Brown’s Beach House Restaurant
1 N Kaniku Dr., Waimea
Sitting between the beach and the pool at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel is one of the loveliest settings for dinner…anywhere. And when you factor in the watermelon salad with goat’s milk feta, keiki cucumbers, and heirloom tomatoes and pumpkin gnocchi with mushrooms and black garlic cauliflower sauce, dinner becomes an occasion. But then you meet a waiter (hi, Tramaine!) who is professional and friendly and then delights the kids with spooky ghost stories from the island. Suddenly, one simple beachside dinner becomes the highlight of the vacation.
2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu
Ask anyone on the island where the best brunch in all of Oahu is and you’ll likely get this answer: Orchids. That’s because this beachfront eatery at Waikiki’s iconic Halekulani hotel is that good—and popular with the locals, considering they’re the ones snagging up all the reservations during the holidays. There is something so romantic and magical about sipping a mimosa and gazing at the ocean while a harpist plays in the background. Carving stations, the freshest fruits, incredible baked goods, sashimi, sushi, omelet bar, sundae bar, all the bars!—this place is the full package.
62-100 Kaunaʻoa Dr., Waimea
Just across the highway from the Mauna Kea is its sister hotel, the Westin Hapuna Beach Resort. And tucked inside the resort is Meridia, a restaurant with a heavily Mediterranean influence. Sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean is one thing (and we’re really in favor of it), but sitting on the balcony overlooking the ocean with a plate of fritto misto or crudo or caprese in front of you takes it up a level. The vibe is easy and pleasant, the food is fresh and delicious, and the sunset is sublime. It’s one of those rare formal dining experiences that kids wholeheartedly endorse.
‘Ulu Ocean Grill
72-100 Ka'upulehu Dr., Kailua-Kona
The dressiest restaurant at the Four Seasons Hualalai is half indoors, half outdoors, and utterly stunning. Being a few feet from the sand means that there isn’t a reason in the world to stay inside. Book a table on the patio so the children can swoon over the firepit, and let the feast begin. Executive chef Thomas Bellec is a master—everything that comes out of his kitchen is the perfect blend of true to Hawaii and influenced by Asia. And you can’t go wrong. But to go especially right, order the Waimea farmers’ market salad, maybe the Hawaiian ahi poke with Maui onions, and the vegetarian stir-fry noodles with baby bok choy. The dishes, while elegant and miniature works of art in some cases, are surprisingly kid-friendly. We cleaned every plate on the table.
360 Papa Pl., Kahului
If you’re anywhere near the airport, stop by Tin Roof for a fantastic lunch (take-out only). Yes, there’s a line out the door, but it moves fast and is a testament to the food inside. Tin Roof is owned by chef Sheldon Simon, who is known for his incredible poke and rice bowls, one of the most popular being the Mochiko chicken bowl. But don’t overlook the extras—like the pickled red onions or ulu mac salad. They are equally incredible. It’s the perfect place for a last taste of the island before you fly home.
The Mill House
1670 Honoapiilani Hwy., Waikapu
A relative newcomer to Maui, the Mill House debuted two years ago in the rural Waikapu Valley. The restaurant sources most ingredients (avocados, carrots, fennel, papaya) from its own sixty-acre plantation or from nearby farms, so expect to be blown away by the vibrant flavors. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the locally caught mahi-mahi or snapper.
69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr., Waikoloa
Chef Roy Yamaguchi is a Hawaiian legend, with a corresponding empire of restaurants scattered across all the islands (Eating House 1849 in Kauai, etc.). This outpost is one of his classics, and is ideal if you're all-in for a tasting menu or have something to celebrate. It's exactly what one would expect from a fancier version of island food: Macadamia nut encrusted fish, baby back ribs done with Szechuan-style sauce, and a famous chocolate soufflé. It can get loud and noisy, so not always the best choice if you want to have an intimate conversation.
578 Hinano St., Hilo
There are only about 8 seats at Chef Igarashi's sushi bar, and you will have to line up for them (reservations book up months in advance). Igarashi focuses on perfect, incredible fresh sashimi and sushi—that he doesn't dress up with much beyond rice, wasabi, and shoyu—in short, get the omakase.
77-6400 Nalani St., Kailua-Kona
An excellent French restaurant seems unlikely on the Big Island of Hawaii, but La Bourgogne is exactly that: So when you've tired of poke and pork head here. It sits in a very unassuming building on the side of the highway in Kailua-Kona, but the menu is anything but: Very French options like frog legs and escargots are balanced by more accessible options like baked brie, lobster salad, and a really good filet mignon.
Moon & Turtle
51 Kalakaua St., Hilo
Earning rave reviews for its daily changing, farm-to-table, ocean-to-table small plates, this sweet little spot justifies a trip if you're not staying in Hilo (also consider a stop here for dinner on your way back from Volcanos National Park). The plates are truly inventive, blending the best of Hawaiian ingredients with Asian flavors, and they always sell the best of what's available, which translates to only having enough for a few of some plates. (The chef-owner Mark Pomaski got his training from Roy Yamaguchi, so the mastery makes sense.) Make reservations, though you can usually grab seats at the bar.