Grind Like a Local at These Ono Yet Affordable Eateries
One of our favorite parts of traveling is the food. Forget about the snazzy tourist traps with overpriced, mediocre renditions of your hometown fare. It’s time to duck into that side alley and eat where the locals eat. Delicious, cheap, and worth the lunchtime line. Here’s our guide to the best places to eat in Kona on a budget, and get a belly-full of Hawaii’s eclectic local food culture.
Breakfast of Champions
Fuel up so you can catch more waves and adventure all day long. Here’s a few of our favorite spots for the best affordable, filling breakfast in Kona.
808 Grindz Cafe
75-5660 Kopiko Street
This local style breakfast spot has a location in Maui and in Kona on the Big Island. 808 Grindz is a favorite spot for Kona locals. They have awesome specials for only $6.75. Chow down on a mix of Hawaiian style and American breakfast plates like steak and eggs, loco moco, pancakes, mac nut and bacon waffles, friend rice, Kalua pork hash, and more. They are always busy and usually have a list outside the door. Put your name down, the wait is usually not longer than 5-10 mins.
Green Flash Coffee
75-6000 Ali’i Dr.
Right down the road from My Hawaii Hostel, (about 10-15 mins walking north on Ali’i Drive) this cute little coffee shop serves up yummy breakfast sandwiches, bagels, smoothies and paninis, plus Kona coffee and espresso. Try their french toast breakfast sandwich, grilled breakfast croissant, or breakfast bagel. For drinks, their Long Paddle Smoothie and signature Green Flash smoothie are delish, and so is the iced dirty chai. Prices range from $4 - $8.
L& L Hawaiian BBQ
Lanihau Center 75-5595 Palani Rd a6
Local’s go-to spot for cheap eats, L&L serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner with big portions. L&L is a Hawaii chain with island style comfort food on the menu like chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, loco mocos, spam, saimin, and American staples like cheeseburgers, BLT sandwiches. They have a full breakfast menu from pancakes to loco mocos, breakfast bagels, omelets, and platters with rice, breakfast meat, and eggs. Prices range from $2.50 - $10 for larger plates. They have a location in downtown Kona and also in the Keauhou Shopping Center.
The midday feast. There’s a smorgasbord of options. If you’re feeling adventurous, try some poke - a Hawaiian specialty of raw cubed fish prepared with different sauce, herbs, and seasonings. Usually, it’s made from locally caught fish from Kona’s waters.
Kona Coast Shopping Center 74-5594 Palani Road
Keauhou Shopping Center 78-6831 Ali‘i Drive
Something for everyone. The KTA deli is where many locals grab a quick to-go lunch. Choose from pre-made or custom-made sandwiches starting at $4, hot and cold deli items like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, salads, and more priced by the pound. You must ask deli staff to serve you. At the fish counter, you can purchase poke by the pound, or in a ‘poke bowl’ where it is served over hot rice. Poke bowls start at $6-$7 and are super filling. There are two KTA stores in Kona, one downtown and one in the Keauhou Shopping Center, south of My Hawaii Hostel.
Hayashi’s “You Make the Roll” Sushi
75-5725 Alii Dr Ste D101
Welcome to sushi, Hawaiian style. Massive rolls packed full of the good stuff, including locally caught fish like Ahi tuna, fresh papaya and avocado, and creative renditions like teriyaki chicken with cream cheese. Their rolls are impressively filling, with eight pieces and start at $6.45 and $5.25 for vegetarian and vegan options. Try their Ninja Star Roll, made with Ahi tuna, avocado and tempura shrimp. Hayashi’s is insanely popular with locals. The best strategy is to put in your order, then go grab a coffee or walk around Ali’i drive while you wait - which can be as long as 45 mins some days. They have a small outdoor seating area. Hours are 11 am - 6 pm Monday through Friday, 11 am - 3:45 pm Saturdays, closed Sundays and holidays.
Broke da Mouth Grindz
74-5565 Luhia St Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
“Broke da Mouth”, a local figure of speech for being incredibly delicious is aptly named. Broke da Mouth is known for Filipino and Hawaiian style ‘plate lunch’ fare and was featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in 2018. Try their pork adobo fries - a side that eats like a meal - crispy french fries, topped with slow-cooked to-die-for pork adobo, creamy aioli sauce and green onions. Other favorites are their kalbi ribs and sweet and savory garlic furikake fried chicken. Sides start at $5.50, and combo plates at $11.99. This is the kind of food you need a nap after eating. Counter service with dine-in seating available, or take out. Hours are Monday - Saturday 11 am - 3:30 pm and 5 pm - 8:30 pm.
Dinner & Drinks
Adventuring around the Big Island all day is a great way to work up an appetite. Here’s a few of our go-to spots for a cheap dinner in Kona.
Kona Coast Shopping Center 74-5588 Palani Rd
Affordable Vietnamese fare, located next to KTA. Bale serves up giant bowls of yummy Pho, savory sandwiches like lemongrass chicken or tofu on fresh baked French bread, green papaya salad, spring rolls, beef stew with rice, Thai iced coffee, and more. Plates range from $5-$12. They offer ‘mini’ soup sizes for $5. Score.
Kona Coast Shopping Center Lot #7 74-5586 Palani Road
A no frills east coast style pizza place. Kona Crust makes excellent pizza and garlic knots, probably because they are owned by a New York transplant. You can get a large pie starting at $18.42, garlic knots 3 for $1.20. Slices start at $3.65. Hot, greasy, delicious!
Kona Commons Shopping Center 74-5452 Makala Blvd
Located in the Kona Common’s Shopping center, this fast-food style Japanese-Chinese-local Hawaiian fusion spot is cheap, quick, and good. They serve up a giant bowl of ramen for $10, and offer a variety of other combos, appetizers and plates. The service is lightning fast. They are located next to several other cheap/fast food style restaurants including Genki Sushi, Dairy Queen, Panda Express.
Ocean’s Sports Bar
Coconut Grove Market Place 75-5811 Alii Dr
Close to My Hawaii Hostel, Ocean’s Sports Bar is located off Ali’i Drive in the Coconut Grove Marketplace. Stop by for their Taco Tuesday and Thursdays 4 - 10 pm for $2.50 tacos, TV, pool and loud music. They also have drink specials.
Get Sum Pizza
Coconut Grove Market Place 75-5813 Alii Dr
Right around the corner from Ocean’s. Get Sum Pizza, offers slices and pies. Slices start at $4, large pizzas start at $20. You can upgrade to gluten free crust on a pie for $8, and dairy-free cheese for $6. They stay open late on the weekends.
74-5563 Kaiwi St, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
An authentic, reasonably priced Mexican spot with big portions, free chips and salsa, and a good selection of bottled beers for under $4. Beware dainty-mouthed diners, the salsa is spicy! Large combination plates served with rice and beans range from $9.50 to $13, and their ala carte menu has tacos for $2.50, and enchiladas and tamales for $3. In case you need some, they also sell their house made chorizo by the pound. Sit down table service or take out is available. Hours are 11 am - 3:30 pm and 5 - 8 pm Monday - Thursday and 11 am - 3:30 pm and 5 - 9 pm Fridays - Saturday.
74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy #4
Overlooking Kona’s Honokohau Harbor, the Harbor House is an institution for locals and visitors in the know. Famous for their ice-cold schooners of beer, they also serve up simple, filling lunch and dinner fare that’s perfect after a long day on the water. Burgers, fish and chips, fresh fish sandwiches, crispy french fries, salads and homemade chili - everything on the menu is good! Main plates start at $8.95 and pupus at $4.25. Join a motley crew of sailors, tourists in wetsuits and flippers, and locals for a lively pau hana happy hour 3 - 6 pm for $2.95 18 ounce schooners of Coors Light, Bud Light, and Budweiser. Schooners of local Kona brews are $5.25 all day. Bar and restaurant table service or take out is available. Hours are 11 am - 7 pm Monday - Saturday and 11 am - 6 pm on Sundays. They are strict about closing time, so be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before closing to get seated for food service.
Well, friends, are you stoked for your next meal in Kona? We are excited for you. Remember, if you’re really down to your last dime, you can always fall back on Hawaii’s ultimate budget snack - the gas station musubi. If Anthony Bourdain was here, he’d most definitely try one.
Have a favorite place to eat on a budget in Kona? We want to hear about it!
About the Author
M the Writer is a blogger specializing in Hawaii travel and entrepreneurship. She landed on the beautiful Big Island in 2013 as a backpacker and has been stuffing her face ever since.