Restaurant review: Keei Cafe

Keei Cafe Front
Photo credit: HawaiianIslands.com

Keei Cafe is a family owned restaurant specializing in American-Hawaiian fusion dishes. Located in Kealakekua, this restaurant has been a local favorite since 1995. It was originally in Honaunau but has been at its current address since 2005.

The owners source as much of their menu from local ingredients to prepare creative and delicious dishes with nightly specials.

Keei Cafe is currently open 5pm-9pm, Tues-Sat. We arrived on a weekday in the early evening. The restaurant was almost empty and we didn’t have to wait for a table. There is easy parking around the back of the restaurant.

There are plenty of tables and plenty of airflow. There is a separate dining area for large groups and smaller tables on a balcony area facing the highway. On the evening we were there a musical duo were playing – unfortunately, this combined with the wooden floors and more diners, meant there was quite a lot of noise and it did reduce the enjoyment of the space somewhat.

The menu

The menu is a mix of American-Hawaiian flavors. Choose from appetizers like eggplant rolls, ahi poke nachos and baked brie. As well as salads with locally grown ingredients there are pork chops, seafood pasta and spicy fajitas. Dessert options include, warm tropical bread pudding and warm macadamia nut pie.

What we ordered

(Above) Vegetarian Black Bean Soup. A hearty housemade soup topped with sour cream and fresh salsa. Served with a warm tortilla ($8.95).

(Above) Caprese Salad. Local vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella slices, tender basil leaves, sweet maui onions drizzled in extra virgin olive oil, and our housemade balsamic reduction glaze ($10.95)

(Above) Roasted Half Chicken. Experience Keei Cafe’s yellow Thai curry sauce or white wine peppercorn gravy, with your choice of white or brown rice, whipped potatoes & a vegetable medley ($25.95).

(Above) Cioppino-Fisherman’s Stew. An assortment of fresh seafood including mussels, shrimp, scallops, squid, and fresh fish in a rich tomato/white wine broth. Served with crusty bread ($13.95).

(Above) Pasta Primavera. Your choice of chicken or tofu with sauteed vegetables, smothered in a basil pesto or marinara sauce and topped with grated parmesan cheese ($21.95).

Keei Cafe 15

(Above) Warm Lava Flow. Rich chocolate flourless cake with a molten chocolate center. Served with seasonal sauce, chocolate and caramel drizzle ($7.95).

Keei Cafe was a relaxing dining experience, however it did get a little loud with the musical duo’s performance. Our dishes were tasty, although the vegetarian black bean soup was lacking in flavor. Overall Keei Cafe is the perfect spot for dinner in Kealakekua.

Keei Cafe

79-7511 Mamalahoa Highway

Kealakekua

Hawaii 96750

Ph. 808 322 9992

Hours: Tues-Sat, 5pm – 9pm (closed Sun-Mon)

https://www.opentable.com/keei-cafe

Authored by

Restaurant review: Rebel Kitchen

Rebel Kitchen specializes in Hawaiian-inspired burgers, sandwiches & salads. They also make their own range of hot sauces which are sold on site. 

Located in the heart of Kainaliu, Rebel Kitchen has a community feel. The owners source as much of their food as possible from local suppliers. They also use eco friendly food packing products where possible.

Rebel Kitchen is currently only open 11-5pm, Tues-Sat. As a result, it’s primarily a lunch spot. We arrived on a weekday in the early afternoon. The restaurant was almost empty and we didn’t have to wait for a table. Kainaliu is a small collection of restaurants, second-hand stores, galleries and other shops on Mamalahoa Highway not far from Kealakekua. There is a usually easy parking in front of the restaurant.

There are plenty of tables and plenty of airflow in an area that is essentially an enclosed patio. There is also seating at the bar.

The menu

The menu is a mix of classic American staples infused with local Hawaiian flavors. Pupu’s (Hawaiian for appetizers) include – nacho steak fries (fries topped with slices of ribeye steak), Hawaiian Fire Wings (deep fried wings in their homemade hot sauce) and Cuban Rolls (pork, ham and cheese rolled in a wonton and deep fried!). Items on their salad menu include – Thai steak salad, BBQ chicken salad and a grilled vegetable salad. Why not try their local grass fed beef patty burgers, or a pulled pork sandwich. They also have a number of specialty dishes including an ono and shrimp dish, cajun pasta, and a creamy veggie pasta. All the buns used in the burgers and sandwiches are freshly made on the premises!

What we ordered

(Above) Blackened ono sandwich. Crispy blackened ono topped with lettuce, tomato and onion on a homemade bun ($14.75). Served with a spicy pineapple coleslaw (red cabbage, onion, peppers, pineapple topped with homemade sauce).

(Above) BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich. Pulled pork in a tangy spicy BBQ sauce topped with lettuce, tomato and onion on a homemade bun ($13.99). Served with a potato salad (a mustard-based salad with red potato, onions, peppers, olives and pickles.

Rebel Kitchen was a relaxed dining experience. The food was delicious and the homemade sauces were very tasty. This local favorite is the perfect spot for lunch when you find yourself in the Kainaliu/Kealakekua area.

Rebel Kitchen

79-7399 Hawai’i Belt Rd (aka Mamalahoa Hwy)

Kealakekua

Hawaii 96750

Ph. 808 322-0616

Hours: Tues-Sat, 11am-5pm (closed Sun-Mon)

http://rebelkitchen.com

Authored by

Restaurant review: Izakaya Shiono

Izakaya Shiono is a sushi and Japanese resturarant, serving fresh fish dishes with locally sourced fish, all prepared by experienced Japanese chefs.

We arrived on a weekday in the early afternoon. The restaurant was about half-full and we didn’t have to wait long for a table.

Izakaya Shinono’s is in the same district as Kona Brewing Company, Umeke’s Fish Market Bar and Grill, and right next door to HiCO (Hawaiian Coffee). There is a parking lot behind the restaurant that serves a number of local restaurants.

There is outdoor seating alongside the restaurant, and also a separate patio area where we found a table in the shade.

The menu

The menu is a mix of sushi, ramen and tempura. We decided to order off the lunch menu and had one main dish with a side of miso soup (included).

What we ordered

(Above). Sushi Nigiri Set – unagi cucumber ($20.50). The unagi was delicious and the sushi was excellent. Extremely tasty!

(Above). Sushi Nigiri Set – Spicy Tuna ($20.50). It was the perfect amount of tuna and the flavors were wonderful.

Unfortunately, the miso soup could have been a little hotter but this is a small complaint. The service was great, the sushi was exceptionally good, and the fish tasty and fresh.

Izakaya Shiono sources the freshest locally caught fish as well as importing the best fish from Japan. Note: the restaurant uses Tamaki Gold Koshihikari, which is considered by many to be the best short-grain rice in the world. All very good reasons to visit Izakaya Shiono for some of the best Japanese on the Big Island.

Izakaya Shiono

74-5599 Pawai Place B4 & B5

Kailua-Kona

Hawaii 96740

Ph. 808 657 4388

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm

https://www.sushishiono.com/izakaya-shiono/

Authored by

Restaurant review: Teshima’s Restaurant

Teshima’s Restaurant has become a firm favorite among locals and tourists on the Kona Coast. Located in Kainaliu, just south of Kona, they serve a mix of simple Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. We stopped in for lunch, early on a weekday.

We arrived at Teshima’s on Monday morning at 11:30am in time for an early lunch. Surprisingly it was already busy, but we didn’t have to wait long for a table.

Teshima’s is next to the Buddhist temple at the juncture of the old and the new Mamalahoa Highway. There is parking in front of the restaurant and also in the parking lot directly to the right of the building (in the direction of the gas station).

There is plenty of seating inside, with a mix of booths and tables.

The interior has been nicely decorated and is spacious with large ceiling fans. They do not take reservations but they do accept take-out orders and serve alcohol.

The menu

The menu is an eclectic mix of Japanese and Hawaiian. From traditional Japanese dishes, like sashimi, sukiyaki and shrimp tempura to Hawaiian dishes like ‘Kona Up-Country’ Chop Steak, homemade corned beef hash patties and Kona Coast fried ahi.

What we ordered

(Above). Beef Teriyaki with miso soup and rice ($17.99)

(Above). No. 1 Teishoku – Miso soup, sashimi, sukiyaki, tsukemono, sunomono, rice ($17.99)

(Above). Sakura Tray (Mondays only).  Sushi, beef teriyaki, fried fish, sashimi and served with rice, miso soup, tsukemono, suomono and hot green tea ($17.99)

Service was quick, friendly and efficient. The dishes we had were delicious, and the flavors simple. The range of Japanese dishes isn’t as extensive as a dedicated Japanese restaurant (there are only a couple of sushi options on the menu) but the Hawaiian dishes are very popular with the locals.

Make sure you check out this local institution when you’re next in Kainaliu.

Teshima's Restaurant

Teshima's Restaurant Hawaii

79-7251 Mamalahoa Highway

Kealakekua

Hawaii 96750

Ph. 808 322 9140

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm

https://www.teshimarestaurant.com

Authored by

Safe sunscreens for Hawaii: 5 zinc oxide & reef-safe sunscreens from worst to best

I tested a number of mineral zinc oxide sunscreens in order to find out what works the best, doesn’t leave a thick white residue, is easy to apply, and most importantly is good for the environment.

I tested 5 different sunscreens and rated and reviewed these from worst to best.

My skin type

I have a Scottish/New Zealand background and as a result my skin is extremely fair. I burn easily and do not tan (at least not naturally!). I was looking for a sunscreen that was going to meet the guidelines being set by the state of Hawaii in regards to the marine environment and the coral reef, and that would also work for my skin type.

Nano and non-nano oxide explained

Nano sunscreens refer to those that contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide which have been broken down into nanoparticles. This means that you get the sun protection without the residue often found in non-nano sunscreens (the bigger particles that reflect the sun’s rays more easily). There are concerns over the safely of nanoparticles if inhaled (see research by the Environmental Working Group, EWG, and also the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens).

Does this mean that nanoparticles can be absorbed into the body? Research suggests this NOT to be the case (see research by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration).

If you are still cautious you might consider using sunscreens which are non-nano. Please note, there is no agreed upon threshold for what differentiates nano from non-nano, so some claims can be misleading.

5. Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen SPF 50

Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen is SPF 50 with up to 80 minutes water resistance. It contains no fragrance, phthalates or parabens. It contains 25% zinc, as well as 7 Hawaii-grown antioxidant ingredients. These ingredients include, kukui, macadamia, noni, spirulina and plumeria.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: The lotion is a noticeably thicker than some of the other products we tested and I found it was harder to apply as a result. There was a noticeable residue on application, although it did eventually fade. There is also a faint natural scent due to the additional natural ingredients, which wasn’t overpowering but for those looking for something completely unscented they may want to reconsider using this brand. It was also difficult to rinse off my hands and left a greasy residue.

Rating: 5.5/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

4. Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF50

Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face sunscreen is SPF 50 (water resistant for up to 80 minutes) and contains 12% zinc oxide. It is formulated with zinc and prebiotics as well as vitamin E.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: The lotion is light and application was easy. There is some white residue but it fades quickly and there is no scent or oily texture.

Rating: 7.5/10 for performance of this product BUT downgraded to 3/10 for the reasons below.

Cruelty Free: No, Cetaphil is not a cruelty-free skincare brand. Even though they claim to not test on animals, they choose to sell in a country (China) that requires imported cosmetics to be tested on animals.

Vegan: Cetaphil is not considered to be vegan because they test their products or ingredients on animals, or allow others to do so on their behalf.

Non-nano: No

3. ThinkSport SPF 50 Sunscreen

ThinkSport sunscreen SPF 50 is a non-nano mineral zinc oxide sunscreen. It contains hyaluronic acid which attracts moisture for added hydration, and also vitamin E which helps to condition the skin.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: This lotion is quite thick but was easy to apply to the skin. There is definitely a white residue left behind but this does fade somewhat, though it will make you look noticeably paler. It was also difficult to wash off my hands and does seem to have a greasy base to it.

Rating: 7/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

2. Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen SPF30

This organic certified natural mineral sunscreen contains no synthetic chemicals. It contains sunflower oil, cocoa butter and vitamin E among other nourishing antioxidant ingredients. It contains 23% zinc oxide and offers SPF 30 protection.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: This product is thicker than the others we tested but I loved the way this feels. It goes on smoothly, most likely due to the sunflower oil and cocoa butter ingredients, and does not leave a white residue. Despite it feeling thick (it’s a little tougher getting it out of the tube) it doesn’t feel thick on the skin.

Rating: 8/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

1. Native Mineral Face Lotion Unscented SPF30

Native specializes in creating products that are as free of chemicals as possible. Their range of sunscreen includes the Mineral Face Lotion. This product contains 20% zinc oxide, and advertises itself as absorbing quickly, with no residue as well as being lightweight and non-greasy.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: Definitely lives up to the description. The lotion is lightweight and not all greasy. It absorbed quickly and did not leave a white residue that is common with zinc oxide-based sunscreens. We also tried the body sunscreen which was slightly thicker but just as non-greasy. The face lotion contains avocado oil which gives it a lighter consistency.

Rating: 8.5/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

 

The Native Mineral Face Lotion was the clear winner. It is light and non-greasy and doesn’t leave a white residue. It’s also non-nano, cruelty-free and vegan. The Raw Elements Sunscreen was the runner-up, some might find it on the thicker side however it does go on smoothly.

(*** NOTE: the opinions expressed in this review are our own and we have not been sponsored or paid in any way to promote any of the brands mentioned above ***)

Check out our blog on why reef-safe sunscreen is so important.

Authored by

Reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii and why it matters

Kealakekua-Bay-HI
Kealakekua Bay. Photo credit: dolphin discoveries.com

Ingredients in sunscreen having been doing damage to the coral reefs in Hawaii for years. These chemicals cause damage to the DNA of the coral, resulting in deformities, bleaching and sometimes even the death of the coral itself.

What's in the sunscreen that causes the damage?

Coral bleaching Hawaii
Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

In January, 2021 SB2571 came into effect in the state of Hawaii. This bill banned the sale of any sunscreen that contained oxybenzone or octinoxate (unless prescribed by a healthcare provider). The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources had banned the use of these sunscreens a year earlier in Kealakekua Bay. This specifically targeted the tour boats that operate in the bay every day.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are both FDA-approved compounds and are present in approximately 80% of all sunscreens. 

Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biolog

Sunscreens that also contain petrolatum, also known as mineral oil, often take years to biodegrade and are also harmful to marine life.

Titanium Oxide does not easily biodegrade either – in fact it reacts to warm water by forming hydrogen peroxide which causes damage to marine life. However, reef-safe sunscreen that contain low concerntrations of the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide are considered safe.

Environmental Impacts

Coral reefs in the Hawaiian Islands are flooded with 6,000 tonnes of sunscreen every year. 

It doesn’t take much to cause harm to the coral reef. Only a very small amount of oxybenzone (the equivalent of one drop of water into an area the size of 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools) can cause harm. Unfortunately, testing has revealed that some Hawaiian beaches show levels 10 times that amount.

Impact from sunscreen chemicals is only one factor among many causing ongoing damage to marine environments. Ocean acidification, water pollution and rising sea temperatures are all causing systemic problems to the ecosystem.

More changes ahead

In January 2023, a new law will ban the sale of sunscreen containing the ingredients avobenzone or octocrylene.

Maui has also passed a law which will come into effect October 1st, 2022 which will ban all non-mineral sunscreens.

What can you do to help?

Photo credit: Cindy Ellen Russel / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Make a concerted effort to buy reef-safe sunscreen. Look for the label on all certified sunscreens. Alternatively, try to reduce your reliance on sunscreens:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10am – 2pm
  • Use an umbrella
  • Wear a sunhat
  • Wear UV-protected sunglasses
  • Wear sun shirts and other UV protecting clothes where possible

The following are a list of some of the available reef-safe sunscreens in Hawaii:

  • Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian
  • SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
  • Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
  • Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
  • Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)
  • Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Check out our sunscreen review! We test and rate five different sunscreens. 

Make sure you buy reef-safe sunscreen and do your part to reducing the human impact on the fragile coral reefs and the larger Hawaiian marine ecosystem.  

Authored by

Restaurant review: Black Rock Pizza

Black Rock Pizza has become a favorite with locals and tourists. Located in the center of Captain Cook they make a large array of delicious pizzas and tasty salads, plus they have local beer on tap. We stopped by for an early dinner.

We arrived at Black Rock Pizza on a late Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was in a languid quiet phase before the dinner rush.

Black Rock is opposite ChoiceMart on Mamalahoa Highway with a small number of parking spaces directly outside the restaurant as well as adequate parking on a nearby side street.

The interior has been nicely remodeled and there is plenty of seating inside as well as outside in front. But of you want to sit outside (but not look directly onto the highway) there is also a spacious lanai at the rear with views of the ocean.

The outside seating is a big plus when it comes to remaining socially distant from other patrons when eating out, and enjoying the late afternoon breeze. We grabbed a table at the far end with a great view.

The menu

Black Rock has an extensive menu of pizzas and salads (they even do dessert – check out their cannoli) and they make their own special sauces. We ordered the Veggie Head (red sauce, spinach,  mozzarella, red onion, eggplant, zucchini, artichoke, roasted red peppers, black olive) in medium size, and the BBQ chicken (Kiawe Mango BBQ, chicken, bacon, red onion, roasted red peppers and smoked mozzarella) also in medium. They also serve wine and local beer on tap (from the Kona Brewing Company and the Ola Brewing Company).

What we ordered

(Above) Veggie Head ($20) – the pizza was delicious. The crust was just the right thickness, not too thick and not too thin. The sauce was great, and the combination of veggies was extremely tasty.

(Above) BBQ Chicken ($22) – The BBQ sauce was delicious and the chicken was crispy. Great flavor combinations.

The medium-sized (12″) pizza was a lot of pizza for one person and we both agreed that next time the 8″ pizza would have been just the right amount. Having said that, we ate every slice and were well-satisfied!

Service was quick, friendly and efficient. Black Rock Pizza also has an option to pickup uncooked pizzas so you can take them home and bake them in the oven (which might be a good option if you’re far from home). Best to call ahead if you want to pickup during the busy dinner rush. Check out their menu here.

Black Rock Pizza

82-6127 Mamalahoa Highway

Captain Cook

Hawaii 96704

Ph. 808 238 0571

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm

https://www.blackrock.pizza

Authored by

The Big Island from the air: helicopter and fixed-wing tours

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Photo credit: volcanotours.com

What could be better than seeing the Big Island from the air! There are a number of options when it comes to helicopter and fixed-wing tours of the island.

Book a tour and get a better idea of the natural landscapes on the island, see the volcano from a unique perspective, or perhaps create your own custom tour of the island.

1. Paradise Helicopters

Circle Island Private Helicopter Tour in the Big Island (Paradise Helicopters)
Photo credit: paradisecopters.com

Paradise Helicopters is Hawaii’s largest locally owned and operated helicopter company and is committed to caring for the local community – you have the option of offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight via the planting of native and endemic trees. They even hold a sustainable tourism certification! 

Choose from a large number of different tour packages depending on the location of the airport (they have offices at Kona, Waimea and Hilo airports).

Selected tours include:

  • Circle Island Experience Tour – the tour starts at Kona airport and heads south over the Kona Coast coffee district, over the western slopes of Mauna Loa to the southern tip of the island, before heading for Kīlauea Volcano, Hilo and then the Kohala valleys and waterfalls. ($795 per person – 2 hours).
  • Kohala Coast Waterfalls & Remote Hike – explore the Kohala valleys and hover over huge waterfalls. At the halfway point the helicopter will land at a remote location and you’ll enjoy a short hike in the forest. ($564 per person – 1 hour plus 45-60 mins hike).
  • Experience Hawaii – explore all five volcanoes, fly over the island’s amazing beaches, valleys and coastlines. Departs from Kona, and heads south to the volcano before skirting the Kohala Coast ($725 per person – flight time varies).

For more information paradisecopters.com

EcoTourismCertified_anpwta
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

2. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Big-Island-Heli
Photo credit: bigislandhelicoptertours.com

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is known as one of the premier aerial tour operators on the island. Super quiet, eco-star helicopters and knowledgeable pilots make for a great experience. 

Blue Hawaiian offer three main tours of the island:

  • Big Island Spectacular – Get a bigger picture of the island with this island tour. You’ll see tropical rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and of course the volcano ($649 per person, 1 hour 45 minutes). There’s also an option to add a waterfall landing. Departs from Waikoloa.
  • Circle of Fire – Take in the amazing Hawaii Volcano National Park and experience Kīlauea in all its beauty ($369 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Hilo.
  • Kohala Coast Adventure – Explore the breathtaking Kohala coast on the island’s northwest. Stunning sea cliffs, Waipi’o Valley, and the dramatic valleys of the Kohala Mountains make this an amazing experience ($359 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Waikoloa.

Got something else in mind? Why not book a private charter! Create your own itinerary ($3200 per hour).

For more information bluehawaiian.com

bluehawaiian
Photo credit: bluehawaiian.com

3. Safari Helicopters

Photo credit: safarihelicopters.com

Top rated by Trip Advisor, Safari Helicopters has been operating since 1987. They fly tours on the Big Island and on Kauai. 

They have just one tour on the Big Island and that’s the Volcanoes National Park & Waterfalls Safari. This tour takes in the park and the amazing waterfalls nearby (As low as $264 per person, check the website for the latest rates, 55 minutes).

Book as a private tour for $1450 and get better value per seat.

For more information safarihelicopters.com 

safari-helicopters
Photo credit: bigislandguide.com

4. Big Island Air Tours

big island air
Photo credit: bigislandair.com

Big Island Air has been operating fixed-wing tours of the Big Island for over 35 years. They use a Cessna P337H Spymaster which is air conditioned and pressurized. Every seat is a window seat and the plane holds three passengers, pilot and co-pilot.

There are four tours available to choose from:

  • Premier Island Tour – this tour takes in the entire island and departs daily from Kona Airport ($598 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Twilight Tour – Timed to take in the amazing Big Island sunset, this is a unique tour. Includes the volcano, valleys and coastline ($688 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Summits & Waterfalls Tour – This tour takes in the Kona Coast and heads first to Mauna Loa and the Volcano, before flying over Mauna Kea and then the Kohala Coast ($599.99 per person, 1 hour flight time).
If you’re in Maui you can also try the VIP Air Adventure tour. This tour takes in Maui and the Big Island before returning to Maui.
 
For more information bigislandair.com
 

Aerial tours are a great way to explore the island and for those wanting a close-up view of volcanic activity there is nothing better than a flight over the crater! 

Authored by

What to do in South Kona: Our top 5 attractions

South Kona has a charm of its own. We’ve compiled a list of our top 5 attractions so you can find out what makes this part of the island so special!

web1_Kainaliu-Kalikimaka_0044
Kainaliu Town. Photo credit: West Hawaii Today

South Kona is famous for its coffee plantations, spectacular snorkeling, one of the best ancient Hawaiian historic sites, and its arts community. Make sure you get your snorkeling in early – the light is better first thing, and you’ll beat the crowds, especially at popular snorkeling spot, Two Step. Later, head to a coffee farm, like Greenwell Farms, to find out how coffee is produced, shop locally in Kainaliu Town, or just relax by Kealakekua Bay or at a favorite local beach – Hoʻokena Beach Park.

1. Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge) & Two Step

royal-grounds
Royal Grounds. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

This well-preserved historic site is one of the best in the state. The park covers 420 acres and was once a safe haven for those seeking redemption for crimes or the breaking of certain taboos. Once they reached the boundary of Place of Refuge they were safe! The wall still stands and is awe-inspiring.

There’s lots to see at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau but if you’re stretched for time we’ve picked the highlights:

  1. The Great Wall – the wall measures 12 feet tall, 18 feet wide and over 950 feet long. Over 400 years old, the wall is constructed entirely using the dry-set masonry method (uhau humu pohaku) in which are stones fitted together without mortar. 
  2. Hale o Keawe – the main temple housing the bones of the 23 ali’i (chiefs). The temple is only able to be viewed from the outside, but it’s worth an up close visit to appreciate its mana.
  3. Pu’uhonua – take a walk past the Great Wall and into the Pu’uhonua itself. 
  4. Keone’ele – this sheltered cove in the Royal Grounds was only for the ali’i to land their canoes. Look out for turtles here, but make sure to keep a safe distance. 

For more information check out our in-depth blog post on the park here.

NPS Walsh
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

Two Step

Two Step Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislanddivers.com

Located just next door to Place of Refuge, is the amazing snorkeling spot known locally as Two Step. Two naturally-formed lava steps make entry into the water incredibly easy (hence the name two step). It’s mostly lava here, and not a lot of sand, but the snorkeling is easy, the currents non-existent and the parking is free. It can get busy here, so either try for first thing in the morning, or toward the end of the day. Alternatively, park in the national park next door and walk around to the bay (it’s an easy 5 minute walk).

Photo credit: Bigislandguide.com

2. Kealakekua Bay

Fair Wind Kealakakua Bay
Photo credit: fair-wind.com

The crown jewel of South Kona is undoubtedly Kealakekua Bay. This beautiful bay is part of a marine reserve and is home to beautiful coral and an amazing array of tropical fish. Dolphins are commonly seen here as they use the sheltered bay as a place to avoid predators and to sleep.

On the south side of the bay is Napoʻopoʻo Beach, a small beach where access to the water is easy, though there are no lifeguards and limited facilities. 

On the north side of the bay is Captain Cook’s Monument. To access the monument you’ll need to hike down from Napoʻopoʻo Road. Read more about this hike in our blog post about top hikes on the island here. The north side of the bay is where the best snorkeling is located and you’ll find that the tour boats typically congregate here.

There are tour operators offering snorkeling and kayaking tours, or you can rent kayaks yourself. This means you can kayak across the bay, and snorkel off the kayak (we’ve done it and we recommend this, especially if you aren’t keen on hiking down to, and back up from, Captain Cook’s monument).

Kealakekua Bay
Yellow Tang. Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com
Captain Cook trail Kona
Captain Cook Monument Trail. Photo credit: Lang Parker

3. Greenwell Farms

Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

Don’t miss out on the internationally famous Kona coffee! We always recommend Greenwell Farms if you’re looking to visit a local coffee producer (and there are many!). The Greenwell Family were crucial in the production of the very first commercial coffee in Kona. Take one of their frequent tours around the property (the tour lasts between 45-60 minutes) and then sample some free coffee afterwards. The gift shop is the perfect place to stock up on Kona coffee or take some back home as a gift. 

No reservations are needed for a tour. The farm is open daily for tours (9am-3pm).

For more details https://www.greenwellfarms.com

Greenwell Farms Hawaii
Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

4. Kainaliu Town

Kainaliu Town Hawaii
Kainaliu Town. Photo credit: thisldu.com

Kainaliu Town is the first town you’ll come across when you head south from Kailua-Kona. It consists of a small stretch of both old stores, that have storied histories, and the new – including clothing boutiques and galleries. The Aloha Theatre is also located in Kainaliu, so keep a lookout for their regular productions and you might be able to catch a show. Stop for a bite to eat at Rebel Kitchen, a local institution. Stretch your legs in Kainaliu and get a feel for small-town Hawaii!

Aloha Theatre Kainaliu
Aloha Theatre. Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

5. Hoʻokena Beach Park

The Hoʻokena Beach Park is located at the end of a 2.5 mile road that winds through classic Hawaiian ranch country. This coastal settlement has quite a history. In its heyday it used to be a bustling port town for steamships. It had its own post office as well as a number of stores. 

The beach park itself is now managed by a non-profit and is a local favorite. The sand is a mix of dark brown and gray, and a stretch of cliffs line one side of the beach. Swimming and snorkeling are both easy to do here. Facilities include showers and toilets. You can even camp nearby. Find out more on our blog post about the beach park here.

Authored by

Restaurant review: Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill

Umekes restaurant has become a Kona favorite with locals and tourists. Their menu is a mix of traditional Hawaiian cuisine made with the best in local ingredients – with their own special twist.

We arrived at Umekes for lunch at 1pm on an overcast Wednesday and the restaurant was already a hive of activity. They don’t accept reservations online, instead when you arrive you check in via tablet setup outside and they send you a message when your table is ready (there is a seating area out front).

Umekes is situated in Pawai Place in Kona in what is quickly becoming a vibrant restaurant precinct. Beside Umekes is Willie’s Hot Chicken and HiCo Hawaiian Coffee, while across the road is the popular Kona Brewing Co.

Located in the courtyard of Umekes is a small stage where bands play live music in the evenings, Thursday through Saturday. Check the calendar on their website for more details on what’s on.

There is plenty of seating inside and as well as outside – which is covered. The outside seating is a big plus when it comes to remaining socially distant from other patrons when eating out.

The menu

Umekes has an extensive menu and prides itself on serving dishes using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible. Meat and produce are sourced from local fisherman, farmers and ranchers. 

The restaurant is famous for its poke bowls (umeke is Hawaiian for bowl), like its spicy aioli with Hawaiian salt & onions or creamy avocado, with Hawaiian salt & onions and avocado aioli.

What we ordered

Umekes Fish Tacos ($24) – three cajun grilled (or tempura fried – we chose grilled) ahi tacos with avocado, pineapple lomi salsa, cabbage slaw, crispy fried onions and garlic aioli in a flour tortilla. 

The fish was delicious, and grilled to perfection. This might be a dish to share as they were three good-sized tacos, and one of us couldn’t quite get through them all!

Korean Chicken ($20) – Boneless deep fried chicken tossed in a sweet and savory Korean sauce.

Generous servings and the verdict on this dish? Delicious!

Umekes Kona Hawaii

Seared Ahi Caesar ($20) – Crisp baby romaine tossed in house caesar dressing with fresh blackened ahi and crispy wonton strips.

Perfectly seared ahi and a generous amount of salad.

Service was quick, friendly and efficient. Umekes also offers a unique fishing experience. Choose from a number of different packages that include a boat trip and then a dinner afterward in which your catch is cooked the way you want it! For more information on how it all works click here.

Umekes
Vege Stir Fry ($18)

Tofu and seasonal veggies stir fried in our house teriyaki sauce in a crispy lumpia basket.

Update: August 2022

We went back for lunch and tried out some of the other items on the menu. We chose the ono for the fish and chips and it was perfectly done.

Umekes 3
Fish and Chips ($17)

Beer Battered and Deep Fried Fresh Catch with our Homemade Furikake Rémoulade & Fries.

Umekes
Seared Ahi Caesar salad ($20) and Poke Lettuce Cups ($18)

Update: November 2022

We went back for lunch. This time we chose the Big Boy Plate and Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs.

Boneless Ribs
Boneless Kalbi Short Ribs ($24)

Tender beef braised in a Korean sauce, garnished with green onion and sesame seeds. The beef was a bit on the dry side but the sauce helped.

Big Boy Plate ($25)

The Big Boy plate is your choice of two poke sides and two salad sides with your choice of white or brown rice. I chose the Ho’io salad and the Lomi Lomi salmon side, to go with the ‘Da Ava’ poke and the ‘Sweetie’ poke selections. Good flavors – though there is quite a lot of sauce used for the poke which does tend to overshadow the flavor of the fish itself.

Umekes Fish Market Bar & Grill

74-5599 Pawai Place

Kailua-Kona

Hawaii 96740

Ph. 808 238 0571

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-9pm

https://www.umekesrestaurants.com

Authored by