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Best Places to Eat in Hilo on a Hawaiian Cruise

When you pull into the port of Hilo on the Big Island on a Hawaiian Cruise, you’ll have some key decisions to make.  The first is, “Do I skip breakfast to make room for the amazing cuisine of Hilo?” And, the second is, “What type of cuisine will I be in the mood for today?” You see, the Big Island is finally coming into its as a foodie destination with renowned chefs, savvy restaurateurs and access to a vast array of interesting ingredients. Furthermore, its Pacific Rim location means that in addition to traditional American fare, you’ll have to choose from Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and of course, South Pacific cuisine. Then, there is the option of local Hawaiian specialties, and here Spam is a delicacy and not an annoying email promising big bucks for working from home.

The beautiful waterfront Hilo Bay Café boasts “locally inspired dishes, artisan sushi and hand-crafted cocktails while gazing out at tropical blue waters and majestic Mauna Kea.” Let’s hope the rest of your fellow cruise passengers don’t get wind of this or you’ll lose your opportunity to feast on local sushi, the local grass-fed Blue Bay burger or homemade hamakua mushroom curry pot pie.

Happy Traveler Comment
We would like to THANK Cesar for all of the hard work he put into making our trip to Hawaii a GREAT experience! He made sure our traveling ran smooth (and it did)! We can't wait to book another vacation with him! THANK YOU Cesar and ALOOOOHA!!! - Mia Williams

Photo of Sushi courtesy of Hilo Bay Cafe

If American and Asian fusion seafood tickles your taste buds, check out Full Moon Café, a casual establishment owned by two brothers with hefty culinary resumes. Menu items include a heavy Pacific influence in their fresh, raw (and cooked) fish dishes and grass fed Big Island beef. Full Moon Cafe will soon be changing their name to Moon and Turtle Cafe.


Photo courtesy of Full Moon Cafe

Not only is Café Pesto’s setting remarkable in its carefully preserved setting surrounded by rattan chairs, exhibition kitchen, tall ceilings and ohia wood-fired pizza oven, but the Hawaiian Regional food is award-winning and innovative. Lunch menu highlights include gourmet pizzas, various calzones, Asian-inspired stir-fry and curries, a few Italian specialties and fresh, mouthwatering organic salads.


Gourmet Pizza. Photo Courtesy of Cafe-Pesto

Let’s dig right in with “a little bit of Europe in Downtown Hilo” at Moonstruck Patisserie.  Try owner Jackie Tan-De Witt’s Soprano creation with layers of chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse, chocolate truffle and Bailey’s Irish Cream mousse all enveloped in chocolate ganache and topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Short N Sweet Bakery Market Cafe offers up the finest, tastiest, made-from-scratch artisan breads, croissants, cookies and bagels and is definitely worth a stop.  Your mouth won’t regret it!


Tasty Desserts. Photo Courtesy of Short N Sweet Bakery Market Cafe.

It’s mocha-in-the-making at Two Ladies Kitchen where the strawberry mocha is the absolute, hands-down favorite and often sells out. This Japanese delicacy features a fresh strawberry encased in hand-mashed sweet adzuki bean paste and pounded sticky rice—a great souvenir, if you can resist the temptation!

Family owned and operated Pineapples Island Fresh Cuisine gets fresh with their customers, fresh ingredients, that is, in their menu items that include a wide variety of pupus (appetizers), pineapple burger, barbecue Kalua pork sandwich, fresh catch of the day and Hilo Homemade Ice Cream for dessert. The restaurant located in a historic building is open air and features the works of local artists.

Ken’s House of Pancakes is one of those local institutions that serve breakfast 24 hours a day, in addition to burgers, prime rib, tacos, sandwiches, dinner plates and local favorites. So if you did skip that breakfast on the ship, belly up to Ken’s 11 choices of pancakes, in addition to French toast and Belgian waffles! If you’re of the exploratory mindset, try the Loco Moco with hamburger patty, gravy and eggs on top (or chili and cheese).

Another 24-hour local favorite is Verna’s, known for its window service, great prices and scrumptious home cooking of Hawaiian specialties like laulau (meat wrapped in a taro leaf), lomilomi tomato and salmon salad or the smoked meat plate covered in onions and served up with a side of rice and macaroni salad.

In case you needed one more reason beyond phenomenal cuisine to visit Hawaii on a cruise, we’ve offered up our top reasons on why they’re so popular.  Our travel advisors are ready to feed you the information you need to book today. Call 1-888-804-CRUISE (2784) or visit our website

Linda Brandt

Linda Brandt joined the team at in November 2011. She has been working with the marketing team in many capacities. Her new role is to pass on the expertise of the agency to help travelers understand the world of cruising through blogging. She studied journalism and writing in college and was a writer for The Campus newspaper for two years at the College of the Sequoias. She is also currently working on her Bachelor’s degree.

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