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Local Food On the Big Island of Hawaii

Find Markets, Restaurants, and More from Kona to Hilo, Naalehu to Waimea


The Big Island of Hawaii is awash in delicious local eating. Various climates grace the largest of the Hawaiian islands, meaning an incredible range of produce can be grown there. Ranches in the northern part of the island provides cattle, coffee plantations grow some of the best coffee in the world, and the vast blue sea yields fish straight off the boat.

1. Hawaii Farmers Markets Around the Island

Image of Hilo Farmers Market Sign
Photo © Molly Watson

There are some amazing farmers markets all over the island of Hawaii. The Hilo Farmers Market is the biggest. The Waimea Town Farmers Market and the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market are also worth a visit for the variety of produce, freshness of the prepared foods and Hawaiian specialties, and local crops like coffee and orchids.

Know before you go: check out what's in season when with this Guide to Hawaii Produce.

2. Hana Hou Restaurant in Naalehu

Hana Hou Cafe In Naalehu, Hawaii
Photo © Molly Watson
Hana Hou on the Big Island has an impressive claim to fame: it is the southernmost restaurant in the United States. I found their stand-out homemade pies and fresh, Hawaiian menu to be more impressive. If there is "mac pie" (macadamia nut cream pie) in the pastry case, be sure to order a slice with a cup of the perfectly brewed, locally grown coffee. The plate lunches are great, but the daily specials – things like papaya chicken salad and local ono chowder – are where the real eating action is.

3. Huli Sue's BBQ and Grill in Waimea

Huli Sue's Exchange Board
Photo © Molly Watson

Huli Sue's in on the Mamalahoa Highway in Waimea (another outpost can be found on Mauna Lani Drive in Kamuela) serves fresh, awesomely delicious Hawaiian-style barbecue with a salad bar to beat the band. A varied menu and generous portions make it a must-stop for tourists and locals alike. I was most charmed by the local exchange blackboard, where the restaurant lists local produce it is looking to buy and items from its kitchen garden that are available for sale.

4. Da Fish House and Da Fish Lunch Wagon in Kawaihae

Da Fish House Lunch Wagon
Photo © Molly Watson
Da Fish House in Kawaihae sells supremely fresh fish, usually cut to order. Amazing poke (raw fish salad) is also sold out of the case in this squat, bright blue concrete building on the Akoni-Pule Highway. The lunch truck across the parking lot cooks up classic Hawaiian fish sandwiches made with that supremely fresh fish, as well as cheeseburgers and daily specials like Korean-style chicken wings and other Hawaii plate lunch items.

5. GJ's Huli Chicken

Huli Chicken Cooking
Photo © Molly Watson
GJ's is a roadside stand that cooks huli chicken and huli ribs (the meat is marinated in a soy sauce-based marinade and then cooked over hot open coals to crispy juicy perfection) and serves them plate lunch-style (with rice and macaroni salad) to passers-by in Kawaihae on Fridays, Waimea on Saturdays, and Honoka'a on Sundays.

6. Pico's Bistro

Pico's Bistro on the Big Island of Hawaii
Photo © Molly Watson

Pico's Bistro in the little town of Ka'apau way up north past Hawi serves up delicious burgers (beef, lamb, and fish) as well as kebabs and other grilled goodies. Local is the name of the game here, with fish, meat, vegetables, and fruit from local growers.

Pico's Bistro is open 11:30 am - 8 pm Wednesday through Monday, although I'd recommend calling ahead just to be sure since they sometimes close for catering jobs. Call (808) 884-5555.

7. Honor System Farm Stands

Macadamia Nut Farm Stand
Photo © Molly Watson
There are tended farm stands in Hawaii, of course, but the Big Island is also dotted with honor system stands where piles of macadamia nuts, mountain apples, mangoes, papayas, and other produce are placed on tables or milk crates with a sign telling you how much to leave in the jar or box for your purchase. They make the whole island feel like one incredibly beautiful small town.

8. More Big Island Restaurants

John Fischer, About.com's Guide to Hawaii Travel, has plenty more suggestions on Where to Eat on the Big Island.

9. What's Your Favorite?

Photo © Molly Watson
Do you have a favorite food or restaurant or market on the Big Island? Tell us about it! Share your favorite local find at Readers Favorite Hawaii Local Foods (or, of course, you can just read what others have to say!).

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