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We have so many Big Island favorites, it’s hard to choose – but these are a few to get you started!
Big Island Favorites on the Kona Side:
Adept at fulfilling large orders, open long hours, and located very near the Kona Airport, Pine Tree Cafe is a traveler’s best friend. Plus they sell a wide variety of tasty, portable options – including a solid teriyaki burger, huge salads, and other island favorites. Of all our Big Island favorites we often enjoy Pine Tree Cafe as both our first and last meal on-island.
Off the beaten path, just south of Kailua-Kona in Kealakekua, Kona Grill House (formerly known as Sundried Specialities) is a no-frills eatery with a variety of both raw and cooked options. No matter what you call it, it is sure to be one of your Big Island favorites as well. There is basically no ambience, either indoors or out, but you go for the food. (And if you’re an #autismfamily like ours, you’ll take the food back to the Piece of Mind Retreat anyway.)
Snorkeling in the Kona area is top notch. It’s hard to do it wrong, but Sea Quest definitely does it right. The boat is half the fun – the smaller craft means you can dip into sea caves on your way. The guides are great – very knowledgeable and supportive of all levels of swimmers.
We’ve done the trip several times, always the half-day “deluxe morning adventure.” You stop at both Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau, and enjoy some tropical treats on the boat. For a calmer experience, your group of 6 can book the catamaran and travel at your own speed, with fewer bumps and splashes (though that is certainly the appeal for most!).
On the Hilo Side:
No joke, people fly in from other islands to buy this mochi – so if you are in town, grab some! It is highly recommended to call in your order for strawberry, peach and other fresh-fruit-filled mochi. If not, be prepared to wait a bit (and to buy some candy-filled mochi from the counter to eat while you wait!). Two Ladies’ mochi are not only Big Island favorites, but also have a following among locals from other islands who get their fix during inter-island travel.
A trip back in time, from the booths, and coffee carafes on the table, to the kind hostess and waitstaff – each one more like my long-lost Hawaiian grandmother than the last. Bonus- we walked in on a Sunday morning with sixteen people. After I assured them that we could sit at multiple tables and would only need one check, they had us fed in record time.
Fluffy pancakes- with a myriad syrups, amazing loco moco, and, for those of you who enjoy a little dessert-for-breakfast on occasion, a warm, fluffy pineapple upside down cake. I couldn’t resist taking a piece of mac nut pie for the road. It traveled surprisingly well, and made a great snack later on. In Hilo, at the intersection of Banyan Drive and Mamalahoa Highway.
A national park that is practically growing underfoot. There was no active lava flow at the time of our most recent visit, but still plenty to see and do. Views of the crater, and everything from casual strolls to serious hikes.
Unbelievable texture, fantastic flavor combinations, and oodles of toppings – you just can’t get better than this. They rotate locations around the Big Island each week – check website for details.
The malasadas are legendary – especially the lilikoi (passionfruit) glazed ones. We never drive the southern route from one of the island to the other without stopping- and once you try them, you won’t either! In Naalehu, near Punalu’U black sand Beach.
Punalu’U Black Sand Beach:
Just south of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the beach features a gorgeous rocky coastline, a black sand beach dotted with coconut palms, and usually hosts dozens of sea turtles (be sure to give them plenty of space – that’s what the zoom is for on your camera!).
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