Hawi is the spot on the Big Island of Hawai‘i where ex-New Yorkers or ex-restaurateurs come to open restaurants, and you will reap the benefits of their decision. Nearly every restaurant in the area offers something better than the next. In fact, one of your biggest hardships in Hawaii will be finding time to eat everywhere in town.
Best known for their liliko‘i (passion fruit) infused drinks, Bamboo Restaurant (Hwy. 270, Hawi, 808/889-5555, Tues.-Sat. 11:30am-2pm and 6pm-8pm, Sun. brunch 11:30am-2:30pm, happy hour Mon.-Fri. 4pm-6pm, $20) is a Hawi mainstay, offering classic dishes like chicken, fish, and vegetarian options such as polenta with a hint of Hawaiiana—meaning that the standard dishes are seasoned with teriyaki sauce, coconut milk, and passion fruit sauces galore. The food is good enough, but the restaurant is located in an early 1900s building that provides a wonderful ambiance for a hot afternoon, and the overall experience is worthwhile. There is live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
One of few authentic Mexican restaurants on the island, Mi Ranchito (55-3419 Akoni Pule Hwy./Hwy. 270, Hawi, daily 11am-8pm, $9-16), is a true taquería and one of the best choices if you’re looking for something a little less pricey than the majority of Hawi restaurants. The price is right and the portions are huge. Vegetarian and gluten-free options available. You won’t see it from the street; it is between two storefronts tucked in the back.
If you’re looking for a quick to-go treat while strolling the streets, stop in to Kohala Coffee Mill (55-3412 Akoni Pule Hwy./Hwy. 270, Hawi, 808/889-5577, Mon.-Fri. 6am-6pm, Sat.-Sun. 7am-6pm, $7-10) for an ice cream cone or a cookie or take a seat outdoors and listen to a live music performance that tends to pop up on any given day. This is a laid-back coffee shop with beverages like hot coffee and ice-cold chai as well as breakfast bagel sandwiches. Salads and hamburgers are available for lunch.
A real treat for those who love sushi and even those who do not, the rolls at Sushi Rock (55-3435 Akoni Pule Hwy./Hwy. 270 in Hawi Town, 808/889-5900, daily noon-3pm and 5:30-8pm, rolls $17) truly are a fusion of traditional sushi combinations and local ingredients, such as purple sweet potatoes with ahi and goat cheese. Don’t forget to ask for the local wasabi grown in Volcano. It really tastes different than the green wasabi you’re used to getting at sushi restaurants. Rolls can be ordered individually or by platter, such as the Ali‘i, which includes 32 premium rolls. Feel free to ask the chef to pick your rolls if you can’t decide for yourself. The platters are a good deal—the larger the better if you’re with friends.