relaxed date. Many guests choose to dress up, but it’s not mandatory.
They have lots of fresh fish and seafood specials that are perfectly seasoned and not overpowered by sauce and dressing. This is also a great place to try several different seafood pasta combinations that can be substituted with tofu or chicken. Some of my favorites include the Signature Teriyaki Steak with bamboo steamed rice and Seared Sesame Crusted Ahi with Asian noodles and orange plum sauce. Dessert lovers should try the generously portioned Lime Pie and coconut Haupia Cake.
Service is quick and we haven’t had any bad experience for the times we have visited. I appreciate the attentiveness of the servers without being pushy.
Huggo’s Restaurant is a great dinner and cocktail choice with a beachfront view. We love them because:
- Service is top-notch with quick and friendly servers.
- The location is amazing with a perfect oceanfront terrace and a gorgeous sunset view.
- The portions are large and perfectly prepared and there are great fresh seafood choices.
- For steak lovers, they have the original teriyaki steak they have been serving since the 60s.
- They have quality live music on several nights a week.
#7 Black Rock Pizza – Best pizza and local beer on the island
Address: 82-6127 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd #3, Captain Cook, HI 96704
I wouldn’t make a restaurant list without including that hidden gem spot with the best pizza. I know I crave pizza after a few nights of seafood. Black Rock Pizza is a truly special spot with authentic taste and ingredients. The best part is that it’s a beautiful venue with covered outside seating and a view of the ocean. But they also have take-out.
We usually dine at the restaurant because the atmosphere is perfect and the staff is super friendly. There is usually plenty of seating (and parking) when we arrive.
This is the best pizza restaurant on the Big Island because the dough is perfectly done and not too thick. Everything is made from scratch (and daily), so the sauce is fragrant and amazing. I love that they are generous with the cheese and toppings. Everything tastes and smells wonderful!
They have some wonderful sauce options including (my favorite) the Kiawe Mango Smokey BBQ. I also love the additional cheese options like feta, smoked Mozzarella, and goat cheese. My favorite pizzas are the Hoi Boi with Jalapenos and BBQ chicken. Whatever you choose, you will love it!
For the best pizza restaurant, we always stop at Black Rock Pizza because:
- They make their pizzas from scratch with lots of house-made sauce options.
- The dough is freshly made and perfectly done.
- They are generous with cheese and toppings and everything tastes delicious.
- The restaurant has great searing and the staff is super friendly.
#8 Krua Thai Cuisine – warm ambiance with homemade Thai (spicy and mild)
Address: 75-5705 Kuakini Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
This is an underrated restaurant serving delicious and homemade food (if you are not looking for it, you will miss it). It’s an open kitchen and an unassuming spot run by a local family. We love visiting for lunch, but they also serve dinner.
The venue is small with altogether about ten tables. It’s nicely decorated and elegant. They have a huge menu with many choices of noodles, soups, salads, tofu, chicken, beef, and pork options. Some of my favorites include the Masaman curry, Thai Spring Rolls, Drunken noodles, and Papaya salad. Whatever you order, you can choose how hot or how mild you want your food. (I love the more spicy options!)
The portions are nice and big and everything is well-priced. It’s a great spot to have a quiet lunch or an intimate dinner. The staff is friendly and accommodating. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are preferred.
Check out Krua Thai Cuisine Restaurant for some great homemade food:
- The restaurant is run by a family preparing and serving food made from scratch.
- It is well-decorated, elegant, and perfect for a quiet lunch or dinner.
- It’s a welcomed change from the seafood and steak options found on the island.
- Service is friendly and even if you stop by, they will do their best to seat you.
The Big Island is a beautiful destination with a high-quality food scene. There are amazing restaurants to choose from regardless of what kind of venue of cuisine you enjoy.
For the perfect date and a sunset beach view, check out Brown’s Beach House and ULU Ocean Grill & Sushi Bar.
For an elegant but casual meal don’t miss out on Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill Kona and Huggo’s Restaurant.
Eat at the local favorite Keei Café.
Check out the best pizza at Black Rock Pizza.
Don’t miss out on the hidden gem of Krua Thai Cuisine.
Whatever type of restaurant you are looking for, you will find it on this list.
Better yet, check them all out.
Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Brigitte