Teshima's Restaurant in Kealakekua
Aim to get at this diner, which has been around since 1929, around 7:30 a.m. (leaving Kona around 7), and you’ll be on track for the full day trip. The 105-year-old owner and hostess won’t likely be in the house, but the relatives who work the dining room carry on her tradition of hospitality, serving up a mix of local food and diner classics. Served from 6:30 a.m., the Japanese breakfast is a great way to start your day: fried fish, rice, miso soup, nori, eggs, and pickles.
Punalu’u Bake Shop in Na’alehu
Don’t get to this haven of all things sweet and bready before 9 a.m., or you’ll only be able to smell the treats inside, and not taste them. Once the bakery-cum-tourist shop opens, though, get your fix of sweet breads, pastries, and most of all, oversized doughnuts called malasadas. In a variety of flavors, stuffed, or glazed, these make an amazing snack. There’s a table outside, but you’re best off packing them for a 10-minute drive down the road to…
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
Sit in the dark sand, wait for the local turtles to crawl up, and watch the waves smash into the outcroppings of rocks. Everything tastes better when eaten without shoes on. It’s hard to imagine improving upon Punalu’u Bake Shop’s malasadas, but eating them here, in the shade of the palm trees, might be the way to do it.
Iliahi Trail, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
It's over an hour to the next stop, a drive which will take you through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—if you need to walk off the morning meal, it’s a quick turn off the highway to the trailhead of the short Iliahi trail, which will dazzle you with volcano views before you set back off across the island.
Café 100 in Hilo
Once past the park, you’ll descend to the dark side, from the sunny Kona side of the island to the extremely wet Hilo side. It’s likely raining, and you may be in need of some comfort food. Café 100’s Super Loco will leave you feeling like you just got a hug from a thousand-pound man. It’s a beast of a meal, a riff on the classic Hawaiian loco moco, but this one with Spam and Portuguese sausage in addition to the traditional patty over (enormous) mounds of rice, two eggs, and a healthy helping of brown gravy, all with a side of mac salad.
Better walk that meal off before heading to dessert, right? As you head north out of Hilo, you’ll hit the trail to Akaka Falls. The paved path out to the enormous waterfalls (or, rather, to the viewpoint—they don’t let you go the actual falls), is about a mile round trip, just enough to get you some stomach space when you continue north to…
Time to focus here: you’re here for the malasadas. Don’t be distracted by the sub-par shakes and smoothies. The food, in general, is good but not great, but the malasadas are worth the stop. The fluffy squares of gold, showered with sugar, are filled with any of a variety of tropical flavors and traditional doughnut fillings, from passionfruit jelly to Bavarian cream.
Scandanavian Shave Ice in Kona
From Tex, you’re heading over Waimea, a hilltop town, and then it’s time to relax. You’ve made it back to Kona town, and it’s time for a sweet treat and a walk along the waterfront—maybe watch the sunset over the main pier? You’ll want a shave ice to see you through that. For the uninitiated, this Hawaiian dessert is more like snow than ice, and less like a snow cone than you might imagine. Pick from the myriad of flavors—45, plus specials—(try a few at a time) offered here, and try it snow-cap style, with a drizzle of condensed milk, for extra richness.
Kona Brewing Company in Kona
Once darkness descends, you might not be hungry, after all that eating, but there’s always room for a beer, right? A short walk up the hill from Scandi’s (as the locals call it), you’ll find Kona Brewing Company. You can find their beers on the mainland in bottles, but it tastes better here, straight off the tap, trust me. Plus they have many more styles. If you can find the room, the bar snacks (see the pretzel here) are worth the stomach space. You’ll sleep well tonight!