Looking for the best food on Big Island? If you’re a fellow food enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place.
One of the things I love to do when I travel is to find local food to eat and Hawaii is no exception. The island’s tropical climate is critical to the diverse agricultural conditions that are the backbone of locally grown food. You can also experience Hawaii’s rich immigrant history through wonderful fusion foods that are traditionally Hawaiian with an Asian, European, or Caribbean twist.
As someone who loves to explore local cuisines, I’ve curated a list of the absolute best food that the Big Island has to offer. Instead of tourist traps or overhyped restaurants, this guide is all about uncovering hidden gems (like 5-Spice), local favorites (Two Ladies Kitchen),and must-eat places (Da Poke Shack) that you’ll definitely want to add to your list of things to do on the Big Island.
From hole-in-the-wall joints with secret family recipes to farm-to-table delights that celebrate the island’s fresh produce, get ready to savor the flavors of the Big Island like a local.
- Best Food on Big Island: Overview
- The Best Places to Eat in Kona
- The Best Restaurants in Hilo
- Where Else to Eat on Big Island (Honorable Mentions)
Best Food on Big Island: Overview
Top Pick (click for review)
What to Order
🥞 Best Breakfast
Hawaiian Style Cafe
Macadamia nut pancakes
🍩 Best Malasadas
Punalu’u Bake Shop
🌺 Best Hawaiian Food
Matsuyama Food Mart
🍽️ Best Lunch Spot
Butterfish or porkchops
☕ Best Kona Coffee
Kona Coffee & Tea
Any coffee drink
🐠 Best Poke
Da Poke Shack
Shack special poke
🍣 Best Seafood
🌟 Best Local Favorite
Two Ladies Kitchen
💎 Hidden Gem
Meat jun plate
The Best Places to Eat in Kona
1. Da Poke Shack
🌟 What to Eat: Shack Special poke bowl with seaweed & crab salad (see menu)
Poke is a Hawaiian dish made up of bite-sized pieces of marinated raw fish (usually ahi tuna or salmon). The combination of fresh seafood as well as Asian sauces and ingredients is a quintessential testament to the diverse influences on Hawaiian cuisine. If you go to the fish market or a local shop that specializes in poke, you’ll also find a variety of sides and garnishings you can add such as seaweed salad, avocados, and furikake.
The best poke in Kona, and possibly on the Big Island, is at Da Poke Shack. Da Poke Shack is a no-frills, take-out style shop that specializes in poke. Their Shack Special is exactly what I was looking for in ahi poke, aka the perfect trifecta of salty, sweet, and heaps of delicious fish. Da Poke Shack tends to sell out daily so try to stop by when they open around 10:00 AM.
Order the soy-based poke dishes and crab salad side. I ordered a poke plate with the Pele’s Kiss (spicy), Shack Special (sweet), Shoyu (soy sauce), and Dynamite (avocado aioli) with a side of seaweed salad and crab salad. I loved the Shack Special and crab salad but would skip the Pele’s Kiss (tasted like pickled, vinegary spice) and the Dynamite (too much mayo for my taste).
2. Teshima’s Restaurant
🌟 What to Eat: Butterfish, shrimp tempura bento box (see menu)
Teshima is a family-owned restaurant that’s been around since 1957 that services Japanese and Japanese-influenced Hawaiian food. There’s so much heart and joy in the food and service that makes dining-in a really warm and inviting experience.
I ordered the misoyaki butterfish, which was one of the best meals we had on the trip. Misoyaki butterfish typically involves marinating black cod in miso that is then grilled or pan-seared. A result of Japanese immigration and influence, miso butterfish is a common comfort food in Hawaii and absolutely delicious.
We also ordered a shrimp tempura bento box that was almost as good as the tempura in Japan. The tempura was airy and crispy without being greasy and too good to not mention.
3. Manago Hotel
🌟 What to Eat: butterfish, pork chops (see menu)
Stepping into the Manago Hotel is like walking into history. The hotel has been around since 1917 and is not only an iconic landmark near Kealakekua Bay but also one of the oldest and homiest restaurants on the island. They’re popular for their pork chops (which my boyfriend said was one of the best he’s ever eaten) but I’d recommend Manago for their fish – specifically, the butterfish.
When you order the butterfish, you get exactly that – no extra sides, no nothing, just a big slab of fish. And oh how tender and flavorful it is! The fish was perfectly cooked and melts in your mouth as soon as you take a bite. I got the miso sauce on the side, which I’d recommend to keep the beautiful texture. The fish isn’t deboned so I’d recommend ordering something else if that’s an issue for you.
4. Matsuyama Food Mart
🌟 What to Eat: spam musubi, chicken katsu musubi
Matsuyama Food Mart is a local mini-mart that has groceries, specialty goods, an on-site-gas station, and tons of prepared foods. We went 3 times during our trip because we couldn’t get enough of their musubis, which have the perfect ratio of rice, sauce, and protein. All of their musubis are delicious but the highlights are the spam and chicken katsu musubi.
Try to get to the mart before noon. After lunch, they seem to sell out of their popular hot food items. We only got to try the chicken katsu musubi once because it was sold out the two other times we went.
5. Shaka Tacoz
🌟 What to Eat: fish tacos (see menu)
Shaka Tacoz is a laid-back taco joint that serves mouthwatering tacos with a creative twist. I heard Shaka Tacoz was the place to go for fish tacos and it did not disappoint. I ordered the Ono Fish Tacoz plate, which comes with 3 fish tacos and a mountain of toppings. The ono was fresh, flavorful, and well-cooked and so good with the shaka sauce and lime crema.
6. Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill
🌟 What to Order: Sweetie poke bowl (see menu)
Umekes is a restaurant and fish market on the Kona side of the island that uses locally sourced ingredients and fresh fish in all of their food. A favorite on the island, their signature dish is their poke with their mahi mahi fish tacos being another one of the menu favorites.
They often have live entertainment going in the outdoor area, perfect for those who are looking for some ambience. If you for sure decide to eat at Umekes, call ahead and reserve a table so you can avoid waiting in the line.
7. Kona Coffee & Tea
🌟 What to Order: any kona coffee drink (see menu)
If you’re a fellow coffee lover, you’ve likely heard of Kona Coffee which is one of the most well-known and highly prized coffee products in the world. Only coffee that grows in Kona can be sold as Kona coffee. Coffee grown here on the volcanic slopes of Mauna Loa where it’s exposed to Hawaii’s tropical climate at high elevations ends up smooth and sweet, with no bitterness.
Kona Coffee & Tea is a family-owned coffee shop that only uses 100% Kona coffee. It’s clear that coffee is their craft, as they treat every single coffee drink with so much care and attention to detail. I ordered an iced americano and it was perfectly smooth and sweet on its own.
📍Address: 74-5588 Palani Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
⏱️ Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM
💡Tip: Kona coffee is pricey but worth it as long as you’re actually getting coffee that’s grown on the island. Always ask your barista where their coffee was sourced from to make sure they use 100% Kona or homegrown coffee and not a kona blend, which is a mixture of Kona coffee and beans from other regions. Kona blends may contain as little as 10% of actual Kona coffee!
8. The Coffee Shack
🌟 What to Order: any kona coffee drink (see menu)
The Coffee Shack is another family-owned coffee shop and restaurant that’s known for having gorgeous views of Kealakekua Bay and great coffee. They serve 100% Kona Coffee in all their coffee drinks, including their iced honey mocha latte which is what I ordered. My latte was the right level of indulgent where the sweetness from the honey and chocolate complemented the coffee beautifully.
The Best Restaurants in Hilo
9. Hawaiian Style Café
🌟 What to Order: macadamia nut pancakes
Hawaiian breakfast is comforting, filling, and decadent and reminiscent of breakfast dinners on the mainland with a Hawaiian twist. Think classic pancakes and eggs but instead of chocolate chip pancakes and sausages, you get macadamia nut pancakes and Portuguese sausages or spam instead.
Hawaiian Style Cafe is a local’s favorite breakfast diner with two locations, one in Hilo and Waimea. There’s so much to love here from the spam, Portuguese sausage, hash browns, rice and of course their macadamia nut pancakes. Be warned, these pancakes are MASSIVE (like bigger than the size of your face) and delicious, especially when you drizzle coconut syrup on top. You’ll leave uncomfortably full but isn’t that the mark of breakfast done right?
📍Address: 681 Manono St, Hilo, HI 96720
⏱️ Hours: Sunday – Monday (7:00 AM – 2:00 PM), Tuesday – Thursday (7:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM), Friday – Saturday (7:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
10. Suisan Fish Market
🌟 What to Eat: salmon poke **ordered by the lb (see menu)
Suisan Fish Market is a Hilo treasure that’s known for having ultra-fresh seafood and high-quality poke bowls. Their selection of poke varies daily though you will always find the ahi poke available. However, it’s the salmon poke here that is universally loved. Unfortunately, the salmon poke has to be ordered by the pound but this is the thing to get when visiting Suisan – just come hungry!
🌟 What to Eat: meat jun plate with purple potato salad and mac salad
5-Spice is a take-out only food counter located in a small mart in Hilo that we happily stumbled upon during our drive from Volcano National Park to Mauna Kea. It’s definitely out of the way so I wouldn’t deliberately make the trek from Kona but I would recommend 5-Spice as a quick bite for anyone who is passing through Hilo. I ordered the meat jun plate with a side of dumplings and purple potato salad plus an extra side of mac salad, all of which were delicious. The meat jun was tender, well-seasoned, and filling without feeling heavy and both the potato and mac salads were flavorful without being overly sauced. Their potato and mac salad were my favorites on this trip (and I had several).
12. Two Ladies Kitchen
🌟 What to Eat: strawberry mochi
The best place to get mochi on the island is Two Ladies Kitchen located in Hilo. Their mochi is always freshly made and the texture is delightfully sticky and soft. They also have so many interesting flavors that it’s tempting to order everything, even though they only last for one day (otherwise, the mochi hardens 🙁). We ordered the fresh strawberry, strawberry cheesecake, lilikoi, butterfly, plum flower, peach momo, and oreo mochi. All of them were amazing but my favorite was the fresh strawberry, which had so much strawberry flavor from the filling and the mochi skin.
📍Address: 274 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720
⏱️ Hours: Wednesday (10:00 AM – 4:00 PM)
💡Tip: Call the store the night before or the morning to place an order ahead of time. We called in the morning and were able to get all the mochi we wanted and didn’t have to wait in line.
13. Punalu’u Bake Shop
🌟 What to Eat: lilikoi malasadas (see menu)
Located near the Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Punalu’u Bakery is the perfect stop before heading to the beach. Punalu’u Bake Shop is the southernmost bakery in the United States that serves freshly-made Hawaiian sweet breads and malasadas. They are best known for their lilikoi malasadas though they also have other island flavored ones including taro, guava, and mango. Be sure to get here in the morning to get the widest selection as they usually sell out of malasadas near the end of the day.
Where Else to Eat on Big Island (Honorable Mentions)
- Broke Da Mouth Grindz – featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives for their garlic furikake chicken. I thought the flavors were good but my chicken was a bit overcooked. Would still recommend trying at least once!
- Kona Brewing Company – craft brewery that specializes in local island craft beers
- Huggo’s On the Rocks – decent spot for drinks and food that’s known for its spectacular views
- Island Lava Java – another spot for Hawaiian food made with local ingredients that’s also popular for ocean views
- Scandinavian Shave Ice – often described as the best shaved ice on the Big Island
- Ka’u Coffee Mill – 100% Hawaiian grown coffee where you can take a coffee farm tour
- Cafe 100 – famous for their loco moco. I don’t personally like loco moco so I ordered chicken katsu with a side of macaroni salad, both of which were tasty but a tad salty for my preference.
- Ken’s House of Pancakes – 24-hour diner known for their massive breakfasts and loco moco
- Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine – happy hour place with highly recommended tropical cocktails
- Merriman’s – really wanted to come hear to try their grass-fed beef burger since Waimea is a vital region in Hawaiia’s rich ranching history
- Fresh Off the Grid – hidden gem near Pololu Valley with delicious shaved ice and poke nachos
Final Thoughts on Places to Eat on Big Island
With fresh seafood, local delicacies, and island flavors, it’s no wonder the Big Island of Hawaii is a great spot for food enthusiasts. Be sure to explore the culinary wonders the island has to offer while supporting the local farmers, coffee farms, and small businesses that bring these flavors to life.
Do you have any must eat places on the Big Island that’s not on this list? Let me know in the comments! 🙂 I’m always open to feedback as I’m fully aware that food is personal and my preferences/experiences may be the exception, not the norm 🙂.