62-100 Mauna Kea Beach Dr., Waimea
A perfect café on the sand, Hau Tree at the Mauna Kea has all the things you want a beachside café to have—club sandwiches and fries and ceviche. But they also know their customers, which is why they also offer smoothies and a superfood salad. No matter what you order, make sure to order dessert. The Ovaltine Froth is legendary—and exactly what kids want before they dash back into the water.
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.
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.
The Fish and the Hog
64-957 Mamalahoa Hwy., Waimea
While an excellent barbecue joint might seem unlikely in Hawaii, considering the island's natural predilection for pork, as well as Waimea's reputation as a "paniolo" town (i.e. cowboy), The Fish and the Hog makes perfect sense. What's fun is that you can get pulled pork, beef brisket, and all the requisite sides (their Crackseed, Hawaiian-inspired sauce with Chinese plum is not to be missed), you can also get super fresh poke and delicious, chili dusted calamari.
65-1227 Opelo Rd., Waimea
Peter Merriman was one of the pioneers of the local food scene in Hawaii—he was at the forefront of efforts to grow vegetables in the local volcanic soils, so they could be eaten fresh (rather than after a lengthy journey on a boat). Today, he partners with local farmers to serve his three restaurants, and there’s one each on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. The dining room and menu are dressed up without being overly stuffy, so it’s ideal for a nicer family or group outing. Try the upcountry salad (made with kale and butter lettuce from local farms), the fresh-caught mahi mahi, and vegetarian taro cake.