5 Kohala Coast Restaurants That Are Worth the Drive


Most people who come to the Big Island never get up to experience the Kohala Coast. Of course, that’s just fine for the residents and vacationers up there! The secret is that most tourists stay in Kailua Kona or at the Waikoloa Village resorts when they come to visit and don’t venture up to enjoy the amazing restaurants further up the Kohala Coast.

Since moving up to Waikoloa Village in September, I have had a great time finding and enjoying both the resort restaurants and the smaller restaurants up near Kawaihae. Sadly, we have lost Kawaihae favorites the Blue Dragon. Plantation Grill and Cafe Pesto.  ( I need to go to the new Italian restaurant where the Plantation Grill used to be.)  So here are my picks for views, food, ambiance and cocktails.

Top 5 Kohala Restaurants: 

  1. Recently opened, Meridia at the Hapuna Beach Resort,  has an excellent chef and fantastic service with a gorgeous ocean view, too. We went for my husband’s birthday a few weeks ago (May 2018) 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!  Chef Peter Abacar brings years of local experience to this menu. We really enjoyed wandering around the hotel to see all the renovations that have taken place over the past few months including the new adult pool, bar and lounge areas. They have happy hour in the Piko bar and it has a very swanky feel to the space. The hotel will be changing its name to the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort on June 25th, 2018.


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 burgers. But 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.

3. Manta and Copper Bar at the Mauna Kea Resort.  Manta has a drop dead gorgeous view of the bay and not only is a fantastic place for sunset, but they serve an excellent breakfast buffet. Copper Bar 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. 

SeafoodBar4. Seafood Bar My friends say this restaurant “has an outstanding happy hour”- Try your favorite tropical drinks, including the “Lychee Lemonade” at their highly touted Tiki Bar. A local favorite, you can find extremely fresh seafood, as the harbor is less than a mile away!

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 enjoyed steak quesadillas and 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!

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!FarmersMarket

Go ahead and put your favorite restuarants and bars in the comment section, too!

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Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

Leave a Question or Comment About this Topic

  • Nancy Adkins says:

    Also Great Shave Ice at Kawaihae. Best Li Hing Mui Syrup ever. 🙂

    And you did not even venture up into North Kohala. Between Hawi and Kapa’au there are another group of wonderful eating adventures to be found.

    • Nancy-Please share these eating adventures and I will create another post! Always love highlighting wonderful places to experience while giving small business owners free PR!

  • J-M says:

    North Kohala:
    SUSHI ROCK in Hawi . . .

    • joani duncan says:

      Aloha Julie~

      When listing the Kawaihae restaurants you left out THE BEST little JEWEL of them all….right below the Seafood Bar is The Aloha Deli which we thought was only ice cream and shaved ice…….wrong! Some kids that came to visit us from MI at our home in Kona went on to “Restaurant.com” and found a $10 coupon so they went there for lunch……..they loved it so of course since I’m always up for GOOD food Ray and I went and OH MY……cute little place, everything is made from scratch – even the salad dressings and the fresh fish cooked 3 different ways is fabulous and you get a lot and the best part – it’s $12. We had nearly the same thing upstairs for $17.99 so please include them with the 5 other restaurants.

  • Bonnie says:

    My daughter,, Sharon is one of the bartenders at the Blue Dragon and I’m happy to see it listed here! It is fabulous!
    Thanks for sharing!

  • joani duncan says:

    Julie~ Below the “Seafood Bar” is a little restaurant called “Aloha Deli” which we always thought was just ice cream and shave ice……not so. They serve the most amazing meals and use some of the freshest fish we’ve ever eaten AND you can get a $10 coupon on restaurant.com towards your bill too!! It’s served on paper plates but we had the same thing almost upstairs at the Seafood Bar and it was a LOT more then we paid at Aloha Deli below…….check it out some time.

  • R Ignacio says:

    Don’t forget the Original Big Island Shave Ice Co in the Blue Dragon Restaurant parking lot. The original family to introduce shave ice in west hawaii. Secret homemade recipes and techniques from 1957.

  • Roberta Nelson says:

    Hi Julie,
    Tess’s friend Roberta here. FYI- terrible service and mediocre food at seafood Bar in Kawiahe yesterday. Disappointing. Aloha, Roberta