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

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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 ***)

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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

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.  

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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

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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! 

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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.

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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)

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

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The Kukui Nut Tree: The State Tree of Hawaii

Can you identify the state tree of Hawaii? Hint: it’s not a palm tree. It’s the Kukui Nut Tree. This tree is widespread throughout the Hawaiian Islands and plays an important part in Hawaiian culture and mythology. The Kukui nut has a wide variety of uses including medicinal.

Where did it come from?

When the Polynesians first arrived in the Hawaiian Islands they brought with them the seeds of the Kukui tree, stowed away in their canoes. In 1959 it became the official state tree of Hawaii. 

The many uses of the Kukui nut tree

The Kukui nut

The Kukui nut itself is perhaps the most prized part of the tree. Ancient Hawaiians used the oil derived from the nuts to coat fishing nets, while the outer shells were used in the process of creating natural dyes for tattoos. The oil could also be used as a dressing for treating sore muscles, burns, or other skin complaints. The oil is often an ingredient in soaps, candles, lotions, and even as an oil for surfboards!

Known elsewhere as the Candlenut tree, ancient Hawaiians would burn Kukui nuts in order to use them like candles. Nuts were strung along the middle section of a coconut palm frond, then lit and burnt one at a time. Because each nut burns for approximately 15 minutes, ancient Hawaiians were able to use them to measure time. 

The nuts can also be roasted and the inside of the nut turned into a spice called inamona. This spice is still used in traditional poke recipes. Depending on how the inside of the nut is consumed it can also be used as a laxative(!).

Kukui nuts are also used to create leis by stringing together a collection of nuts. The nuts are sanded, then buffed and polished until either dark brown, black or even white. The leis are often worn by hula dancers, or exchanged by couples during marriage ceremonies. 

lei_kukui
Photo credit: geckofarms.com
The rest of the Kukui Nut Tree

The wood from the Kukui tree was used to make canoes. The trunk of the Kukui needs to be waterproofed before it’s ocean-ready and Kukui nut oil is perfect for this purpose. The roots are even used as part of the process to make black paint which was traditionally used to decorate canoes or tapa cloth. 

The Kukui nut tree can grow up to 80 feet in height, often in an oval shape. The leaves themselves have a distinct pattern, often having three or five lobes (projections of the blade of the leaf with the gaps between them).

Can I eat a Kukui nut?

Since the nut has laxative properties, it’s not recommended that you eat a Kukui nut. It functions more as an ingredient in spice, rather than something to be consumed on its own.

Hawaiian mythology

In Hawaiian mythology Kamapua’a was a wild demi-god, half pig and half man, able to change from one to the other. The kukui tree is known as a kinolau – the physical embodiment of Kamapua’a. You’ll find that if you fold a kukui leaf in half along the stem, the leaf appears in the shape of a boar head. 

The Kukui trees are among the first trees you’ll see on arrival at Horizon Guest House. Look out for them as you drive up the first section of the driveway from the gate – they line either side of the driveway.

Kukui Nut Tree Big Island

The Kukui nut tree was not only an important source of wood for canoes but the nut, and its many uses, became an integral part of ancient Hawaiian life.

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Visit Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau Place of Refuge

Love Big Island Haloe O Keawe
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

Find out what makes Pu’uhonua o Honaunau such a special site on the Big Island of Hawaii. From history to architecture, this is a must-see attraction!

1. Royal grounds

In ancient Hawaiʻi the Royal Grounds were considered the center of power. Within the grounds is the main temple (heiau) where the bones of over 20 chiefs (ali’i) were buried. This gave the temple a special kind of spiritual power, known in Hawaiian as mana. Next to the Royal Grounds is the Pu’uhonua. This area became a place of refuge for those who violated kapu, the sacred laws and beliefs by which all Hawaiians adhered to at the time.

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

2. Breaking kapu & the Pu'uhonua

Kapu could be broken in a variety of different ways. These might include the following transgressions:

  • a woman eats with a man
  • fish is caught out of season
  • a commoner disrespects an ali’i (chief)

For these type of violations you could face the death penalty, unless you were able to escape your captors, get to the coast and then swim to the Pu’uhonua (the area of land bordered by the Great Wall and the coastline). Once there you could seek forgiveness for your crime by being absolved by the priest. 

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The Great Wall. Photo credit: NPS

The Pu’uhonua also had other uses. During war it became a place for children, elders, and those not fighting, to seek refuge. For those warriors who were defeated in battle they could also seek shelter and sanctuary until it was time to return home. Kapu officially ended in 1819 and with it the tradition of seeking sanctuary at Pu’uhonua Hōnaunau.

3. Chiefly power

The Royal Grounds were the gathering place for local chiefs to meet, hold ceremonies and negotiate during times of war. They also engaged in games like kōnane (a board game) and he’e hōlua (sled riding). Priests were also consulted by the chiefs in times of need.  

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

What to see

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. 
Love Big Island Pu-uhonua-o-Hōnaunau-National-Historical-Park-map
Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

What you need to know

Place of Refuge NPS
Aerial view of Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau. Photo credit: NPS

Where is it? Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is located in South Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i. To get there, take Mamalahoa Highway (Hwy. 11) to Kea Ala o Keawe Road (Hwy. 160) between mile marker 103 and 104. Follow Hwy. 160 down to the bottom, the turn off for the park entrance will be on your left.

The visitor center is open daily and there’s lots to do – why not try taking a self-guided tour, attend a ranger program, or walk the 1871 trail to Ki’ilae Village (a 2.25 mile roundtrip hike through ancient sites – including volcanic features). 

Love Big Island 1871 Trail looking north toward the Pu'uhonua, Keanae'e Cliffs to the right
1871 Trail looking north toward the Pu'uhonua, Keanae'e Cliffs to the right. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

Visiting Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau is a great way in gain insight into life in ancient Hawai’i. Make sure you include this national park on your travel itinerary!

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Big day out: renting a boat and exploring the Kona Coast

What could be better than cruising along the Kona Coast? We took the plunge. We rented a boat from Kona Boat Rentals for the day to find out how it works, what it costs and, crucially, is it worth it?

Big day out

We all arrived at the parking lot in front of Kona Boat Rentals at 9am sharp to find that two of our friends couldn’t make it, so the group of 6 was now reduced to 4. We had originally booked a six person boat, but quickly found that while it could easily accommodate 6 people, it was very spacious with just 4. 

After a comprehensive orientation and question and answer session with Eric we were ready to go – some of us more nervous than others, but who could resist the calm inviting waters of the harbor as we gently motored out toward the ocean.

Kona Boat rental 3
Clem and Angus
Kona Boat rental 3a
Leaving the harbor

What to bring

We all packed an assortment of snacks, lunch and plenty of water. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses (reflection off the ocean can be intense), and a sweater – just in case you get chilled.

Each boat comes with the following:

  • GPS & charts of the coast
  • Directions to locations of interest
  • Snorkeling and fishing equipment.
  • Fishing Gear: Penn Rods & Reels, Fishfinder, Lures, Fighting Belt, Leader Gloves, Fish Bat & Gaff
  • Snorkel Gear: Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Boarding Ladder/Swim Step (Scuba gear is available).
  • Each boat also has electronics: Global Positioning Satellite Receiver (GPS), VHF radio, Tri-Beam Fish finder and Depth Gauge.
  • Anchor, mooring & dock lines and fenders. All Coast Guard required and inspected equipment.
  • Detailed Charts with GPS coordinates for over 30 moorings sites located along the Kona Coast.
  • Captains, Guides, and Scuba Instructors are available for hire with 48-hour notice.

     

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Out in the open ocean!

Heading north

Most boat renters make the decision to head south, in the direction of Kealakekua Bay and the well-known snorkeling hotspot. We decided to venture north towards Makalawena Beach, a white sandy beach just south of Kua Bay (read about our recent hiking trip to Makalawena Beach here).

We had rented the boat for 6 hours, giving us plenty of time to explore the coast, drop anchor somewhere picturesque and have lunch before returning to Kona.

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Makalawena Beach with Hualalai in the background

After a smooth journey north we dropped the anchor (making sure to drop it into the sand and not the coral reef) and jumped in the water. We were careful not to get too close to shore due to the currents. Snorkeling is also possible in this location and the water is incredibly clear.

Kona from the sea

Kona Boat rental 9

After lunch we still had plenty of ocean-going time on the clock so we headed south past the harbor to Kona, cruising along the waterfront  and enjoying a very different perspective of Old Kona and the downtown area.

Kona Boat rental 8

So far none of us were sea sick – the Kona waters were living up to their reputation for being relatively calm and easy to navigate, and we all took turns at the wheel. There wasn’t time to include a further trip to Kealakekua Bay – we recommend deciding which direction to head and work out your timing based no that. Make sure you allow plenty of time for your return journey.

Back to the harbor

A day spent on the boat went incredibly quickly and it was soon time to head back to the harbor and get used to walking on dry land again! Once we reached the outer buoy near the harbor entrance we called Eric, and by the time we reached the dock he was waiting with the trailer to bring us in. 

Is it worth it?

Hiring a boat won’t be for everyone. The cost of doing so for just a short period of time is relatively expensive. But it is a fantastic experience and a great way to have your very own private tour without the crowds. So if you’re looking for a different way to enjoy the Kona Coast, consider renting a boat for a few hours, or even the day!

Kona Boat Rentals

Kona Boat Rentals is located at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in Kailua-Kona. They offer full and half-day rentals. The new 21-foot center console boats are large enough for 6 adults and have a bimini top for shade. Don’t worry you’ll be given an orientation prior to sailing, covering everything from boat operations to tips on where you should go. A license is not necessary! And don’t worry, the Kona Coast has some of the calmest and most easily navigable waters in the Pacific.

Cost: 4 hours $425 or 6 hours $555 for the boat we chose – 21 foot, 150 HP. Find out more here.

(This is not a paid promotion for Kona Boat Rentals but we definitely do recommend them!)

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