Most people who come to the Big Island never go North to experience the Kohala Coast. Of course, that’s just fine for the residents and visitors up there! The secret is that most tourists stay in Kailua Kona or at the Waikoloa resorts when they come to visit and don’t venture up to enjoy the amazing restaurants further up the Kohala Coast.
When I moved to Waikoloa Village for a year, I had a great time finding and enjoying both the resort restaurants and the smaller restaurants up near Kawaihae. (Sadly, a few Kawaihae favorites like the Blue Dragon, Plantation Grill and Cafe Pesto closed.) Now that I live back in Kailua Kona, I continue to make it a point to enjoy these awesome eateries!
Here are my choices for views, food, ambiance and cocktails.
Top 5 Kohala Coast Restaurants:
Meridia at the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort, has an excellent Mediterranean menu, and fantastic service with a
gorgeous ocean view, too. We went for my husband’s birthday and a menu tasting and loved each course. The appetizer of the fresh Ahi poke mixed with the local seasonal vegetables was outstanding. The special of the lamb paired with
the server’s suggestion of a California Pinot Noir was one of our favorite dinners ever in Hawaii! Executive Chef Peter Abarcar brings years of local experience to this menu and Chef Junior Ulep brings the artistry! We really enjoyed wandering around the hotel to see all the renovations that have taken place including the infinity adult pool, swanky bar and lounge areas. They have happy hour in the Piko bar which overlooks Hapuna Beach and it has a very upscale yet casual feel to the space. You can see more of the menu and our interview with the chef on our video about Meridia!
2. Lava Lava Beach Club. You can not beat the view at this VERY popular “feet in the sand” restaurant and bar. I go here with my friends for the mai tais, shaker fries, ahi poke appetizers and their fish specials. Being here for the live music and the sunset..really, get there early or make reservations. If you are lucky, Henry Kopono will play at 7:30 and you will dance under the stars with the ocean crashing nearby. Bonus points when you get table out on the sand! (Just ate there recently, January 2022, and during high season, you HAVE to get there by five or there is a long wait.)
3. Manta and Copper Bar at the Mauna Kea Resort. Manta has a drop dead gorgeous view of Kauna’oa Bay and not only is a fantastic place for sunset, but they serve an excellent breakfast buffet. Copper Bar, the other main restaurant at the resort, is a great place to enjoy the view with appetizers and drinks in a beautifully decorated setting. Hint: If you find yourself looking for something awesome to eat for breakfast (Like the danishes!) with exceptional Kona coffee, go to their cafe in the morning and take your breakfast out to the lounge area and just soak in the morning rays.
4. Seafood Bar And Grill My Realtor partner, Jana, was raving so much about this restaurant, she treated me and my hubby to dinner and it was one of the best seafood meals I have had on the island. I had a crab and lobster pot pie and we all shared the HUGE Kona Coffee mud pie . YUMMM. Try your favorite tropical drinks, including the “Lychee Lemonade” at their highly touted Tiki Bar, which puts you right back into the 60’s! A local favorite, you can find extremely fresh seafood, as the harbor is less than a mile away! (The view is the tanks across from the shipping yard, so don’t come to see the ocean!) Their t-shirts say, “Tanks alot!”
5. Kohala Burger and Taco – If you enjoy eating everything local, this is the place. Hawaii grass fed beef, local fresh fish, fresh baked bread and the service is nothing but Aloha. Personally, my hubby and I love the fish tacos here and the burgers and malts are to die for. They don’t serve alcohol, but you can bring your own. They recently enjoyed a renovation giving them more space for all their happy guests who drive miles to get their hands on the food. Great place for teens and families!
Farmers Market Another secret of Kohala is that the restaurants use the vast array of local, regional, seasonal and organic food that is grown all along the Kohala coast. Check out the Farmer’s Markets, too!
Go ahead and put your favorite restaurants and bars in the comment section, too!
Julie and Eric are Hawaii lifestyle experts and REALTORS with the 365Hawaii Real Estate Team.
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