Hawaii’s Big Island: A Foodie Paradise
The sparkling turquoise ocean…the breathtaking mountain vistas…the incredible flora and fauna… Sure all that’s really nice…but that Hawaiian food…OMG!
We can’t help it — our family is made up of certifiable foodies. Wherever we travel, we seek out culinary adventures and local delicacies, and when we return home, we recall every restaurant, every meal, every dish.
And the Big Island of Hawaii delivered big time. My kids became fluent in the culinary language of the locals, including machong, ahi, guava and lillikoi. With celebrity chefs, locally sourced ingredients, fresh-from-the-ocean seafood and absurdly delicious exotic fruits, Big Island food is pure edible PARADISE!
So as they say on the Big Island, E ‘ai kakou! (Let’s eat!)
6 Fabulous Waikoloa Restaurants in Hawaii for Families
Waikoloa, King’s Shops
Chef Roy Yamaguchi isn’t famous only in Hawaii; he has a worldwide reputation with restaurants in over 20 locations. But his restaurant on the Big Island is the original; it’s been recently remodeled and is now better than ever.
Nestled among the King’s Trail petroglyphs and lava fields, with views of a peaceful lake and fairway, Roy’s Waikoloa lives up to its stellar reputation. Chef Roy calls his cuisine “Island Inspired Euro-Asian Cuisine” and it’s sure to please any family of foodies. My girls went crazy munching on their flavorful edamame, which arrived at our table before we even opened a menu.
The first must-order is the Canoe Appetizer for Two, a perfect size for a family to share which includes Szechuan Baby Back Ribs, Kulana Wild Boar Rangoon, Wasabi Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Spring Rolls and Spicy Ahi Roll. It was exciting for me to watch my girls dare to try foods way outside their comfort zone…anyone for wild boar!?!
Other highlights included the melt-in-your-mouth Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish with sizzling soy vinaigrette and some of Roy’s exquisite and delicious sushi masterpieces. And even as you start your meal, think about dessert. Be sure to put in an order for Roy’s Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé. (It takes a while to prepare.) When it arrives, it’s oozing happiness, with raspberry puree and vanilla ice cream. Compliments to Chef Roy for an unforgettably delightful dining experience!
Waikoloa, The Shops at Mauna Lani
One of the great things about Hawaii is its unique blend of cultures from around the world, and Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar brings this multicultural feel to its menu. The selections featured offer creative gourmet takes on island cuisine influenced by Jamaica, Barbados and other exotic locations beyond Hawaii.
Our family’s standouts included the finger-licking Guava-Glazed Baby Back Ribs, perfectly prepared Crab Cakes with Thai chili sauce, rich Crab Bisque and delectable Fried Green Tomatoes. And you simply MUST order Tommy’s world-famous Coconut Shrimp. The large size appetizer makes the perfect portion for an entree; although we did fight over the last few on the plate! When it was dessert time, we struggled to narrow our choices from their fabulous dessert tray including Piña Colada Cake, Key Lime Pie and a Pineapple Creme Brûlée baked right into a pineapple.
The restaurant atmosphere is delightfully open and airy; it’s easy to forget you’re on the second floor of an upscale shopping center. As you dine, you can enjoy sunset views and feel the warm tropical breezes blow across the spacious lanai — a true tropical cosmopolitan dining experience!
SANSEI SEAFOOD, STEAKHOUSE AND SUSHI BAR
Waikoloa, Queen’s Marketplace
This was a real family favorite! Set right in the middle of an upscale outdoor shopping mall, Sansei Seafood, Steak and Sushi Bar offers a totally inviting casual setting for a memorable family dinner. With a lively atmosphere, and seemingly endless tempting choices, the kids loved it every bit as much as mom and dad.
We all found our own personal favorites. Standouts were the Mango Crab Salad Handroll, superb Misoyaki Butterfish (my older daughter wouldn’t share!), a tremendous bowl of DK’s Crab Ramen & Asian Truffle Broth (my younger one’s fave), the expertly created Sansei Special Roll, the signature Panko Crusted Ahi Sashimi, and the Asian Rock Shrimp Dynamite (“WOW” is all we can say). My hubby said the 20-day Aged Bone-in Rib Eye Steak, seared to order in a 1,800 degree broiler, was truly sensational. Somehow we all did agree on our favorite dessert: the top-seller, Warm Granny Smith Apple Tart, with flaky puff pastry and addictive caramel sauce…mmmm!
KAMUELA PROVISION COMPANY (KPC)
Waikoloa, Hilton Waikoloa Village
Perhaps our best foodie meal was practically right outside our door at the spectacular Hilton Waikoloa Village resort. If you want to experience dining heaven and the true feeling of “Aloha,” book a table on the lanai at the Kamuela Provision Company (KPC) at sunset.
KPC, equally known for its top-notch steak and seafood, is located high atop the precipice of the beautiful resort with incredibly breathtaking panoramic views of the stunning coast. KPC prides itself on sourcing most of its foods from local farms, fisheries and ranches. Dining while watching the glorious sun set over the turquoise Pacific Ocean was truly a feast for all the senses. (I took the cover picture for this article during our dinner.)
Our family “ooohed” and “aaahed” over the creative tastes: KPC’s innovative farm-fresh salads, Hamakua Ali’i Mushroom and Artichoke Quinoa Risotto, Ginger Infused Steamed Monchong (my favorite), Sesame Seared Big Eye Ahi (a true must-order) and my husband’s favorite, the uniquely Hawaiian Kona Coffee Crusted Paniolo Cowboy Rib Eye. Our whole gang nearly wrestled over the towering stack of crispy Maui Onion Rings!
And their desserts? A-mazing! We dove into their signature Sweet Corn Tart perfectly paired with strawberry compote and Ube (purple sweet potato) ice cream, the airy Passion Fruit Cheesecake, and the unforgettable Chocolate Crunch Torte. What a perfectly delicious and romantic Hawaiian night! (Yes, there can be romance even with the kids in tow.)
DAYLIGHT MIND COFFEE COMPANY
Waikoloa, Queen’s MarketPlace
For café fare with plenty of Hawaiian flair, make time to eat at Daylight Mind Coffee Company. While it may be casual, reasonably-priced and located in a mall, this all-day café is pretty special with fun innovative menu options and something to please everyone.
My older daughter flipped for the Clam and Bacon Chowder served in a delicious bread bowl. The Kahula Pulled Pork sliders are an imaginative Hawaiian treat. Then there’s the super fluffy Chocolate Chip Pancakes, and my personal favorite, the Puna Kine Benedict (a house specialty: perfectly poached eggs sitting atop the most flavorful Kona Avocado Smash with hollandaise sauce, tomato and spinach). The freshly baked breads are totally yummy.
Daylight’s drink menu is also impressive. While I relished my Macadamia Nut Iced Coffee (they are coffee pros!), the rest of my family enjoyed the fresh “enhanced” lemonade and locally produced Waialua brand flavored sodas. We happily dined outside in this upscale outdoor mall while taking in Waikoloa’s perfect weather!
Merriman’s Waimea is the epitome of farm-to-fork dining. You want fresh? All food items here are locally sourced from within 15 minutes of the restaurant with the exception of the tortillas which come all the way from Hilo, an hour away.
Since 1988, Peter Merriman has been defining and elevating Hawaiian cuisine. Highlights from our awesome lunch included Machong Tacos, flavorful barbecue roasted Kalua Pork Sandwich, Waipo Taro and Chickpea Falafels, the Always Fresh Grilled Island Fish Sandwich, and Crispy Hawaii Island Goat Cheese Salad (with, our favorite part, “burnt” pineapple)!
Be sure to leave room for Merriman’s signature desserts and expansive locally curated coffee menu. We all had fun sampling their creative specialty juice and ice tea drinks. With its modern, yet homey look and super fresh ingredients, we enjoyed our lunch at Merriman’s.
Note: On this list I’ve called out my family’s top six favorite restaurants in Hawaii, but there are so many more great options from which to choose. The Big Island has a wide variety of wonderful restaurants at all price points. The favorites mentioned in this article represent our family’s personal favorites which were located closest to the resort area of Waikoloa. All of the above Waikoloa restaurants impressed us with their knowledgeable and congenial servers. Most importantly for families, these dining establishments welcome young foodies and have wide ranging kekei (kid’s) menus and/or menu options that appeal to younger diners.
Where to Stay in Waikoloa
While we were enjoying our foodie tour, we absolutely loved our eight-night stay at the sprawling Hilton Waikoloa Village. The oceanfront property, filled with pools, water slides, a lagoon, a mini-golf course and several yummy on-site yummy restaurants, is the ideal home base for families. The hotel also offers many family-friendly activities, including cultural classes.
You may also enjoy:
- 5 Fantastic Things to do in Hawaii’s Big Island with Kids
- 5 Ways to Relax on Hawaii’s Big Island
- Horseback Riding in Hawaii
- Best Things to Do on Hawaii’s Big Island with Your Family
Lisa’s family was provided with discounted and/or complimentary meals so that she could try them and review them for your information. Lisa chose the above restaurants based on their social media reviews and recommendations from friends.
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Know Before You Go
- Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and The Big Island.
- Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time). This time zone is 2 hours behind Pacific Standard Time. Hawaii also doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time!
- It is considered rude to refuse to wear a Lei if someone offers it.