Mommy Needs A Mai Tai

Last Updated on January 4, 2024 by Florabeth Coble

A mom drinking a ma tai with a young baby sucking his thumb.

Wondering where to eat on the Big Island with kids? I’m a mama raising two hungry boys in Hawaii, and our family keeps a special place in our hearts (and stomachs) for Big I.

We never run out of things to do, and the food alone is worth a visit! So, from one mama to another, here’s our tried-and-true list of where to eat on the Big Island with kids.

Some of these links are affiliates, meaning I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. Your trust is always my priority. Without it, this wouldn’t be any fun.

Malasadas from Tex Drive In on the Big Island of Hawaii.

What Makes Big Island Cuisine Special?

The Big Island isn’t just big in size; it’s colossal in flavor! Its varied terrains and climates provide a culinary canvas that’s second to none in Hawaii. Let’s break it down:

  • Poke Bowls: Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish made from marinated raw fish. Featuring the day’s freshest catch perfectly seasoned, it’s sushi’s cooler, laid-back cousin. Bonus points if you say it right. “Poh-Kay.” Rhymes with “Okay.”
  • Plate Lunch with a Twist: The Big Island serves up the traditional “plate lunch (two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad and an entree)” like its counterparts. But keep an eye out for the Big Island twist — often featuring delicacies like pipikaula (Hawaiian dried beef) or fresh-caught mahi-mahi.
  • Ahi Love: If the islands had a mascot, Ahi would be a top contender. And on the Big Island, this fish reigns supreme. Be it poke-style, grilled to perfection, or sandwiched in a burger.
  • Kona Coffee Extravaganza: Okay, this one’s for us. After a day of chasing the little people around, there’s nothing like a shot of Kona coffee. And if you’re up for a treat, Kona coffee-infused desserts are the island’s sweet secret.
  • Island Sweets: No trip is complete without a handful (or two) of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. And if you’re feeling the tropical vibes, the lilikoi pie and diverse ice cream flavors are sure to make your kids’ day and yours!

Dining on the Big Island is more than just a meal – it’s an invitation to the island’s heart, one delicious bite at a time. And, sometimes, Mommy just needs a mai tai. I’ve got your back.

A baby cheersing at Kona Brewing on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Where to Eat on the Big Island with Kids

Ranked from the most casual to family-friendly fine dining, these are our top picks of where to eat on the Big Island with Kids!

Top Dogs

If you’re visiting Hilo and need a quick bite that won’t break the bank, look no further than Big Island Top Dogs. This isn’t just a hotdog stand. Here, you’re the artist, and that dog is your canvas.

Dive into their specialty offerings, but don’t miss those chalkboard specials. And you must try the lilikoi mustard! If you’ve got room after the generous portions, the Chantilly Brownies are like a hug in dessert form.

They have limited hours and some indoor dining, providing a nice break from the Hawaii sun.

811 Laukapu St #6, Hilo, HI 96720

Chubby’s Diner

Picture this: gourmet comfort food inside… wait for it… a bowling alley. I kid you not, Chubby’s Diner, nestled inside KDXtreme, in Kailua-Kona is a quirky delight. 

Between arcade games, bowling, and karaoke, this is not your typical diner. While a Hawaiian vacay may not scream ‘arcade time,’ keep this one in mind for those unpredictable rainy days.

The diner offers comfort food with big portions that are surprisingly delicious. They’re open late and provide a fun place to check out a spot that most tourists don’t know about. Honestly, Maui, can we get one of these already?

75-5591 Palani Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 (Hawaii’s Premier Entertainment Center)

Punalu’u Bake Shop 

Famous for their Hawaiian sweet bread, this is the southernmost bakery in the United States! Punalu’u Bake Shop is located in Na’aehu, a great place to grab a bite on your way to Volcanoes National Park if you’re traveling from Kailua-Kona.

Their malasadas (think heavenly fried Portuguese donuts) are the stuff of legends. But don’t stop there. From authentic local-style plate lunches, refreshing salads, to the aromatic Ka’u coffee, this bakery offers more than just baked goods.

95-5642 Mamalahoa Hwy, Naalehu, HI 96772

A photo of the outside of Cafe 100 on the Big Island.

Cafe 100 

Okay, to understand Cafe 100, you have to know about the Loco Moco. This traditional Hawaiian dish is prepared with white rice, hamburger steak, brown gravy, and a fried egg. Comfort food at its finest.

Cafe 100 was founded in 1946 and claims to be the original home of the Loco Moco! And with over 30 mouth-watering variations, this no-frills, order-at-the-counter joint is a gastronomic journey into Hawaii’s soul.

969 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

Tin Shack Bakery

This funky little operation is perfect for morning pastries or an afternoon pick-me-up. But don’t let the casual surf decor trick you into thinking the food is lazy. Tin Shack Bakery puts a lot of love into their grub, using high-quality ingredients. In the morning, as the waves crash and the island awakens, there’s nothing quite like indulging in one of their legendary egg benedicts

On the go? Snag one of their bagel sandwiches, the perfect companion for your mini-adventure at Lava Lava State Park, which is just a short six-minute drive away. This spot is a win-win for families, blending nature and nosh perfectly.

15-1500 Akeakamai Loop, Pāhoa, HI 96778

The interior of Tex Drive in on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Tex Drive In

I was so excited to try Tex Drive In because I’ve heard from multiple sources that their malasadas are simply the best. Very happy to report that they live up to the hype! 

These Portuguese donuts are overstuffed and perfectly fried to perfection. I couldn’t get enough of the guava malasada, and the boys loved the chocolate and banana the best. Crispy, fluffy, and sinfully delicious.

With a kid-friendly, covered, open-air patio and a menu that boasts breakfasts, burgers, and local delights, this a great stop if you’re traveling from Hilo to Kailua-Kona via the scenic Hamakua Coast (which I can’t recommend enough).

45-690 Pakalana St #19, Honokaa, HI 96727

Da Poke Shack 

Da Poke Shack is a hidden gem located in Kailua-Kona that’s been gaining a lot of popularity over the years and featured on numerous travel and TV shows. Don’t let its unassuming, casual storefront fool you. Da Poke Shack is committed to freshness, sourcing local, fresh fish daily.

And don’t assume that your kids won’t eat raw fish! Both my two and six-year-olds can’t get enough of it. If someone in your fam doesn’t eat seafood, they also offer vegetarian poke and kalua pork.

This is a “grab it to go” kind of spot. Get there early, as they run out of popular flavors by the afternoon.

 76-6246 Ali‘i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Rebel Kitchen 

This place is awesome. Rebel Kitchen is well-regarded among locals and tourists for its delicious food, friendly service, and commitment to local ingredients. This is a great place to taste authentic flavors of the Big Island with a contemporary twist.

The atmosphere at Rebel Kitchen is casual and relaxed, with a lot of local art, giving the place a unique, eclectic feel. It’s an easy place to bring kids without losing your mind.

I love the bloody mary, beer flights, burgers, and fish tacos. My kids love the homemade ketchup and dessert selection. Grab a three-pack of their famous “Kona Ketchup” for friends back home. It makes for a delish souvenir. 

79-7399 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Kealakekua, HI 96750

Island Ono Loa Grill 

While wandering around the heart of Kona, you may need a quick order-at-the-counter meal. Island Ono Loa Grill is a great option that won’t require you to sacrifice fresh food made with local ingredients.

They are well known for their Hawaii-inspired burgers, topped with fresh pineapple and teriyaki sauce. Their seafood options vary based on the day’s catch. 

Island Ono Loa Grill’s unassuming, open-air dining space is great for kids. It’s tucked away in a shopping center just behind Lava Java, with tables both inside and outside. If you desire a more scenic view, grab it to go and plop down on a beach blanket along Ali’i Drive

75-5799 Ali‘i Dr Suite A4a, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

A large portion of take out from Broke Da Mouth Grindz on the Big Island.

Broke da Mouth Grindz

Okay, I’m about to make a very big statement. If you choose only one spot on the Big Island to taste local Filipino and Hawaiian food, Broke Da Mouth is it. 

The phrase “broke da mouth” is a colloquialism in Hawaiian Pidgin that essentially means the food is irresistibly good. And, my friends, the name does justice. This is quintessential island comfort food—generous servings, heartwarming flavors, and a vibe that makes you feel at home. 

The garlic furikake chicken is not to be messed with. And the kids? Let’s just say that Mac salad didn’t stand a chance.

Heads up: this spot is take-out only. And while the wait might test your patience, I promise the flavor-packed dishes are worth every second.

74-5565 Luhia St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Kaaloa Super J’s 

If you’re the kind of traveler that likes to taste and explore off the beaten path, look no further than Kaaloa Super J’s

Located just south of Captain Cook in a humble setting, Kaaloa’s Super J’s isn’t immediately noticeable from the main road, but those in the know are well aware of this hidden treasure.

The establishment has a very local, family-run atmosphere. It’s unpretentious and straightforward, focusing more on the food than the decor. The setting provides a genuine local experience devoid of the commercial feel that can be found in more tourist-centric spots.

The place exudes warmth and serves food prepared with love and tradition. If you find yourself nearby, don’t miss the chance to savor their legendary laulau (fatty pork with fish wrapped in taro leaves and steamed to perfection). 

83-5409 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704

Ken’s House of Pancakes 

Every town has that one diner—the one that buzzes from dawn till dusk, where stories flow as freely as coffee. For Hilo, that’s Ken’s House of Pancakes

The ambiance is casual and lively, reminiscent of classic American diners. With booths, counter seating, and an ever-buzzing atmosphere, it feels both nostalgic and comforting. It’s not uncommon to see a mix of locals catching up over coffee and tourists fueling up for their next adventure.

Ken’s House of Pancakes serves everything from classic breakfast fare like omelets and waffles to lunch and dinner dishes, including burgers, sandwiches, and local Hawaiian favorites.

Please note that Ken’s used to be open 24/7 but have recently changed their hours to 6 am-9 pm, 7 days a week.

1730 Kamehameha Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

The Coffee Shack 

Located close to the Captain Cook monument and overlooking Kealakekua Bay, this place is perfect for a coffee break while the kids enjoy their pastries. Perched on the slopes of Mauna Loa, its elevated position offers stunning ocean views in a casual, intimate setting.

The Coffee Shack serves 100% Kona coffee, a must-try for coffee enthusiasts. Besides their brews, their macadamia nut pancakes, fresh sandwiches, and tropical fruit plates are favorites.

If you’re planning to visit for breakfast or brunch, consider arriving early or on weekdays to avoid the rush.

83-5799 Mamalahoa Hwy Box 510, Captain Cook, HI 96704

A young boy holding a very large pancake from Hawaiian Style Cafe on the Big Island.

Hawaiian Style Café 

Our visit to Hawaiian Style Cafe was like finding a diamond in the rough. Hawaiian Style Cafe is a no-frills spot that delivers tasty, affordable, filling meals in a family-friendly environment.

We put our name on the list upon arrival and almost left because waiting 30 minutes for breakfast with two hungry mini-me’s is enough to make me bolt. But I’m really glad we decided to stay because this humble cafe was such a delight. 

The haupia (coconut pudding) pancakes were so big I thought Wilder’s eyes would pop out of his head! Craving a savory bite? The kalua pork hash is chef’s kiss. And for those indecisive souls (I’m looking at you, me), order the Mento Bento. This is a great way to try multiple Hawaiian staples all at once.

They’ve got two locations, Waimea and Hilo

65-1290 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743

681 Manono St, Hilo, HI 96720

Plates on a table with Mento Bento and Kalua Pork Hash from Hawaiian Style Cafe on the Big Island.

Cafe Ono

Vegetarians rejoice! Café Ono serves up health-conscious dishes in Volcano Village, very close to Volcanoes National Park. This gem sits in a restored historic building surrounded by a lush, tranquil garden. It’s like dining in nature’s own living room.

Café Ono offers a vegetarian and vegan menu emphasizing fresh, organic, and locally sourced ingredients. Their offerings include a variety of salads, soups, quiches, wraps, and desserts. Their dishes are not only healthful but also artistically presented, crafted with love, and presented with flair.

19-3834 Old Volcano Rd, Volcano, HI 96785

A boy eating pizza from Ola Brewing on the big Island of Hawaii.

Ola Brew Co 

We recently hit up Ola Brew on our way to the airport because we had some time to kill before returning to Maui. We were surprised at how kid-friendly the environment and food were. The flatbreads were a massive hit with our kids. And if you’re a fan of hard seltzer, this spot is for you, mama. 

Ola Brew in Kona has a laid-back, casual atmosphere with board games and outdoor seating. The brewery often has live music and events, adding to its vibrant and community-centered ethos. Visit earlier in the day if you’re visiting with kids. Things get a bit more lively at night. 

They have two different locations, one in Kona and one on the eastern side in Hilo. Each has its own flavor and caters to families with Keiki (kids) menus and non-boozy beverages. The Kona taproom is the only one with alfresco seating, perfect for those ever-so-curious toddlers.

74-5598 Luhia St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

1177 Kilauea Ave, Hilo, HI 96720

A photo of the exterior of The fish and the Hog on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Fish and The Hog

Over in Waimea, in the midst of cowboy (paniolo) land, you’ll find The Fish and The Hog. This spot feels like a backyard BBQ party where they serve an eclectic mix of Southern BBQ, fresh-off-the-boat seafood, and local favorites.

The smoked brisket and fresh catch of the day are worth the stop alone. Wash them down with tropical fruit-muddled beverages. And don’t even get me started on the desserts. Let’s just say, they’re worth the extra calories.

64-957 Hawaiʻi Belt Rd, Waimea, HI 96743

A boy gives shakas in front of Kona Brewing on the Big Island.

Kona Brewing Co

My husband, Chris, worked at Maui Brewing for years, so it’s imperative that we check out the best breweries everywhere we go. Kona Brewing is one of Hawaii’s most beloved and recognized brews, so this one was at the top of our list. 

Kona Brewing is also a full-service restaurant with a laid-back Hawaiian vibe, making it suitable for families. The Kailua-Kona brewpub and restaurant offer both indoor and outdoor seating, with a tropical atmosphere complete with tiki torches and palm trees. It’s really beautiful. 

The menu is diverse, featuring pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and local Hawaiian dishes. The hand-tossed pizza and shoyu chicken were our favorites. The brews were top-notch, even by picky husband standards. 

More of a wine person? Or maybe you’re driving back to the hotel? They’ve got you covered with wines, house-made seltzers, and mocktails.

And if you want to flex your vacation choices once you’re back, snag a Kona Brew Co shirt from their retail shop. 

They’ve also got a spot on Oahu for those island hopping.

74-5612 Pawai Pl, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

A boy sitting at a table in front of pizza, pork, chicken, and salad at Kona Brewing on the Big Island.

Cafe Pesto

Nestled in Hilo’s bustling heart, Cafe Pesto is your ticket to taste the fusion of Pacific Rim with a sprinkle of Hawaiian flair. The place is like that perfect pair of jeans – casual but can totally be dressed up. With its warm, rustic charm and chefs doing their magic right in front of you, it’s got ambiance down pat.

If your kids are young, you may have to set them up with an iPad here to enjoy a nice meal in peace. When they can’t stop reaching for another slice of their wood-fired pizza, you’ll know you made the right call.

308 Kamehameha Ave #101, Hilo, HI 96720

A mai tai from Thai Thai Bistro on the Big Island.

Thai Thai Bistro 

Thai Thai Bistro is located in Volcano Village, just a short drive from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We stopped here after a long day of exploring, and it was just what the doctor ordered.

The restaurant itself doesn’t have a lot of frills, but it does have a lot of personality with a cozy, warm atmosphere.

Thai Thai Bistro serves a variety of Thai favorites, including curries, noodle dishes, soups, salads, and stir-fries. They also offer special dishes incorporating local Hawaiian ingredients, providing a unique twist to classic Thai flavors.

Although there is no kid’s menu, they offer burgers and tempura battered chicken nuggets. Wilder and Bo loved the avocado fries! Mama loved the mai tai.

If you’re thinking of dropping by during the dinner rush or tourist madness, reservations might save you from a hangry meltdown.

19-4084 Old Volcano Rd, Volcano, HI 96785

Ōhelo Cafe

Also located next to Volcanoes National Park, Ohelo Cafe is a bit more upscale. However, its cozy and inviting environment makes it appropriate for kiddos. 

From pizzas and pastas to local Hawaiian fare, there’s something here for the whole fam. Try the guava bacon jam burger! They also offer a wide selection of desserts, making it a suitable spot for both meals and casual hangouts.

Call ahead and make sure there’s room, especially during busy season. 

19-4005 Haunani Rd, Volcano, HI 96785

Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine

Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine is situated in historic downtown Hilo on the eastern side of the Big Island. 

Something I really love about this place is its commitment to using fresh, local ingredients. They specialize in fresh fish, poke bowls, salads, and burgers. They also offer a range of tropical cocktails and drinks, perfect for unwinding after a day of sightseeing. Ask to drink yours out of a pineapple! 

The restaurant has a laid-back, tropical atmosphere with an open-air setting. This is a fun place to people-watch in downtown Hilo. The vibe is casual and relaxed, making it a suitable place to grab a nice dinner out with little ones in tow. 

332 Keawe St, Hilo, HI 96720

Hau Tree

Okay. Let’s talk beachside dining.

The Hau Tree, an emblem of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, sits pretty next to the dazzling Kauna‘oa Bay. Enjoy some fish tacos under the shade of the large hau trees from which the restaurant gets its name.

It’s casual enough, so your kids won’t get the side-eye. Plus, if they’re getting antsy, the beach is right there. Before you know it, your meal is served. Quick, fresh, and without the dreaded “when’s our food coming?” chant. So, after a day of exploring, treat those taste buds and let the kiddos run wild.

62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr, Waimea, HI 96743 (Mauna Kea Beach Hotel)

Huggo’s on the Rocks

Huggo’s on the Rocks is the casual sister restaurant to Huggo’s, a fine dining establishment next door. While Huggo’s offers a more upscale dining experience, On The Rocks provides a relaxed, beachy atmosphere perfect for unwinding with family.

The restaurant exudes a laid-back, tropical vibe with its open-air setting, tiki torches, and sand-covered floors. The thatched roof and wooden bar enhance the beach bar feeling. They offer plenty of menu items that appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. 

This is a terrific place to catch sunset! They get busy, especially around this time. I recommend calling ahead.

75-5824 Kahakai Rd, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Fish Hopper Seafood & Steaks

Located on Ali’i Drive in the heart of Kailua-Kona, The Fish Hopper is in another prime spot overlooking the ocean. This place has made a name by offering a menu rich in fresh, local seafood and quality steaks.

Fish Hopper prides itself on its sustainable practices, sourcing as much as possible from local fishermen. Their clam chowder has won awards! And while their seafood is a must-try, don’t overlook their signature drinks and “take-me-back-to-my-hotel-room” desserts.

The Fish Hopper caters to families, and their menu typically includes plenty of kid-friendly choices. The ambiance is relaxed enough for children without sacrificing a great dinner in Hawaii.

Given its prime location and popularity, it’s a good idea to make reservations, especially if you’re aiming for a sunset dinner

As with many places in Kailua-Kona, parking can be a challenge, so think about coming a bit early or flexing those parallel parking skills.

75-5683 Ali‘i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

Outdoor dining at Lava Lava Beach Club on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Lava Lava Beach Club 

This is our absolute favorite place to eat on the Big Island! 

Lava Lava Beach Club is beautifully situated on the Kohala Coast, specifically in Waikoloa, making this a necessity if you’re staying at one of the island’s top resorts.

The beachfront location gives guests a picturesque view of the Pacific Ocean, making it a favorite for tourists and locals. The ambiance here is distinctly tropical and casual. With toes-in-the-sand, tiki torches, and live music, the setting is perfect for a relaxed evening by the beach.

The food is incredible, and the mai tai is ridiculous. But our favorite part about Lava Lava Beach Club is how kid-friendly it is. With large yard games and plenty of space to run around while you wait for a table, this is hard to come by.

The one drawback of Lava Lava Beach Club is that they don’t take reservations. But the beachfront play yard makes it worth it, especially the “slushie bus” they have stationed up to keep you occupied while you wait. 

This is a spot we will frequent time and time again.

69-1081 Ku’uali’i Pl, Waikoloa Village, HI 96738

A boy with a colorful ice cream cone from Makanis Magical Ice Cream Shack in Hilo on the Big Island.

Happy Endings

The Big Island of Hawaii is so much more than those Instagrammable views – every restaurant is an opportunity to support a local business with a lot of heart! And when that sweet tooth strikes, swing by spots like Makani’s Magical Pineapple Shack in Hilo or the can’t-miss Original Big Island Shave Ice in Waikoloa Village.

Armed with this list, you’re ready to embark on a foodie journey that’ll get rave reviews from your crew and its mini-members.

Here’s to scrumptious adventures on the Big Island

Helpful Resources

Big Island With Kids: The Ultimate Guide

Flights: Expedia

Rental Cars: Discount Hawaii Car Rental

Baby Gear Rentals: BabyQuip

Big Island Babysitting Service: The Nanny Connection

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Picture of Aloha, I'm Florabeth Coble

Aloha, I'm Florabeth Coble

Most people call me Flo. I'm a busy mama raising two young boys in Hawaii. We share our adventures, travel tips, itineraries, and honest reviews so that you can plan your own family-friendly trip to Hawaii.