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Exploring Food Freedom: Hawaii

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

A review of my favorite foodie places on Big Island, Hawaii


Not my typical recipe blog post, but a fun, brand new category of exploring food freedom while traveling.

Food freedom. What is it? To start, it's cultivating a positive relationship with food. Finding food freedom is about eliminating all of those food "rules" (example: I can't eat anything after 8pm!) and rejecting diets. You feel in control--you don't "police" your food, and food no longer controls you.

Traveling can be very healing for some suffering from disordered eating. Not only do you continuously challenge your food fears in a different environment, it can help you to learn and understand flexibility with food choices. The idea is to change the mindset of "getting back on track" when you return from vacation, which is negative and can prevent you from fully enjoying all of the incredible things you are experiencing when away. Rather, the goal is to enjoy all foods because ALL foods can fit into your diet, and eat intuitively throughout your travels, just as you would "normally" at home, instead of "policing" your food choices. To learn more about intuitive eating and food freedom, read my IE blog post.

So, I've taken my foodie exploring outside of the Wisconsin state lines to...Hawaii!

We visited Big Island during our stay. Our first stop: to taste the Kona Coffee, of course! We went to Waikoloa Coffee at our resort, Hilton Waikoloa Village.

I ordered the Hawaiian latte--espresso, steamed milk, and coconut & macadamia nut syrup. 10/10, the best latte I've ever had!

I also secured my Kona coffee to-go . The BEST coffee I've tasted! I was so excited that I was able to bring some home with me.

I grabbed a poolside Acai bowl at the coffee shop--just the "classic" bowl. Fresh fruit, acai, and granola.

Absolutely delish. So fresh. I split this with my partner because it was huge!

Our first lunch was salmon and tuna poke bowls after hanging out by the pool for the day at the Lagoon Grill. It was a fun atmosphere and a quick meal option during our pool time. We wanted something filling and fresh. It was great!

Even the grab-and-go options are delicious here!

Next was the famous shaved ice. This was a highly anticipated treat.

We stood in line for about an hour for OBISIC (Original Big Island Shaved Ice Co.)

Worth it? Debatable. It was good, but definitely a touristy place and a very long, slow-moving line!

I ordered pineapple and strawberry flavors. The options were endless--whipped cream, toppings, ube, fudge...

That night it was dinner at Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar.

WOW. I loved the coconut shrimp appetizer. The service was great, and the view.

Everything was so tasty, but I'd have to say that the crème brulee served in a fresh Hawaiian pineapple was the highlight of the meal.

I'm a dessert person!

The next morning we had breakfast in Kona at The Fish Hopper.

We sat inside, but it is an open-dining concept, so we had a great view of the ocean and our resort.

We started with the French press Kona coffee. Easily the best French press I have ever had!

For entrees, we ordered the catch of the day fish benedict, and the Coconut &

Macadamia nut French toast. To die for!

They served us pretty big portions, so we were able to share!

Since we had a big breakfast and we weren't that hungry, we just grabbed a quick acai bowl later that afternoon (yes, again :)) at Basik Acai and headed off to snorkeling.

Another really fun, cute place with tons of customizable bowls. I ordered banana, coconut flakes, strawberries, pineapple, and goji berries on mine.

Dinner that night was at the unforgettable Brown's Beach House.

Amazing food and service, beautiful atmosphere! The ube mashed potatoes were probably my favorite. This is the perfect fancy date night place!

The next day, we stopped to get a Dole whip sundae at the shops in Kona, and it did not disappoint.

After shopping we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Don's Mai Tai Bar, the restaurant at our new resort, the Royal Kona.

We had the poke nachos and they were amazing! I was hesitant to order them (fish nachos?!) but so glad we did.

The lesson here: order foods outside of your "comfort zone" and be willing to try new things!

One of my favorite quick breakfasts was at HiCO - Hawaiian Coffee.

I ordered the ube cinnamon roll and the iced ube latte (am I sick of ube yet? nope!) It was a fun coffee shop!

Lunch consisted of--yep, you guessed it--more fish at Umeke's Fish Market. We customized our poke bowls and sides. One of my favorite lunch spots on the island! Their blended cocktails were tasty, too. I loved the poke bowls during our trip because they were filling and delicious.

One of our last but highly notable stops was the Hawaiian BBQ at The Fish and the Hog.

Whoa. I've had some great southern BBQ, but this was so different and absolutely mouth-watering! I highly recommend this place; although a little off the beaten path, definitely worth it. Order the sampler or combo platter to share! We walked away from this meal feeling full and satisfied.

Overall, we discovered some amazing food on this trip! It was so much fun to explore Hawaiian cuisine. We definitely had a good mix of typical tourist experiences, as well as more local foods. It felt great to be able to give myself full permission to enjoy all of these foods without guilt or shame, and not have to stress about "getting back on track" after returning home. These calories gave us the energy we needed for all of the incredible hiking, swimming, and sightseeing we did every day.

Happy travels, foodies!

My list of notable Big Island eats:

  • Waikoloa Coffee

  • Lagoon Grill


  • Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar

  • The Fish Hopper

  • Basik Acai

  • Brown's Beach House

  • Don's Mai Tai Bar

  • HiCO - Hawaiian Coffee

  • Umeke's Fish Market

  • The Fish and the Hog

An MM Wellness Original Blog

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