CHECK ALL WEBSITES FOR UPDATED HOURS.
Many have reduced service or hours, although it may ramp up again soon!
Many have reduced service or hours, although it may ramp up again soon!
Reliable, delicious and casual, with great views (kid friendly, too):
On the Rocks (http://huggosontherocks.com/): Great for lunch, happy hour and dinner. It's casual, right on the water at the South end of Alii Dr., and half of the tables are in the sand, under an awning. As I mentioned, they have live music nearly every evening, but note that they don't take reservations. Beachy feel. Great for a meal, or just drinks and appetizers. Now RE-OPEN!
Kai Eats and Drinks: Lunch and Dinner. This place opened in June of 2021 on Alii Drive (in the old Bubba Gump's location), and is a new favorite. Amazing waterfront location, ample seating, and features a menu consisting of mainly of tacos (both versions of fish tacos are GREAT), pizzas and burgers. There are also salad options, as well as killer coconut shrimp and many decorated versions of French fries. Reasonably priced for a Kona oceanfront restaurant and great atmosphere. Extensive bar seating and bar menu as well.
Quinn's Almost by the Sea: Lunch and Dinner (Breakfast on Sundays). Quinn's is a local favorite and an institution here in Kona. It's the country's southern-most Packer bar in the U.S., but more than that, it's also a place for really good food and a casual, friendly atmosphere. Aside from the bar area, there is an open-air (no view) back patio, and a front, air-conditioned side room. The fish and chips and fish tacos (go with the Ono for both) are DELICIOUS, and the portions for everything they have are generous. Service is always friendly, and (under normal circumstances) they also do large groups (even over 20!), as long as you call at least 2 days ahead and it's not a Friday or a Saturday. Casual. Great for food, drinks and can accommodate large groups. This is next to where the Splasher's (which is now closed) used to be, as you go up the hill (rather than down to Alii Drive). OPEN FOR LUNCH AND DINNER M, Tu, Th, Fri, Dinner only on Saturday, and Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on Sundays. Closed Wednesdays.
Ola Brew: Kona's Newest Micro-Brewery. A huge selection of locally brewed beers, ciders and seltzers, as well as pretty decent bar food! (olabrewco.com) CHECK WEBSITE FOR CURRENT HOURS.
Foster's Kitchen: Lunch and Dinner and Drinks. This is next to the outdoor volleyball court on Alii Dr., and is upstairs above a coffee place and a few other things; closer to the south end of the main strip. The view is wonderful, and there is ample space for larger groups. Very broad menu, all made from fresh ingredients, although the food tends to be hit and miss in terms of consistency and quality. Take a look at their site for location and menu (www.fosterskitchen.com/). NOTE: Food and service has become hit and miss.
Mercadito Rincon: Super delicious and inexpensive Mexican food. Lunch only. It's a food stall in the International Market. The food is fresh and delicious. The ceviche tostada (we love a combo of fish and shrimp) is to die for - fresh every day - if you like ceviche that is. But everything is superb. Great for a super casual, Mexican-style low cost lunch! Now re-open!
Bale: In the same plaza at the KTA in downtown Kona. Vietnamese sandwiches and pho. Very casual with almost no atmosphere, but totally worth the visit every time. The food is very affordable for Kona and it's delicious (and thus the place is usually packed with locals and tourists alike). For their pho, they have a mini-menu (on some paper on the wall, behind and to the right of where you order), and this is even big enough for the appetite of Uncle Dude, so consider the mini-menu when you order. The lemongrass chicken sandwich is our number one recommended sandwich. The bread is always fresh and they do an amazing job. Take out or eat in. Just don't expect beautiful surroundings. Lunch or Dinner.
Island Ono Loa Grill: This is a really delicious take on fast food with fresh ingredients and a friendly staff. They have Chicago style hot dogs, lots of interesting burgers - beef, chicken, and fresh fish, pork loin sandwiches, local grinds, and their french fries (freshly made each day) are to die for. It's a fast-food joint, but it's s pretty good atmosphere considering. It's tucked in off of Alii Drive, so go to their website for best how to get there, and to see their complete menu: http://www.islandonoloagrill.com/. Closed Wednesdays. Lunch or Casual Dinner. INDOOR DINING ONLY. CHECK FOR UPDATED HOURS.
Willie's Hot Chicken: Willie’s Hot Chicken opened just before the pandemic, and there is a reason it's been THE place to go, despite it all! This place is the place to go for…you guessed it…hot chicken. The quality of the chicken and the way it's prepared is spectacular (think crispy outside, juicy inside!), and the owners really care about your experience. WIllie’s offers seven spice levels to choose from; from no heat all the way up to something they call “Like Lava.” The menu at Willie’s is basic, but everything is perfectly executed. The chicken and fries are always crispy and hot, the mac and cheese is melty and delicious, and all of their house-made dipping sauces are fantastic. Wille’s offers both indoor and outdoor dining. We usually choose to eat outside, but if you choose to dine indoors you can expect a fun, casual sports bar atmosphere with good music and cold beer on tap.
Kamana Kitchen: Indian food with a great view. It's lunch specials are well-priced with large portions (dinner is a bit over-priced; lunch is best). Service is a bit slow, but the view and food are worth the wait. It's right on Alii Dr, in "Waterfront Row." NOTE: NO LUNCH SPECIALS CURRENTLY. **On our last visit, the quality had gone downhill, so proceed with the knowledge that it may not be as good as it once was!
Da Shark Shack: This is a little beachfront bar, which also serves fine food for a bar. Frequented by tourists and locals alike. Open air, perfect for chilling with a drink and catching a reasonably-priced, pretty tasty meal. North end of Alii Drive, right across the street from the splash wall (dasharkshack.com). They now have fish tacos, a burger, hot dog and other small plates.
Dan-o's Döner: In Waimea. Although listed as a "German" restaurant, this is actually the German take on Middle Eastern food, along with a whole slew of other interesting items; I am not even sure how to categorize it, since they serve such a broad range of items, but it's great for a super casual lunch when up in the Waimea area. Check out their Yelp! page for the best run-down on what they have by going here: www.yelp.com/biz/dan-os-doner-waimea
Rebel Kitchen: In Kealakua (South Kona). Worth the drive. Interesting burgers, sandwiches, salads and wraps, tons of local beers on tap, wine, too. All of their rolls are fresh daily. They have a curry-catsup that is to die for, and a special spicy sauce as well. Lunch or Casual Dinner. CHECK FOR UPDATED HOURS.
Umeke's: Fresh poke and unique Hawaiian food. There is now just one location, with indoor and outdoor seating. It can be loud, but an interesting experience. Near the public pool. Lunch or Dinner.
Shimaichi Sushi: Across the street from the Kona Public Library, just off Alii Drive. Casual, affordable, and super delicious. Inside and outside seating, although outside seating is recommended if you actually want to hear everyone at your table! No great view (you are overlooking the parking lot), but it's a super spot! In addition to killer sushi and sashimi, they have items like chicken teriyaki and amazing tempura, sure to satisfy even non-sushi eaters. Highly recommended for lunch or a casual dinner. Family friendly. Closed Mondays. CHECK FOR UPDATED HOURS.
Hayashi's You Make the Roll: This is literally a hole in the wall place, and is up that blue alley, right off of Alii Drive, and around the bend to the left. It's hands down the best sushi you will ever have. However, like the Soup Nazi from "Seinfeld," they will close without warning to fulfill phone orders, and reopen when they have the capacity to take more. Be prepared to wait a LONG time, but it's worth it. There is zero atmosphere, although there are picnic tables (some with shade) to eat at, or you can take it away and enjoy somewhere prettier. Lunch only. RIGHT NOW THEY ONLY TAKE PHONE ORDERS.
Journey Cafe: This is a super cute place right next to the Sweet Journey Soft Serve next door, in the old Frenchmen's Cafe location (we are so sad that place closed, but this is a nice addition to that cute alleyway with the blue sidewalk off of Alii Drive, near the parrot guy. Everything is homemade and tasty, although their Smoky Mushroom Doria (made with vegan cheese that you would swear is the real thing) is SUPER satisfying if you are craving something savory and hearty, and everything they make has lots of great flavors and spices. We ourselves are not vegans (although I don't eat dairy) and this place still gets the thumbs up from both of us.
Sweet Journey Soft Serve: This place serves a whole host of vegan, macadamia nut ice cream treats, as well as coffee drinks.
Ultimate Burger: In the plaza across the street from Target, close to downtown. Organic, grass fed beef, all local fresh toppings. A step up from a typical fast-food joint, but still quite casual. Nontheless, the BEST when you are just craving a REALLY good burger. Original atmosphere, that can be loud at times. No view. Surf competitions are usually on the two TVs inside. Good fries as well. Lunch or Dinner.
Kai Eats and Drinks: (See above section)
Coffee and/or Brunch with a View:
Papa Kona Restaurant and Cafe: It's gorgeous, right next to Kamana Kitchen in Waterfront Row, right on Alii Dr. It is AMAZING for a cup of coffee or tea or for drinks; just order your local Kona coffee at the counter when you come in, and head to the outdoor deck, overlooking the water (or head to the bar for drinks). The bar has been updated and is also a good spot for drinks. The restaurant itself has good views and is open for breakfast, lunch and now dinner (the food tends to be hit and miss, but the atmosphere is nice with killer views, but not fancy). Live Music on Tuesdays. OPEN TUESDAY-SUNDAY. www.PapaKona.com
The Coffee Shack: This is a cute little place with a killer view, located in Captain Cook (on the main road as you head south from Kona). They have great coffee, although reports are that with the new owner, the food has gone downhill and the prices have gone up. This is where you want to go if you value the view over the food. It's on the way to "Two Step" (near Honaunau - the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii), or on any day trip South. Breakfast and Lunch. OPEN 7am - SUNSET. www.CoffeeShack.com
The Best "Nice" Places in and around this Side of the Island are:
In addition to Papa Kona Restaurant and Cafe (see previous section):
Ulu at the Four Seasons: (Ulu Website). Romantic. Food and view (right on the water, and in a GORGEOUS setting) are to die for; drinks are ridiculously expensive, but the food is AMAZING, and reasonably priced for a fine dining experience, and totally worth every penny. Dinner. Now re-open. Reservations highly recommended. NOTE: They are currently taking reservations from non-resort guests only about a week out. Please email me and I may be able to get you in sooner than that, depending on availability.
Merriman's: This is in Waimea; farm to table experience. No view; spectacular, fresh food with imagination. Excellent service. Great for a special, white table cloth kind of dinner. Lunch or Dinner.
Brown's Beach House: At the Fairmont Orchid. This is further north than most of the restaurants on this list, but if you are staying up in that area, it is a wonderful choice, with beautiful views and great food. It comes highly recommended by many of my couples. Dinner. http://www.fairmont.com/orchid-hawaii/dining/brownsbeachhouse/
Huggos: www.huggos.com - Waterfront, right on Alii Drive, next door to the Royal Kona. They have an open air bar (which used to be closed in), and waterfront dining with very friendly staff and excellent food. Dinner. NOW REOPEN! NOTE: They now have a small plate menu (not yet on their website), rather than offering the single plate fancy dinners they used to offer. Will update here when I know more.
Jackie Rey's: The atmosphere is on the more casual side of a table cloth restaurant. It's a great local restaurant with really solid food on the nicer (and more pricey) end. Locals and tourists alike frequent this spot for a treat night out. No view, and it can be warm inside at times. You will definitely need reservations. Lunch or Dinner. www.jackiereys.com
Napua at Mauna Lani Beach Club: Beautiful view, fine dining. Farm to table. Dinner. www.napuarestaurant.com
Don the Beachcomber: This is in the Royal Kona Resort, which is close in to town. You can actually see it from Huggo's on the Rocks. I don't believe they have live entertainment, but the atmosphere is stunning. The food can be spectacular, although it can also occasionally leave something to be desired if you are a true foodie. (Here's their website: http://www.royalkona.com/Dining.cfm; you can pull up the dinner menu from there). Dinner. Thursday, Friday and Saturday only. CHECK WEBSITE TO CONFIRM HOURS HOURS.
Kona Inn: Currently Appetizers and Drinks Only. This is a Kona staple with the old-school Hawaii vibe right on Alii Drive in Kona. Right now they are only serving appetizers and cocktails, which suits the mood, and is great if you just want some good drinks and less of a meal. Their calamari is some of the best you will have - even if you've never liked it before!
Recommended with Caution:
Fish Hopper. Breakfast here is okay, but lunch and dinner are often MEDIOCRE and the service is usually lacking, especially for the prices. It's OKAY, and was previously on an avoid at all costs list. Some people here love this place, but if you are a foodie, you will not be impressed.
NOTE: The catering side here - either in their upstairs, open-air private room, or onsite at your rental house - is better than the restaurant. The catering service tends to be efficient, friendly and well-run, the food is fine, and it's a very reasonable deal, as things in Kona go.
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