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A Teenage Foodie’s Guide to the Big Island of Hawaii

April 22, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page


Aloha everybody! I’m home…well, my current home, that is.

For the past week, I’ve been away in one of my (two) favorite places on the planet: the Big Island of Hawaii.


I don’t remember why, exactly, but last February, my family and I decided to make the eleven hour flight (EEK–it’s as bad as it sounds) from New York to Honolulu, then take an island hopper to Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. Our expectations were low, but oh boy, were they beyond exceeded.

ADORED the Big Island. And I don’t just say that about every place I visit. No, it’s not what you think Hawaii is–there are few white sand beaches and palm trees are sparser than expected–but it’s so unique. There are five different micro-climates on the island, and in a matter of minutes you can go from sunny and eighty degrees to pouring rain and fifty five. There are farms, farmers markets, and farm-to-table restaurants EVERYWHERE, many with organic, gluten-free, and/or vegan options. And, best of all, the fruit is just plain weird.


I’m really not kidding. Pretty much the main reason why I’d live on Hawaii is all of the delicious fruits and vegetables that are available year-round.

So I could be eating potatoes and carrots in the snow for months–neither of which I have anything against, mind you–or I could be basking in the sun and chowing down on fresh papayas and dragon fruit, which is either white or purple depending on the season.

Which would YOU pick?


OK, so maybe it’s just a crazy dream of mine. I’m not even sixteen yet, for goodness sake, but a girl can have a goal. And that goal is one day to move to Hawaii.

…or France…I haven’t decided yet…perhaps both…

Anyway, I love the Big Island.

Even though the flights going there and back really, really sucked.

Forget about the travel aspect. Let’s talk food which, on the Big Island, is absolutely delicious, in my opinion.


In the seven days I was there, we visited…hmm…four farmers’ markets, all teeming with ripe fruit, vegetables I won’t see for another four months here in the Northeast, and macadamia nuts and honey galore.

(I should mention that I got a TON of honey. I think I amassed five different varieties in all. I’m not ashamed.)

So, without further ado, let me show you the highlights…so if you do plan a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, you’ll know where to go, and will be inclined to take me with you.



Cute, quaint, and casual, the Waimea Farmers’ Market was a fitting choice for our first foodie destination on the Big Island. It was a little chilly and rainy (as it usually is in Waimea), but the food we selected was delicious.


First, we tried some samples from Big Island Goat Dairy, a farm that makes fresh goat cheese, feta, mozzarella, and many other types of delicious cheese. Our favorite was this cheese, the Kalehua Crottin, which, as my mom said, was, “The best goat cheese ever.” Light and creamy on the inside with a firm rind on the outside, this cheese could easily rival the fancy chevres I tasted in France.


After selecting some fresh papayas, avocados, and strawberries, we walked over to Gelato Ono, where we sampled some coconut chocolate orange peel and red banana sea salt caramel gelato, all vegan and gluten-free. While I do prefer the incredibly rich, creamy texture of my vegan ice cream, I loved the exotic varieties available, especially the red banana sea salt caramel. Be on the lookout for a version of my own on the blog soon.



When we finished up at the Waimea Farmers’ Market, we headed over to the Keahou Farmers’ Market, where we went last year and sampled our very first dragon fruit.


When we went last February, we sampled yellow dragon fruit, which we ADORED. This April, however, we found out that yellow dragon fruit was in season only until March, and spring was the time for purple dragon fruit.

Purple is my favorite color, so naturally, I was very excited. It made amazing dragon fruit sorbet, which will soon be featured on the blog for you all to try yourselves.


My dad and I also went over to the Tai Shan Farms booth, where we sampled about six different varieties of raw, local honey made from bees who pollinate dragon fruit trees. We got our two favorite kinds–the ones infused with cinnamon and ginger–as well as some Honey Cups, a delicious little treat made with oats, coconut, brown sugar, and honey. Mmm. I want to devise a recipe for those, too.




When I’m on vacation, I try to make healthy choices, but sometimes, I just throw them out the window and eat what I like. No, I’m not chowing down on processed potato chips and Oreos–usually, my choice “unhealthy” items are fresh baked goods and homemade pasta or ice cream.

Last time we went to Hawaii, my parents and I drove two hours from our rental house to the southern-most bakery in the United States for malasadas, a doughy Portuguese doughnut that’s famous all over the state. And you know what? I DIDN’T HAVE ONE.

I was crazy. How could I resist? This time, I was sure to sample several bites of the six flavors we selected.


Surprisingly, I found most of the malasadas we had to be only mildly sweet but high on chewiness. My favorite flavors were the lilikoi (passion fruit) and taro (as pictured above), the latter mostly because it was purple.

No, these were not gluten-free, but I think I might try to make a version of my own. That is, if I get past the other two dozen items on my to-make bucket list.




I’ll admit it: I’m not a huge smoothie girl. Honestly, I’d rather eat a banana and a cup of strawberries as opposed to blending them up with some ice cubes. I just find eating more satisfying than drinking.

But this smoothie, oh my gosh. It was DELISH. We had the Pacific Passion, which contained fresh papaya, banana, coconut milk, and pineapple juice. Smooth, creamy, and perfectly sweet, this was probably the best smoothie I’ve ever had. The best part? All of the fruit was grown on the restaurant’s fruit orchard out back!


For lunch, I had the wild-caught salmon burger on gluten-free bread with fresh avocado, tomato, cucumber, and sunflower seed sprouts. I also enjoyed the salad, fresh papaya, and banana that it came with as well. All fresh, tasty, and not too heavy on the stomach.




I love sushi. When I was younger and my dad would be out for dinner, my mom and I would have our favorite meal of fried chicken and California rolls to celebrate. Man, those were the days.

We went to Sushi Rock last year and loved it so much we came back again. It’s situated in a little town called Hawi (pronounced Havi, although I prefer it like Howie) which is full of cute boutiques and sleepy shacks with fruit trees in the backyard. It’s kinda in the middle of nowhere, but I love it all the same.


After splitting a drink with pineapple and lilikoi juice and bubbly water, we had my favorite Japanese appetizer–‘weed (seaweed, to be exact), followed by the Purple Passion roll with ahi, purple sweet potato, apple, and sashimi with brown rice…


…and the Kohala roll with ahi, papaya, cucumber, and macadamia nuts.


While both rolls were delicious, my favorite was the Purple Passion. I liked it so much that I was using my finger to swipe off the last of the sweet, sticky sauce from the bottom of the plate.

For dessert, we had a gigantic slice of the purple sweet potato cheesecake and, yes, demolished the entire thing.


As my parents said, “We flew 5,000 miles just so you could have sushi.”

Yes, I have expensive tastes. Very expensive.




After going to Volcanoes National Park last year, my family and I went in search of some vegetarian restaurant I read about online. We searched for half an hour with no avail and decided to go to the Kilauea Lodge instead. Our expectations were low, but we were pleasantly surprised by the cozy interior and delicious food. (I had chicken curry for lunch then, which I highly recommend.)

This time, we went for dinner and were again pleased with our choice. We shared some bread made with millet, sorghum, and sunflower seeds (it was excellent), and I started off with the Hunter’s Soup made from homemade rabbit stock. For my main course, I had antelope fillets, which I found both unusual and very tasty.




While there are organic options available at almost every restaurant in Hawaii, if you’re looking for really fresh, local fare, the Holuakoa Cafe is one of the best places to go. It’s a casual place with a koi pond and an open garden, and the food is outright awesome.

I had the pork “sandwich” (although it wasn’t much of a sandwich) with Kona coffee barbecue sauce, crunchy apple slaw, and organic cornbread. My oh my, it was exactly what I was craving, and everything blended so perfectly together.

I also had some Bengal spice tea–my favorite cinnamon-infused beverage–that I discovered there last year. Thank goodness I can get it back at home, too.




On our last full day in Hawaii (sniff), we visited a garden in the morning, then went to Island Lava Java for lunch. I had a chai latte with almond milk while we waited for our food (because hey, it was my last day, and it was good), then enjoyed half of a roasted veggie wrap with roasted vegetables, hummus, macadamia nut pesto, a homemade tortilla, and brown rice, along with (the entirety of) a side of sweet potato fries. Maybe I carbed out a little too much, but it certainly was AWESOME.

Oh, and the cool part? They grow the vegetables on their farm! Good thing I took the opportunity to eat as many of them at once as I could.



For our last dinner on Hawaii, we decided to go to Brown’s Beach House at the Fairmont Orchid, where we enjoyed one of our best dinners ever last February. Once again, the chefs, service, and setting did not disappoint: in my (very picky) opinion, it truly is an excellent restaurant.

After a fun (and tasty) amuse-bouche, I started with an apple banana and kabocha squash bisque topped with a macadamia nut crumble. The flavors were perfectly balanced, the texture pleasantly creamy and light, almost like sipping away at a dream. While I thought it would’ve been better without the crumble, the bisque was undeniably amazing, and I would’ve licked my bowl if we hadn’t been in public.

For my main course, I selected the eleven (or was it twelve?) spice duck with foie gras (YES), forbidden rice, and some kind of exotic green, which was again incredible. The duck was cooked in just the right way and paired beautifully with the chewiness of the rice, the creaminess of the foie gras, and the crunchiness of the green. I am partial to the duck I cook at home, this was a phenomenal preparation.

For dessert, I chose the milk chocolate mousse, which was good, but not great. I should’ve listened to our server and ordered the unbelievable masterpiece I had last time, the Mississippi Mud Pie ice cream cake. My mom’s macadamia nut-bourbon-chocolate pie-like-thing, however, was mind-blowing. I adored it. Unfortunately, I don’t believe I’ll be able to recreate a version that does it justice. Oh well.


Well, I think that’s about it for my incredible adventure to Hawaii. It was a freaking blast.

Time to start bugging Mom and Dad to take me back again soon.


Have you ever been to Hawaii? If so, which island(s)? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!

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