Outdoor Lounge at ‘Ulu Ocean Grill, Big Island, Hawaii

‘Ulu Ocean Grill

It’s all about the view at this restaurant at the Four Seasons. Sit on a lanai (balcony) just above sea level and soak in the exquisite island sunsets. The menu, overseen by executive chef James Babian, pays homage to the bounty of the Pacific and the Big Island’s many farms and orchards. Sushi specialties, which can be ordered at the table or in the restaurant’s sushi lounge, included a fire and ice crab roll, with red king crab and spicy kampachi. A wood oven produces such mouth-watering options as whole lobster roasted with Meyer lemon and Big Island wild boar with local berry chutney. While most places on the Big Island are resort-casual, feel free to dress up a bit here.

Da Poke Shack

A Hawaiian version of ceviche, poke is a salad of raw fish, such as tuna, that has been cured in a dressing that typically includes soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed and chili peppers. The best place to find poke on the Big Island is this little storefront tucked into a nondescript set of condos. The lunch special comes in Styrofoam container with rice and another side, like Korean kimchi. Visitors staying in houses and villas swing by before it closes at 6pm to pick up poke to serve as an appetizer before dinner. There is nothing fancy about this place, but foodies can’t stop raving about it.

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Merriman’s Waimea

Ask locals to name their favorite Big Island restaurant and most undoubtedly will name this place. Located in upcountry Waimea, Merriman’s specializes in the freshest local produce. (The white pineapple is a must.) Chef-owner Peter Merriman is a three-time James Beard Award finalist, who uses the bounty of the Big Island’s farms, ranches and waters to beautiful effect. Sweet Hawaiian onions, locally made goat cheese and the sweetest, locally-grown tomatoes you may ever try complement naturally raised lamb from local ranches and the freshest fish caught nearby. A roasted beet and papaya salad might be followed by a perfect ponzu marinated mahi mahi. There’s an extensive wine list, too, including many served by the glass. This is one of the toughest reservations to snag, so call for reservations as soon you arrive on the Big Island. Merriman’s now has a Mediterranean Café at Waikaloa, but the real draw is the location at Waimea, itself an excellent excuse to head inland to this verdant pastureland.

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The Beach Tree

The best reason to come to the Beach Tree is to have a cocktail at sunset. The setting couldn’t be more beautiful and the cocktails are some of the best in the area. If you chose to stay for dinner, the Mediterranean inspired menu won’t disappoint.

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