KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii -- Golfers love to eat, and there are few places that combine the two experiences better than the Big Island of Hawaii.
Tucked away in the corner of a little shopping village in Kailua-Kona is an unassuming little Japanese cafe called Wasabi's. It probably doesn't hold more than 20 people, but if you like sushi, saimin noodles dishes, fresh poke salad and Seafood Don, you've found your place -- perfect after a round at Mauna Lani resort or any of the other dozen or so great golf courses on the Kona Coast.
This is the Big Island dining experience, dozens of little places scattered throughout the small villages along the Pacific Coast, just waiting for hungry golfers and tourists to discover them. Some are a little more high profile, like Monettes Artesian Fish and Steak at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel right next to the fabulous Mauna Kea Golf Course. Monettes features the finest in locally caught fish and prime steaks. Or for romantics, you can try Monettes little sister restaurant on the beach, Hau Tree.
In fact, it's hard to go wrong when it comes to resort dining on the Big Island. The Sheraton Keauhou Bay's Kai restaurant, not far from the courses at Kona Country Club, also features entrees with locally caught fish, a Saturday evening prime rib buffet and plenty of farm to table fresh offerings combined with moonlit ocean views.
You also can't go wrong at the Hualalai Resort, which not only hosts the Champions Tour at its golf course but also feeds the senior pros pretty well at its restaurants, or the fine dining at both the Hilton and Marriott at the Waikoloa Beach Resort. Speaking of Waikoloa, you can't go wrong with the Hawaiian fusion cuisine of Roy's, which has a Waikoloa location.
The golf resorts of the Big Island are pretty much located on the Kona side of the island, which gets a lot less rain than the rest of the island and also has nearly all the great golf courses.
Naturally, the food on that side is pretty good, too, and Kailua-Kona is a hotbed for great food choices. Besides Wasabi's, you might want to try Island Lava Java, located in a little shopping village in Kailua-Kona. It's a little pricey, but the food is excellent and so is the location, right across from the ocean. If you like fish tacos Hawaiian style, this is your place. They're made from the fresh catch of the day, like mahi-mahi, and you can enjoy them with the finest quality Kona coffees (I recommend the iced coffee if you're sitting outside watching the waves).
If barbecue is your style, then you owe yourself a trip to Mike's Just Barbecuing for in-house smoked meats, including pulled pork, spare ribs, chicken and brisket with Mike's special rub.
If you've got a sweet tooth, you won't want to miss the Donkey Ball Store, located eight miles south of Kona in Kainaliu. The Donkey Ball Factory pumps out more than 70 chocolate confections as well as the finest Kona coffee.
Speaking of Kona coffee, this is something you don't want to miss on any trip to the Big Island. You'll find the farms throughout, but you want to make sure it's 100 percent, not Kona blends. Fortunately, there are plenty of choices, but one can't miss is Greenwell Farms, located at 1,500 feet of elevation. You not only can buy the freshest coffee, but can take interesting tours as well.
There's also the Kohala Coffee Mill, known for having the best mochas on the island. The Kohala Coffee Mill also features Tropical Dreams ice cream, which shouldn't be missed. Made from local creameries, the ice cream tempts with the tropical flavors of the island such as mango, coconut and pineapple.
Coffee is good anytime of the day, but it's even better at breakfast. And if breakfast is your meal and you fly into Hilo on the east side of the island, be sure to cruise into Ken's House of Pancakes, which serves everything from traditional Hawaiian Loco Moco to heart healthy choices. Most memorable is the homemade coconut syrup.
March 5, 2012