The heart of the Merrie Monarch Festival centers around more than half-a-century of hula, but it’s no secret that attendees also gravitate to Hilo for its famous dining and shopping scene—craft fairs, pop-up shops and hole-in-the-wall eateries.
WHERE TO EAT
Hilo’s merriest time of the year also brings visitors together from all over the globe, where local residents and business owners are one of the highlights of its small town charm. For Hilo native Ilihia Gionson, the best part of Merrie Monarch week is “seeing friends you rarely see, so I’m all about celebrating with big meals.” Luckily on Hawaii Island, big meals are a specialty. We gathered up a handful of our favorite Hilo grinds you’ll surely want to indulge in during your visit.
On The Go
Easy grab-and-go items to take on the run so you don’t miss a beat
Hilo Farmers Market
Kamehameha Ave. and Mamo St.
Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri., and Sun. 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wed. and Sat. 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(808) 933-1000, hilofarmersmarket.com.
969 Kilauea Ave.
Mon. to Fri. 6:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sat. 6:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
(808) 935-8683, cafe100.com.
Hilo Sharks Coffee
41 Waianuenue Ave.
Mon. to Sat. 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(808) 933-8685, hilosharkscoffee.com.
1765 Kamehameha Ave.
Open 24 hours daily.
Sweet Cane Café
1472 Kilauea Ave.
Mon. to Sat. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(808) 934-0002, kalapanaorganics.com/sweetcanecafe.
Residents and return visitors alike love these classic local favorites.
Hawaiian Style Cafe
681 Manono St.
Mon. to Sat. 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.
(808) 969-9265, hawaiianstylecafe.com.
784 Kilauea Ave.
Tues. to Sun. 6 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., closed Mondays
Ken’s House of Pancake
1730 Kamehameha Ave.
Open 24 hours daily
(808) 935-8711, kenshouseofpancakes.com.
688 Kinoole St., Ste. 124
Tues., Wed., Thurs., Fri., Sun. 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., closed Mondays
Puka Puka Kitchen
270 Kamehameha Ave.
Mon. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tues. to Fri. 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Sat. 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., closed Sundays
111 E. Puainako St, Ste 106A
Daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Suisan Fish Market
93 Lihiwai St.
Sun to Thurs. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays
Hilo has it all, including something special for your sweet tooth.
Two Ladies Kitchen
274 Kilauea Ave.
Wed. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
16 Furneaux Lane
Wed. to Sat. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(808) 933-6868, moonstruckpatisserie.com.
Big Island Candies
585 Hinano St.
Daily 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(808) 935-5510, bigislandcandies.com.
Liko Lehua Café
177 Kaumana Dr.
Mon. to Fri. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
(808) 935-7272, likolehua.com.
Wine and Dine
Don’t miss these lovely sit down restaurants for an amazing meal.
Moon & Turtle
51 Kalakaua St.
Tues. to Sat. 11a.m. to 2p.m., 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
308 Kamehameha Ave., Ste 101
Mon. to Wed. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 11a.m. to 10 p.m.
(808) 969-6640, cafepesto.com.
564 Hinano St
Mon. to Sat. lunch 11 a.m. to 2p.m., dinner 5:30p.m. to 8:30p.m.
(808) 935-2273, miyosrestaurant.com.
WHERE TO SHOP
A consolidation of the best in Hawaiian shopping, Hilo’s craft fairs host a collection of carefully curated and locally-made products. Said perfectly by 80-year-old veteran attendee and Papakolea resident Auntie Anna Luukia Arakaki, “Do you know why we go to Merrie Monarch? For the craft fairs, all day. And then we relax all night and watch the hula from home! That’s how.”
You can shop for everything from exotic jams and butters, to pearl and shell jewelry and the latest in local fashions. Vendors wait to debut their very best during this week, accompanied by their very best prices. The crowds start early and continue all day, with new purchases proudly flaunted at the evening’s festival—a testament to shopping stamina. At the biggest Hawaiian event of the year, fashion is the center of attention offstage.
Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair
The Merrie Monarch Invitational Hawaiian Arts Fair at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Building is free and open to the public. It boasts a wide selection of cultural crafts and also live daily entertainment by local halau and musicians.
Afoo-Chinen Civic Auditorium and Butler Building, 323 Manono St., Wed. through Fri., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., free and open to the public.
Owners and designers Craig Neff and his wife, Luana, emphasize the deeper kauna, or meaning, behind Hawaiian Force apparel. Their motto, “SustAINAbility, Hawaiian Thinking” is a value woven into original designs, which “hope to share, inform, and educate people about a part of Hawaiian values, culture, thoughts, and often untold history.”
140 Kilauea Ave., (808) 934-7171, hawaiianforce.com.
Owned and operated by Michele Zane-Faridi and Shadi Faridi, this mother-daughter duo offers local trends and Hawaiian vintage fashion. Don’t miss Aunty Michele’s personal collection of handwoven lauhala pāpale and lei hulu, artfully displayed in the store as historic gems.
164 Kamehameha Ave., (808) 935-4555, hanahouhilo.com.
Sig Zane Designs
This ohana-run business is the pride of Hilo and has grown far beyond its small town roots. Translating Hawaiian ideologies into unmistakable prints, the Zane family are iconic global ambassadors of hula, Hawaiian fashion and design. Whether a design is printed on beautifully-constructed aloha shirts, dresses, board shorts, or on the wings of a Hawaiian Airlines aircraft, each one represents a thoughtful mo‘olelo uniquely told in that signature Sig Zane style.
122 Kamehameha Ave., (808) 935-7077, sigzane.com.
This gallery features the work of owners and master photographers, Bruce Omori and Tom Kuali‘i. Their photos have been featured around the world, including the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. They are also the exclusive photographers for the Merrie Monarch Festival.
224 Kamehameha Ave., Suite 103, (808) 933-8008, extremeexposure.com.
The original version of this story ran in the April 2015 issue of former sister publication, MANA Magazine. For more stories from MANA Magazine, purchase the MANA book by visiting welivemana.com and use promo code MANAHIMAG to receive 30 percent off the retail price.