I recently got back from a trip to Hawaii’s Big Island and spent time in both major cities, Kona & Hilo and wanted to put together a little guide of the best places to see do and eat together. Not only did I do a lot of research but the group I went with had done their fair share of scouting out the best local places to grab a meal, and places, when to be a tourist and when stopping at a local shack, is better. So if you are planning on going on a trip to Hawaii, I hope this helps on part of your decision making on what you plan to do. Leave a comment below if you have any questions, for food I am a vegetarian but most places we went to fit everyone’s needs in my part.
- Rebel Kitchen – Tons of Veggie Options, grass-fed hamburgers, homemade juices and teas and a great menu. They also have some pretty cool dessert to choose from after your meal. The seating inside isn’t very large but they do have a large outdoor section that if you’re lucky you can pet the dog (but please don’t feed him).
- Kona Brewery – Delicious food and a wide variety of micro brewed beers. I would totally recommend any of the appetizers and any of the beers on the menu, they freshly squeezed all their juices for the kids. I totally recommend the strawberry pineapple juice. I would recommend the hummus platter, pizza rolls or nachos looked good. They also have been known to have some of the best pizza on the island. I ordered the mac and cheese without bacon and it was pretty good.
- Scandinavian Shave Ice – Also know as Scandis by the locals, this might be one of the best-shaved ice places on the island and you won’t have to wait an hour for. They have so many flavors to pick from, and tons of put together choices for those who aren’t good at picking (totally recommend Maui Wowie) they also have a great selection of hard ice cream and waffle cones along with fantastic snow cap designs. Feeling adventurous order a Jumbo and split it with a group of friends. –
- Bianellis Pizza and Pasta – The garlic and Margaretta pizza were delicious, we ordered out and didn’t eat inside the restaurant. The slices were pretty good and the pizza was a mix between a nice flat bread and a New York style. Loved the flavor of the crusts.
- On The Rocks – Wasn’t super impressed with the vegetarian options but the view was breathtaking for sunsets, had some amazing tacos and slaws. There was also live music the night we went, and there wasn’t a terribly long wait either.
- Island Lava Java – Delicious breakfast sandwiches, tons of coffee choices, lots of fruit and a huge mouth watering cinnamon roll on the menu.
- San Francisco Bay Coffee Bar – Most adorable little coffee bar downtown with such cute pastries. They serve 100% Kona coffee for a real Hawaiian experience and the décor inside was absolutely adorable. It was a mix of a chic white marble and rustic with exposed wood and recycled wood pallets.
- Da Poke Shack – If you like raw fish and bowls then this is the perfect place, it’s sort of like the Hawaiian version of a Chipotle bowl, where you can pick 2 sides and a choice of meat and it is laid on your choice of rice. When we went in for lunch they were slicing the fish they caught fresh that morning, an awesome experience. If you are vegetarian or vegan they don’t have much meat options, but you can purchase any of their vegan/veggie salads separately by the pound.
- Ken’s House of Pancake – If you like American diner food and over by Hilo I would totally recommend this place and seriously bring your appetite because the portions here are huge to what you’re paying for. If you love something sweet for breakfast I would recommend any of their pancakes or french toast made on Portuguese sweet bread. Looking for slavery all their omelets and egg dishes are great, I got the veggie breakfast burrito and loved it. You also have to try all their flavored syrups.
- Kona Coast Resort – Very spacious rooms, kitchen and living room. They had various activities on site, including basketball, volleyball, shuffleboard and tennis courts along with two different gyms. Just a couple miles away from a major shopping center, with a full grocery store, restaurants, and movie theater. The resort had towels and activities on-site available and everything was super clean.
- Kona Bali Kai Resort – Had an amazing condo with two full baths, two rooms, and a pullout couch, we rented off of Airbnb and were very pleased with all the amenities and the view of the ocean. Take a walk along the lava rocks every morning to find turtles feeding, and awesome restaurants just walking distance away located in the parking lot. This condo was near several major beaches that you could swim at and only a couple miles from town.
- Hilo Volcano House / Namakanipaio Camper Cabins – Looking to spend the night only miles away from an active volcano? We stayed in the cabins at Hawai’i National Park and I would totally recommend this to anyone hiking to see the lava late at night or early morning. The bathroom facilities are pretty nice for a campground and the cabins have hotel linens and towels along with one light and one outlet. This is seriously a super upscale version of glamping. Looking to go to the Jagger Museum there is a walking trail that doesn’t take long to reach and save you from trying to park. If you’re a more rugged outdoors man they also had tents and campgrounds that you could spend the night in or stay at the volcano hotel.
- Two Step – Perfect for snorkeling, be aware there is a lot of sea urchin and many snorkelers did step on them, a family sitting next to our their son step on one and they took him to Urgent Care. They are sometimes hard to spot and easy to step on when getting in and out of the water when climbing on the rocks. Water, for the most part, is super clear and tons of fish, while I was swimming a turtle grazed my leg. If you enter the water on the far right there are two steps created within the rock making it the easiest access point into the water.
- Magic Sands – Very high waves, and sandy beaches were a lot of boogie boarding was done. Lots of locals hang out here, they have lifeguards on duty and a volleyball court. The waves are extremely high and can be dangerous if not prepared during high tide. It also can make for a fun day for boogie boarding. Be aware that sand burn (rug burn) is very common and lots of people lose hats and sunglasses, coming in and out of the water.
- Hapuna Beach – The beach was beautiful, a lot of sand and a clean bathroom and showers for changing. You do have to pay to park here though unless you show a State ID. The water is super clear and blue and the waves are not very big perfect for families with little kids. This public beach does get very crowded with tourists, and you won’t find very many locals here compared to Two Step or Magic Sands. There are also Lifeguards on duty here.
- Captain Cook’s Cove – Not a great place for snorkeling due to the murky waters, I would be careful if you do choose to swim here. This cove is great for if you want to see a lot of dolphins or turtles. Dolphins are known to swim here for the day and hang around and they will swim right up to you, but due to the murky waters, this area is known for sharks. We did see pods of spinner dolphins swim by at Magic Sands if this is something you interested in seeing and don’t want to deal with sharks.
Things to Do:
- Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Park – Take the tour of the national park, they have a speaker and an awesome display of games and artifacts. All the landmarks are marked with numbers and they have park rangers out to explain and help throughout the park. And hear the story of why this is important to Hawaiian culture.
- Rainbow Falls – Amazing waterfall, while you can not swim in the falls it is breathtaking to stop and catch. I totally recommend making the hike and climbing the stairs to see the top of the falls.
- Mauna Kea Summit – Be above the clouds, and see the stars from up close. Most nights they will bring out telescopes. The museum and movie in the gift shop are awesome to watch about the history of the mountain and there are great views. Be aware that many people suffer from sickness due to the altitude height.
- Hawaii Volcano National Park – The museum is awesome to look through, but walk through some of the trails to find sulfate and cracks within the earth from the nearby volcano. It does get pretty hot so be prepared, the hike isn’t long and it’s awesome to see all the crystals. You can see the steam and the cracks within the earth from where the lava is. Would be careful if you are pregnant or have asthma this can be harmful and the sulfate is very strong.
- Jagger Museum – The best place to see the cauldron of lava bubble and boil, best viewed while its dark, recommend at either late at night or early morning before dawn. This is quite amazing to go see, and breathtaking. Be careful if you have asthma or pregnant or have a condition. They have a really nice museum inside with volcanic activity, they also have a gift shop and bathrooms on site. Parking is limited during peak points but we had walked from the campground that we were staying at.
- Shopping at Kona Inn Shopping Village – Great place to spend the afternoon or place to walk around for dinner. They have tons of fun vendors and a great place to pick up souvenirs to bring home. Lots of ABC Stores for things you might have forgotten to pack, cute little surf, glass and quilt stores along with agents to help plan an excursion. Numerous restaurants along with a few great places to grab a sweet dessert. Lots of vendors and different stores.
- The Original Donkey Balls Store – Looking for a hilarious gift to bring home for a friend or family member. This is a cute and fun store to go visit for some delicious chocolate balls. As weird as it sounds, you can sample all the types and they actually are quite delicious even though their names can be kind of deceiving. Also, don’t be fooled there are many other places around the island similar to this, but only one location is the original and authentic Donkey Ball Store.
Spreading Sprinkles & Sparkles,