My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Slow Food Dining in Hawaii

2011/10/16by Donna Hull

When planning a boomer adventure to Hawaii’s Big Island, what comes to mind? Sun. Surf. Relaxation. Aloha. What about dining at restaurants to experience locally sourced food? Are you ready for a healthy dining adventure? Step away from the resort scene to follow this off-the-beaten-path slow food tour. Your taste buds will thank me.

Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe

If you’re staying in one of the resorts on the Kona coast, take a drive into coffee country in the hills above Kailua-Kona to Holuakoa Cafe and Gardens in Holualoa Town. It’s here that Alan and I experienced our first locally sourced meal on the island of Hawaii. The management takes the slow food concept seriously focusing on food products that are grown within a 5-mile radius of Holualoa Town. Now that’s locally sourced food.

Boomer visitors who drive from Holualoa Town to Waimea might think they’ve arrived in the wrong state. You certainly won’t find palm trees or a sandy beach. This is Hawaii’s high country where old lava flows reveal evidence of former volcanic eruptions and grasslands feed the cattle at Parker Ranch. Be sure to stop for lunch or dinner at Merriman’s Restaurant in Waimea. Twenty years ago, owner Peter Merriman joined forces with 12 other Hawaiian chefs to encourage local vegetable and fruit production. The result — the birth of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.

slow-food-merrimans

Merriman's Restaurant

Of course you don’t have to drive across Parker Ranch to enjoy a meal at Merriman’s. It’s a quick drive up into the hills from the Kohala Coast to your meal. Expect to dine on produce and fish that are 90% locally grown using only sustainable methods. You’ll find a Merriman’s Restaurant on Maui and Kaui, too.

From Waimea, let’s take our slow food tour down the winding road to Honokaa on the Hamakua Coast (that would be the Hilo side of Hawaii). Would you like to wake up to a locally sourced breakfast? A stay at Waianuhea Bed and Breakfast not only introduces boomers to off-the-grid luxury, but Manager/Chef Randy Goff’s gourmet breakfasts feature organic, locally grown products to fuel your active day. If you give her enough notice, she’ll even cook dinner.

Breakfast at Waianuhea

I like to think that I learn something from each trip that I take. My journey to Hawaii reminded me of how good home grown tastes. The flavors are more intense — the color of the produce more vibrant. And of course there are the environmental benefits of locally sourced food grown on an island that depends on fuel-hogging ships and planes to import products.

Today is Blog Action Day, where bloggers take one day to write about an important global topic to inspire a world-wide conversation. You guessed it — the topic for 2011 is food.

More Blog Action Day food posts:

The Chezsven Blog asks Do you eat foods containing GMO’s?
Reel life with Jane reviews the food documentary When We Run

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Hawaii that serves locally sourced food? Post a comment to share your recommendations. Our motto: eat local wherever you go.

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A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Alexandra October 16, 2011 at 7:53 am

Thanks for the shout-out. Wish I could take this tour! I agree, flavors are more intense. That stuffed crepe looks fabulous. As an innkeeper, cannot help but wonder what’s inside?
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 17, 2011 at 6:27 am

Alexandra, you would enjoy visiting Waianuhea. You would never realize that the property is totally off the grid. They pay great attention to using sustainable and organic products, right down to the toiletries in the rooms.

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NoPotCoooking
Twitter:
October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am

The Big Island is one of my most favorite places on earth and we ate Holuakoa! It was a beautiful setting. Merriman’s sounds familiar but I can’t say if I ate there for sure (this is why I am committed to now keeping a journal of all my trips, so I won’t forget).

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 17, 2011 at 6:26 am

A journal is a great idea, Brette. Whenever Alan and I are talking about our travels, he’s amazed at my instant recall of where we’ve been and what we’ve done. Of course that recall comes from the fact that I write about it all the time.

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Sherry Ott
Twitter:
October 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Yeah – I’ll be on the Big Island in 3 weeks…taking notes!!!

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 17, 2011 at 6:24 am

Sherry, I’m so jealous. Don’t miss the hike to the green sand beach. That’s just your type of adventure: http://myitchytravelfeet.com/2009/05/27/hiking-to-a-green-sand-beach-in-hawaii/

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Lyka Ricks October 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm

If i get a chance to stay in Hawaii, i’ll be checking this out too!

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 17, 2011 at 6:21 am

Hope you have the opportunity to visit Hawaii sooner rather than later.

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ruth pennebaker October 17, 2011 at 8:47 am

Between your descriptions and your incredible photos, you’re tempting me to drop everything and head to Hawaii, Donna. If only …
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Let’s do it, Ruth. I’ll meet you there! What a nice writing retreat that would be.

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Adelyn Lee October 17, 2011 at 9:10 am

I love this! I think that too often when we’re traveling we throw good food out the window and either scrounge around on fast food to take care of the budget or eat a lot of rich, fancy foods that leave your digestive system in a tizzy. Eating locally is one of my passions – the environmental benefits are great, and I plain think it tastes better! I’m glad you found a way to do this on such a tourist driven place as Hawaii.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for commenting Adelyn. You are right, eating simply, with locally grown products, is the best. Unfortunately with the change of seasons, that’s not always possible.

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Roxanne
Twitter:
October 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

Great ideas. I’ve only been to Kauai (almost 20 years ago on my honeymoon), but I bet you could find similar spots there.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I wouldn’t mind taking a scouting trip to Kauai to let you know, Roxanne.

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
October 17, 2011 at 9:17 am

My parents spent a few winters in Hawaii during their retirement years, and I hope to get there some day. I remember them saying that not all the restaurants had good, healthy food (which I just expected they would, being they’re in Hawaii). I’ll be emailing you for restaurant ideas when we make that trip, Donna.
Jane Boursaw recently posted..Blog Action Day: ‘When We Run’ Builds Schools, Raises Awareness for Fair Trade CoffeeMy Profile

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Hope you get to go soon, Jane. I think the locally sourced eating craze has only happened in the last few years. However, you can’t go to Hawaii without trying the heart clogging LocoMoco! http://myitchytravelfeet.com/2010/02/18/loco-moco-hawaiian-fast-food/

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Sanchin October 17, 2011 at 10:43 am

I truly enjoy your blog
As Chinese food is always my passion
I like the idea of eating local products
Wholefoods my only source of healthy and organic(suppose) foods
I only been Honolulu once long ago
After reading your blog make me wanting be there right now
Hawaii happen to be half way from US to my home town Taiwan

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MyKidsEatSquid October 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

What a great topic to cover for Blog Action day. I enjoyed reading your post–and dreaming about getting away to Hawaii
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Thanks, hope you get to test out my healthy eating Hawaii tips one day.

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Lynn VanLeeuwen October 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Great blog about our island, Donna. My husband and I are owners of the Leilani Bed and Breakfast in the south west corner of the island, convenient to Green and Black Sand beaches. We are sustainable in many ways. We have our own water system, solar hot water heating, and use “green” products. We serve a generous continental breakfast, including Ka’u coffee and local fruits – some from our own garden. What we can’t provide from local sources, we try to purchase organic from imported sources.

There are a lot of initiatives on the island promoting the growing and delivery of locally sourced food. The real challenge is that because this volcanic island is so relatively “new” there is no topsoil in many areas. A lot of research is being done to see just what can be grown here. A lot of our schools have gardens where children learn by growing food for their own lunches. And, we have great appreciation for what is grown here! Grains and bread products are a particular challenge as there are no grains that I know of grown on the island except a little amaranth.

We have frequented all your restaurant picks and agree with your choices. You might want to add the new Rock Island Road House Cafe in our area, not as touristy as your picks, but does have good, basic, home-cooked locally produced food. We recommend it to our guests interested in eating healthy and sustainably.

We hope you visit us on your next trip to the island of Hawaii. You can see our place at http://www.leilanibedandbreakfast.com/

Aloha ’til then.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Hi Lynn, thanks for introducing us to Leilani Bed and Breakfast. We love to try out your accommodations on a return trip to Hawaii. For our next trip, we’re thinking of a bed and breakfast tour.

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Living Large October 18, 2011 at 5:14 am

I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii and finding locally sourced food and goods is the way to go!
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Kerri, eating locally sourced food does make a difference. Of course splurging on something totally not good for us is okay too. At least once a trip.

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Carla J Gardiner
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm

This is perfect timing. Hubby and I are traveling to Kaui in March. Knowing ahead of time where we can eat locally grown and prepared foods will enhance our trip. I’ll be sure to journal our experience, snap a photo and share with you upon our return. Looking forward to your next review and adventure.

Forever Young, Fiery Grandma of Four,
Carla :)
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Hi Carla, have fun in Kauai. Unfortunately, all the restaurants listed here are on the Big Island. But I have a couple of great Kauai excursion ideas for you. Start here: http://myitchytravelfeet.com/2008/08/13/adventure-along-kauais-na-pali-coast/

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Deb Schaffer October 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Love this article! Hawaii is one of our favorite places to vacation,,,and play golf. Thanks for the tips on where to get great grub. :)

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Hawaii does have beautiful, albeit expensive, golf courses. Thanks for stopping by, Deb.

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sarah henry October 19, 2011 at 8:49 pm

How did I not know about Blog Action Day? And this year, of all years, it was on food! In many ways, though, it’s Blog Action Day on my site most days.

That said, thanks for bringing it to my attention. More importantly, love your Slow Food round up of the Big Island, the only Hawaiian Island I’ve yet to visit. Will check back here again for all the details when I do go.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Sarah, you are right, almost all of your posts would fit into this year’s Blog Action Day theme. You’ve taught me so much about farm to table and urban food projects. Hope you get to Hawaii one of these days.

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Kris
Twitter:
October 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm

How about you all drop what you’re doing and come visit me? I’ve got a giant bunch of bananas ripening as I type…
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
October 24, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Bananas? We’ll be right over. I’m sure they taste even better on the Big Island where you live.

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cynthia March 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Holuakoa Cafe and Gardens is my aunt’s reataurant!! I’ve just started following your blog and I noticed this link at the bottom of your snorkeling post! Thank you for writing about them. They put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that place. :-)

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