Various dishes—including the misoyaki butterfish at center—at Roy's Waikoloa. Photo courtesy of Roy's Hawaii.

5 alternatives to resort dining in Waikoloa on Hawaii Island

Many of Kona’s most popular resorts—including Hilton Waikoloa Village, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows and the Fairmont Orchid—are tucked along the coast around Waikoloa. Surrounded for miles by empty black lava flows 19 miles north of the airport and 27 miles north of Kailua-Kona, Waikoloa’s location offers a remote escape. This far from major population centers, though, you’ll pay for the convenience of sometimes sub-par resort dining. But a number of new and notable restaurants with Big Island roots offer unique dining experiences to area guests just a short walk or car ride away. 

Daylight Mind Coffee Company
The open-concept, 3,000-square-foot second location of the popular Kailua-Kona café, coffee roastery and bakery began serving diners in Waikoloa Queens’ MarketPlace late last year.  The specialty here is the a la carte brunch—including Avocado Smash: poached eggs, locally-sourced avocadoes and bell peppers on house-made sourdough, and the tangy tomato-sauce smothered Moroccan Eggs. Dinner isn’t bad either. Veggie-loaded pasta dishes, beef or chicken cooked with Kona coffee, wild boar sausage and locally-caught fish populate the menu. The cleverly-named eatery got its moniker from the literal translation of the Hawaiian word for enlightenment, naauao, and serves coffee, bakery items and runs a full bar all day within clear-day views of Mauna Kea.
69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr. • Daily hours from 6 a.m. til 9:30 p.m., restaurant seating begins at 7 a.m. • (808)223-0982 • daylightmind.com  

A barista and barkeep at Daylight Mind's new location in Waikoloa.
Photo by the author.

The Three Fat Pigs
It’s unlikely you’ll find the same comfort food menu items that populate The Three Fat Pigs offerings at other Big Island locale. The restaurant—and adjacent, more casual setting of the Thirsty Wolf gastropub—fuses modern American cuisine, Southern comfort food classics and Hawaii ingredients. Try the bourbon BBQ shrimp with Portuguese sweet bread rolls, the adult-friendly grilled cheese of the day, Big Island honey-drizzled fried chicken with biscuits and gravy or the cabernet-brined lamb porterhouse. Each creation is the brainchild of Hawaii Island native and International Iron Chef winner Ippy Aiona. Making your decision to dine here easier? A free shuttle between its Kings’ Shops location and further-afield lodgings including the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
250 Waikoloa Beach Dr. • Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. ‘til 3 p.m., happy hour from 3 p.m. ‘til 5 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. til 9:30 p.m. Reservations recommended for lunch and dinner • (808)339-7145 • thethreefatpigs.com

Lava Lava Beach Club
Technically a mini-resort unto itself, the Lava Lava Beach Club Waikoloa on Anaehoomalu Bay serves its popular blue-cheese topped burgers, ribs and local favorite dishes like huli chicken, poke and teriyaki steak on the sand fronting its four rentable surf shack-style bungalows. Owned by the same folks who run venerable Kailua-Kona dining establishment Huggo’s (and a similar hotel/restaurant combo on Kauai), the Lava Lava Beach Club Waikoloa is making a name for itself with regular evening entertainment that has included hula dancing and popular Hawaiian artist Henry Kapono. On weekend mornings the “Beach Bums Bloody Mary Beach Brunch” fills up fast. That’s when board short and bikini-clad guests sip on seven kinds of Bloody Mary’s and nosh on benedicts, loco moco and waffles before spending the rest of the afternoon splashing in the sea.
69-1081 Kuualii Place, Waikoloa • Food served from 11 a.m. til 9 p.m. • (808)769-5282 • lavalavabeachclub.com/bigisland

 

Dishes await serving at The Three Fat Pigs. Photo courtesy of The Three Fat Pigs.

Roy’s Waikoloa
Hawaii Island’s only outpost of the popular restaurant Roy’s is just across the plaza from The Three Fat Pigs. Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s blended Japanese and Hawaiian heritage and European training come through in a menu that changes seasonally: Sushi rolls, local wild boar chowder, macadamia nut crusted local catch, steaks, char siu duck and seared diver scallops. Though now the James Beard award winning chef’s chain can be found in eight states, its first location was in Waikiki and here his staff have been serving up locally-inspired dishes for over 17 years.
69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr. • Dinner served daily from 5 p.m. • (808)886-4321 • royshawaii.com

Pueo's Osteria in Waikoloa Village. Photo by the author.

Pueo’s Osteria
Few resort guests venture the seven miles inland to Waikoloa Village—home to many resort staff—but, if you’re in the mood for Italian, Pueo’s Osteria is worth the trip. Here, farmer’s market finds pair with Italian imports to form dishes like rigatoni ala Bolognese with local beef ragu or the papparadelle con ragu di cinghiale with braised wild boar and Waimea kale. They’ve also got pizzas, starters and salads, including the baked mac nut-crusted Hamakua goat cheese salad—the likes of which you won’t find in beachside Waikoloa’s Macaroni Grill chain. The ambiance here is another reason to get away: Located on Mauna Loa’s northerly foothills, the higher elevation affords cool evening breezes that refresh guests who choose to dine on their twinkle-lit patio overlooking the quaint Waikoloa Village Highland Center’s tiny waterfalls and fountains.
68-1845 Waikoloa Rd. • Dinner served daily from 5 p.m. ‘til 9 p.m. with bar service ‘til 1 a.m. Sun. through Thurs. and ‘til 2 a.m. on Fri. and Sat. • (808)339-7566 • pueososteria.com