During our anniversary trip to the Big Island, Husband and I stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa resort. This hotel was built when I still lived on the island and I remember taking family trips to this place to ride the tram and boats and watch the dolphins; it was a treat and a trip down memory lane to stay here.
The Big Island of Hawaii is pretty diverse when it comes to the landscape and weather. In fact, it’s a bit like the continental US. The West coast is arid and dry while the East coast is lush with greenery…and humid. Also, rain spurts… There were a few surprise showers during our trip, but it didn’t matter too much since we were already drenched from the humidity.
There are 3 ways you can take to get from one side of the island to the other. You can drive via the north route, go south thru the Volcanoes National Park (longer and beware, majority of the gas stations are closed after around 7pm), or cut thru the middle of the island on Saddle Ranch Road, which is 2 lanes wide and chock full of tummy-tumbling dips. Considering what kind of rental car we had, guess which one we took when we ventured into Hilo… WHEEEEE!
One of my favorite places while living in Hilo was Liliuokalani Gardens. My parents used to bring me here and I would use a bucket to scoop up little tiny fishies and bring them home for my “aquarium” aka a big jar with holes poked in the lid. This park is located right across the road from the ocean which feeds the lagoon. There’s quite a few fish in the water and little black crabs scrambling along the rocks. There’s also mongeese living among the bushes.
Since we had reservations for a luau at our hotel, the Hilton Waikaloa, we didn’t spend too much time in Hilo. We did stop in at Cafe 100 for a snack (you can read about it in the prior post). We took the northern way back to Waikaloa and pulled off to take the scenic route which involved driving thru a rainforest. Apparently, hidden away on this road is the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Husband wanted to stop and we had a little extra time so we did.
Turns out this garden is rather large and goes all the way down to a beach or something…about an hour or two depending on how leisurely you want to take it and how you handle hills. We didn’t have that much time so we just hiked to Onomea Falls (about 30mins round trip). Of course, it rained on us as we came back up… Rain forest, indeed.
When we got back, it was luau time! I didn’t take too many pictures of the food since we were at a table with strangers; only one really came out. Since we were sitting in the “VIP” section, we had our food served to us instead of having to brave the buffet line. The appetizers consisted of salad, 2 kinds of rolls – Hawaiian sweet bread and taro, Ahi tuna poke, Lomi Lomi salmon, cooked baby ferns, a cold meat dish (some sort of ham?), poi and some other things I don’t remember. I really enjoyed the poke and tried not to eat all of it. Tangy, not fishy at all, very flavorful. The Lomi Lomi salmon, unfortunately, was a little fishy. As for poi, I’m not a fan. I do enjoy taro though. We used to get some from the grocery store, microwave them and then slather them in butter. The baby ferns were…interesting. Very “planty” in flavor with a little bit of crunch. Not really a fan but I’d eat this over the poi any day!
The main course consisted of kahlua pig, teriyaki pulehu (hawaiian style short ribs), chicken, mahi mahi, Hawaiian sweet potatoes and a few vegetable side dishes. It was a lot of food and I had already semi-filled up on the poke so it was hard to try everything. I did go for the meat though! The kahlua pig was tasty, very tender and moist. The short ribs were similar to kalbi, its Korean counterpart. The chicken and mahi mahi were meh…not horrible but not fantastic.
For dessert, fresh fruit and a variety of little cakes and cookies were served. I was stuffed by this point so I really didn’t try much and what I did didn’t stick in my mind. Since VIP ticket holders got access an open bar, I satiated my sweet tooth with mai tais and lava flows (strawberry piña colada type drink).
The show itself was entertaining. There was a host that was very…lounge singer-y. The hula dancing was great; they demonstrated a variety of Polynesian dances from various islands. And, at some point, they pulled up a bunch of guys in the audience to hula dance with them. Husband was one of the [un]fortunate ones. Hehehehe… I’ll spare him any embarrassment by not posting the video and pictures I took while he was on stage.
It was a great first day…
Last October, Husband and I took a trip to the Big Island (Hawaii) to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. On our 2nd day (first day was recouping from the flight after an afternoon arrival), we drove to the East side to visit Hilo. I used to live here when I was a little kid and wanted to see how much had changed (or not) since I left.
Due to a big breakfast and the fact we were going to a luau later that night, we didn’t want to fill up on a big lunch. Plus, the humidity was killing our appetites. Living in Southern California has spoiled me, apparently. I don’t remember Hilo being -that- humid but then again, it had been almost 20 years since I moved away.
Anyways, I insisted we had to eat something “local”. I had no idea of where to go, though. The only places I remembered food-wise was a cafe next to the Woolworth’s at the mall and a small mom n’ pop market that served shaved ice. We weren’t a family that ate out a lot when I was a kid.
Driving around the downtown area, Husband and I came across Cafe 100. I had seen this place featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” show; they served up loco mocos and plate lunches. Perfect…local cuisine with things Husband would eat.
Cafe 100 isn’t really a restaurant; it’s more like a stand. You walk up to a window, place your order and pick it up at another window. There are tables set up outside along the sides for people who want to eat there.
They were advertising a “Halloweenie” loco moco special (rice covered with gravy covered with a fried egg and topped with several pieces of small weenies). I had to do a little convincing to get Husband to agree to this as he was iffy about the combination. Gravy on rice…with egg? Trust me, it’s actually really good.
This ended up being smaller than I expected but worked out perfectly as a snack split between the two of us. I would have liked more of a crisp edge on the egg but the yolk was nicely runny. A little more gravy would have been preferable as well since there wasn’t enough for all the rice. The weenies were plump and juicy. Taking a little bit of everything for each bite resulted in salty yumminess. However, the gravy alone was a little lacking in the salt so once we ate all the weenies and egg, the rice and gravy was a little bland. Husband was quickly won over by this dish, though.
I wish we had more of an appetite because I would have loved to try their plate lunches and grab a Spam musubi. Oh well…next trip!