Hilo, Hawaii, makes a perfect base for exploring all that Hawaii Island has to offer—exquisite botanical gardens, smoking craters, glowing lava flows and crashing waves perfect for surfing. And with all the rain it receives, Hilo remains lush and colorful year-round. But this town offers more than good looks: It's also a haven for foodies.
There are plenty of spots to try authentic local cuisine, as well as cheap roadside deals and gourmet menus at restaurants that offer truly memorable dining experiences. You can find the locations, price points and menu descriptions of all these spots in the dining section of the Hilo destination guide. Here are some of our top picks for dining in Hilo.
Ken's House of Pancakes. Breakfast-lovers, rejoice! This eatery serves hearty breakfasts with a tropical twist. Macadamia-nut pancakes with guava syrup are on offer, as well as an array of fresh, bright island fare. It's open 24 hours, perfect for a late-night snack after exploring the lava flows or early-morning fuel before hitting the surf.
Seaside Restaurant. A local favorite, this seafood restaurant is located right across from the beach in the Keaukaha area. It serves up all kinds of local island fish, including ahi tuna, mahimahi and aholeahole. It doesn't get any fresher than this place.
What's Shakin'. If you're a smoothie fanatic like myself, you'll want to make a daily pit stop at What's Shakin'. This place grows its own bananas and papayas on its 20-acre/8-hectare farm. We recommend the strawberry-papaya-banana-orange-apple Onomea smoothie. It also serves delicious burgers and tamales, so it's an ideal lunch spot.
Tex Drive In. Finding yourself craving a malasada (a light, airy Portuguese doughnut covered in sugar)? (If you weren't before, I bet you are now.) If so, this is the place for you, where you can order them filled with vanilla, chocolate or coconut cream. It also offers great family-style fare and takeout if you're looking for a quick local bite to take back to your hotel.
Cafe Pesto Hilo Bay. Popular with tourists and locals alike, this is the place to sample delicious Pacific regional cuisine. We recommend the shrimp "half-moon" nachos. With a variety of entrees infused with local ingredients, this menu will certainly introduce you to the best of Hawaiian cuisine.
What would be first on your Hilo itinerary? Let us know in the comments below. I'm thinking Tex Drive In. After a long overseas flight, what better way to treat yourself than with a hot, sugary doughnut?