Visitors that arrive to the Big Island of Hawaii by way of Kona International Airport will have their first look at Hawaiian city life in nearby Kailua-Kona. This quintessential beach town thrives off locals and tourists alike. Kailua-Kona has many restaurants so you know you will eat well whether you are in town to shop or sight see. There’s food to satisfy every craving from hearty breakfasts to fresh poke to delicious lunch plates to sweet shave ice. Below you will find listed in alphabetical order seven of the best Kailua-Kona eateries.
Mural inside 808 Grindz Cafe
Loco Moco at 808 Grindz Cafe
808 Grindz Cafe
808 Grindz Cafe is in a strip mall in Kailua-Kona. As you enter the restaurant the first thing you see is a huge mural on a wall depicting beachgoers relaxing. The mural emanates good vibes making you think you too are beachgoer just taking a food break. 808 Grindz Cafe might be a small restaurant with a tiny kitchen but it dishes out big plates of food. Order from a variety of classic Hawaiian favorites made with a special chef’s twist. Favorites include the kalua pork hash, the 808 Combo, and the loco moco.
If you’ve never had loco moco be sure to order it at 808 Grindz Cafe. A loco moco begins with rice as the base of the dish and a hamburger patty on top of the rice. Poured over the hamburger patty and rice is brown gravy. An egg placed on top of everything completes the dish. The 808 Grindz Cafe is open daily, except Mondays, for breakfast and lunch only.
Banana macadamia nut pancakes at Big Island Grill
Sign for Big Island Grill
Big Island Grill
The moment you enter the Big Island Grill you know you’ve stepped into a classic diner. Sit amongst the many locals and enjoy a great meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Take a moment and explore the menu at Big Island Grill. Their menus are full of traditional Hawaiian dishes. Choose from favorites such as the saimin, loco moco, katsu, or kalua pork. The Big Island Grill serves one of the best banana macadamia nut pancakes, not just in Kailua-Kona but the entire state of Hawaii. Order the short or full stack and remember to pour as much of the coconut syrup as your heart desires. A cup of the Kona coffee or guava juice will help you finish up those pancakes.
Garlic butter jumbo shrimp plate at Broke Da Mouth
Spam musubi at Broke Da Mouth
Broke Da Mouth
Broke Da Mouth is one of the most unassuming eateries in the world. Next to a laundry mat in an out-of-the-way strip mall you’ll find a foodie’s paradise. Chefs at this Kailua-Kona eatery cook up pile high food plates for starving customers. The portions are dense so bring your appetite. The best food options are those from the Grindz section of the Broke Da Mouth menu. Select from such savory options as shoyu butterfish, braised boneless kalbi, furikake chicken, or jumbo shrimp. Each plate comes with two scoops of white rice and your choice of macaroni or green salad. If you’ve never had Hawaiian macaroni salad try that island favorite.
For those still hungry add a foot long musubi roll. A musubi roll is rice and a filling, such as spam and egg, wrapped in seaweed. The musubi roll might just come in handy and tide you over if you’re waiting for a load of laundry to finish next door.
Entrance to Da Poke Shack
Poke Plate at Da Poke Shack
Da Poke Shack
A popular dish to come out of Hawaii is poke. Poke is raw sushi grade fish sliced into cubes and marinated in sauces such as shoyu (soy sauce). Often mixed with the fish are onions and furikake. A dry Japanese seasoning, furikake includes sesame seeds and seaweed flakes. Da Poke Shack is one of the go to places for poke on the Big Island for both locals and visitors.
A great choice from the menu for those getting poke from Da Poke Shack is their Poke Plate. The Poke Plate includes two scoops of rice and your choice of poke. You get to choose two sides, such as edamame or seaweed salad. Da Poke Shack has two locations on the Big Island. The Kailua-Kona location has a few seats available for those that wish to eat on site. A second Da Poke Shack location is in Captain Cook, off Mamalahoa Highway at Mile Marker 106.
Breakfast sandwich at Green Flash Coffee
Entrance to Green Flash Coffee
Green Flash Coffee
A great spot for breakfast or lunch in Kailua-Kona is Green Flash Coffee. This small coffee shop serves Kona coffee and Hawaiian inspired espresso drinks. The Haupia Latte and the Mauna Kea Mocha will satisfy the sweetest of teeth. Items on the breakfast and lunch menu are served throughout the day. The breakfast sandwiches Croque Madam/Monsieur and the French toast are delicious. The bread for the French toast, both the breakfast sandwich and the regular French toast, is Punalu’u sweetbread. Punalu’u sweetbread is fresh from the Punalu`u Bake Shop in the city of Naalehu. The lunch menu options include sandwiches made with their Panini grill. For those not craving a sandwich Green Flash Coffee sells smoothies made with fresh fruit.
Moo Bettah sign
Shave Ice at Moo Bettah
When you crave dessert swing by Moo Bettah in Kailua-Kona. Perfect for those warm Hawaiian days choose from milk shakes, scoops of ice cream, or frozen yogurt. If those options aren’t enough you can pick from a list of smoothies, floats, and shave ice. Don’t confuse shave ice with a snow cone. Snow cones have crushed ice as opposed to shaved ice. With the shaved ice in a plastic bowl flavored syrups poured over the ice give the ice a sweet taste. To experience a real Hawaiian style shave ice add a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream at the bottom of the shave ice.
Poke and sides on display at Umekes
Poke from Umekes
For many foodies poke is a religious experience. These foodies believe that their sworn duty is to eat the best poke from every region of the world. The Hawaiian Islands are full of places selling poke and Umeke’s is a front-runner for one of the best on the Big Island. The fish sold at Umeke’s in Kailua-Kona is fresh and delicious.
Umeke’s has two locations on the Big Island. Depending on what time you visit the Umeke’s at Ali’i Plaza, you might see the staff working on large cuts of fish and preparing the poke. The various poke Umeke’s offers is on display in a glass case. Umeke’s sells poke by the pound or in a local style lunch bowl or plate. The lunch specials include poke, rice, and your choice from a variety of sides. One side dish you can buy is the Hawaiian favorite lomi lomi, a tomato and salmon salad. For dessert Umeke’s sells a Hawaiian favorite, the coconut-based Haupia.
The Umeke’s at Ali’i Plaza is a takeout establishment but if you want a more traditional sit-down experience, visit Umeke’s Fish Market Bar and Grill. Located in Kailua-Kona, here you will find a full-service restaurant that has food and a bar that serves wine, beer, and cocktails. Umeke’s Fish Market Bar and Grill has won awards for the food it serves and has appeared on the Cooking Channel. Be sure while visiting the Big Island to visit either of Umeke’s locations for a poke feast you won’t soon forget.