This Kona guide is full of the best restaurants and places to go if you eat dairy-free.
Hawaii is definitely one of my happy places.
Although I’ve been to several of the islands, I always make my way back to Kona on the big island because that’s the region where my parent’s timeshare is.
This guide is a list of the best Kona restaurants and places to eat for dairy-free eaters.
What You'll Find in This Guide
I know how frustrating it can be to go out to eat only to be left with very minimal options, usually resulting in a salad with added protein or a side of fries.
This guide covers all the foods dairy-free eaters usually don't get to enjoy when dining out.
I've included everything from ice cream to acai bowls to Thai food, where to find the best sushi, jackfruit nachos, coconut shrimp, fresh fruit, seafood, etc. The list will make all your tropical dairy-free food dreams come true.
The Best Kona Restaurants
You can thank me later. This trip was my first time experiencing it. I had walked past it a few times but didn't go in (insert face to palm). I only managed to get there twice, and the only thing I regret about my trip is not eating gelato multiple times per day.
They have a couple of choices for the dairy-free crowd. Not just the sad sorbet that most places offer, but actual gelato made with macadamia nut milk. Their sorbets were amazing though, too, and many steps above sorbet that you'd find at other shops.
I had the vegan chocolate peanut butter gelato, which was not only as good as it sounds but just as scrumptious as its dairy counterparts (according to my folks). The next time I had the vegan matcha gelato, as well as the peanut butter banana sorbet.
The peanut butter banana was the creamiest sorbet I’ve ever had. You can taste as many as you want before you make a choice, and I highly suggest you do.
As you can see in the photos, the portions are huge. These people are magicians. RUN to Gypsea Gelato, don’t walk!
Basik Cafe is a tiny little shop on top of a scuba and snorkel shop. They only sell acai bowls and smoothies. Acai bowls are a must on any tropical vacation in my book. In fact, I’ve never had a smoothie there, only the acai bowls.
They have six bowls to choose from and the choice of either a small (feeds 1) or a large (feeds 2). The toppings are, of course, the best part, and I think they have a nice variety here.
They were a little skimpy on portion sizes this time, but still delicious no less. The Kilauea (kill-a-way-a) is my favorite acai bowl. It comes with papaya, strawberries, goji berries, bee pollen, granola, and honey.
Thai food is always a win, especially for the dairy-free crowd since there are endless choices. Lemongrass Bistro has a fairly large menu and has really great appetizers and curries, but pad thai is always a solid choice too! They also offer a weekly lunch special that is super affordable and runs Monday through Friday.
You Make The Roll
If you love sushi, you must go here! This is a hidden little gem and a favorite among the locals.
Just be prepared to get there early because there’s usually a line. When they get too busy, they’ll close down for a bit (regardless of whether you’ve been standing in line for a while) and reopen when they’re caught up. Or if there’s no line but there’s still a wait, you can put your order in, and pick it up in a couple of hours when it’s ready.
The rolls are big, the fish is fresh, the combinations are creative (or you can make your own, hence the name), and it’s very affordable. There are other sushi places, but this one remains my favorite!
Herbivores is a local vegan walk-up restaurant with a small outdoor seating area. Don’t assume that you need to be vegan to enjoy their food though. They serve up breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus they also have a grab-and-go collection of meals if you want to take your meal to the beach.
The beverages include smoothies, juices, and other non-alcoholic options. They also have a few desserts.
We ended up getting the greek pizza, the Margherita pizza, and the jackfruit nachos. The portions are HUGE. I can only speak to the items we ordered, but there were only three of us, and needless to say, we had a lot of leftover pizza.
The highlight of the whole meal was the jackfruit nachos. They were everyone’s favorite dish. If you go there, make sure you order the nachos - your mind will be blown that there’s no meat in there!
Helpful Tip: I recommend dining at their tables instead of doing take-away if getting the nachos. We weren't as impressed with them the second time when we got takeout. They were still good, but not as evenly distributed as when they were freshly served.
Island Naturals Market & Deli
This is a great option for those wanting to pick up some fresh, local food or to hit up the hot food bar.
This store is equivalent to any natural or organic grocery store. It has a great selection of organic produce - much of which is locally grown, along with plenty of pantry items, baked goods, a large fridge section, as well as a prepared foods hot bar plus a salad bar.
Every dish in the hot bar is labeled with an allergen label, making it really easy for those who need it. Everything I tried was delicious. I also had a vegan apple strudel pastry that was out. of. this. world - sweet, but not overly so, flaky, satisfying - all the things you’d hope for.
We finally made it to Splasher’s on my last night in Kona and I wanted to make sure I had a full belly before my long flight back to Denver.
I was wanting freshly caught fish tacos, and when I saw them on the menu, I knew we were onto something. The ahi fish tacos were delicious. It was a very large portion and could have easily been shared between two people. They came with two overflowing tacos, I added avocado to mine and they had a touch of heat from the wasabi mayo. They also come with your choice of a side, making it a very filling meal.
However, the real winner of the night was the coconut shrimp with pineapple marmalade. I could have eaten 10 more than I had. Seriously - they were that good! I’ve been
dreaming of salivating over them ever since. The fish and chips were a hit as well, but everyone agreed the coconut shrimp was the real hero.
Jackie Rey’s Ohana Grill
This is the place to get fresh-off-the-boat seafood, high-quality steaks, and a variety of well-prepared meals. It truly has something for everyone in every crowd. They are open for lunch and dinner, and they also have a great happy hour. Would highly recommend it!
Kona Farmer’s Market
This is a great market located right in downtown Kona and is the place to pick out fresh tropical fruits.
I had the BEST mangoes I’ve ever eaten (and I’ve even a LOT of mangoes). They were large in size with a green exterior and were so juicy and flavorful.
If you don’t know what to look for, just ask one of the vendors to help you pick out some ripe ones. I also enjoyed several papayas which are great with fresh lime juice squeezed over the flesh.
It’s also a great place to try some new fruits, and again you can ask the vendor the best way or how to eat it (if it looks confusing). We tried a new fruit called Abiu (ah-bee-oo) that has yellow exterior skin with a custard-like clear flesh with a sweet vanilla flavor that you can spoon out. Just be aware of the pit in the middle, and it’s generally recommended that you don’t eat the skin because of its waxy residue.
You can also pick up other local goodies at this market. This market runs every Wednesday through Sunday from 7 am to 4 pm and is a great way to support the local community.
Chill’n On The Bay
This great little waterfront bar has amazing views and delicious beachy cocktails. It’s a great place to go enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset before you go to dinner or a great place to have a nightcap. I love the strawberry daiquiris.
Huggo’s On The Rocks
A great place to grab a drink, and watch the sunset. I haven’t had any of the entrees there, so I can’t speak for those (although I've heard the food isn't very good), but if you’re going to watch the sunset, make sure you get there early. It fills up quickly!
More Kona Restaurants with Dairy-Free Options:
- Laulima Food Patch
- Umeke’s Fish Market Bar & Grill - most known for its deliciously fresh poke bowls, but also offers several other seafood dishes, a few non-seafood dishes, and a couple of vegan options.
- Kona Wave Cafe - a quaint shop offering coffee, shaved ice, smoothies, and açai bowls.
- Swami’s Dosa Grill - serving vegan & vegetarian Indian food
Whether you’re going to Kona, Hawaii yourself or you have a trip planned there in the future, I hope you find this restaurant guide helpful.
If you know someone else who is going to Kona, please share this with them. If you feel there’s a restaurant I’m missing, please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and happy eating!
What a wonderful synopsis of a variety of foods! Your photography makes everything look so appetizing. I don’t know how you do it but keep it up. I thought it was hard to photograph food and make it look like you want to eat it!