Image of Gertrude Stein Art Dinner at Kona Hotel.
Gertrude Stein Art Dinner at Kona Hotel. Photo: Karen Rose.

Kona, Hawaiʻi attracts culinary entrepreneurs from around the world who converge upon paradise to incorporate the freshest, locally sourced products into their dishes. The abundance of fresh fruits, fish and locally grown beef are a chef’s dream, making no shortage of delightful gastronomical experiences for foodies. Here are a few not-to-miss dining opportunities to experience while visiting Kona.

Rapa Nui Cucina

Image of Rapa Nui's Seafood Pasta
Rapa Nui’s Seafood Pasta. Photo: Karen Rose.

A native of Chile, Chef Rodrigo creates unique dishes inspired by his passion for fresh, organic ingredients and his love of feeding people. An artist from a very young age, he brings his talent to the kitchen, creating edible masterpieces bursting with a fusion of South American and Spanish European flavors. With a mouth-watering selection of fresh seafood, pastas and local greens, Rapa Nui Cucina brings a global culinary vibe to the forefront of all their dishes. Tucked away in South Kona on the Mamalahoa Highway, it’s worth the short drive to coffee country to take in the extraordinary flavors of Rapa Nui.

Kona Hotel Art Dinners

Image of Tobacco flan at the Frida Kahlo Art Dinner at Kona Hotel.
Tobacco flan at the Frida Kahlo Art Dinner at Kona Hotel. Photo: Karen Rose.

Foodies and art connoisseurs rejoice, because the Kona Hotel in Holualoa (also known as the Pink Hotel) offers a truly unique dining experience combining famous artists and delicious food. Every month, on the second and fourth Tuesday, Chef Hamilton and Artist in Residence, Kira Kamamalu create a unique menu with dishes inspired by the artist of the month.

Image of Ocopa potatoes with pickled mango and cocoa leaf liqueur at the Frida Kahlo Art Dinner at Kona Hotel.
Ocopa potatoes with pickled mango and cocoa leaf liqueur at the Frida Kahlo Art Dinner at Kona Hotel. Photo: Karen Rose.

Past artists include Matisse, Calder, Kahlo and Cole Porter to name a few. Each course is paired with a cocktail so prepare for a designated driver, or better yet, get a room at the historical hotel. Guests leave happy, full and with a new understanding and appreciation for the artist.

Palamanui Cafe

Image of Sri Lanka Luncheon Ahi-Mango-Curry at Palamanui
Sri Lanka Luncheon Ahi-Mango-Curry at Palamanui. Photo: Karen Rose.

How often does someone recommend going to a culinary school for lunch? Palamanui Cafe, located on the campus of University of Hawaiʻi Palamanui campus in Kona, is a mecca for up and coming chefs. Two Fridays a month during each semester, the culinary school offers a Prix Fixe Luncheon focusing on a different world cuisine. The cost for the pre-set lunch is $20 per person for a four course menu. From Asian to South American and everything in-between, it’s one of Kona’s best kept foodie secrets. Reservations must be made on Monday the week of the luncheon. It’s truly a unique experience in dining.

Strawberry Patch

Image of Strawberry Patch dessert.
Strawberry Patch dessert. Photo: Karen Rose.

Romantic and quaint describe the ambiance at The Strawberry Patch restaurant in Kealakekua, located in South Kona. Twinkle lights surround the entrance, and the scent of fresh baked bread, garlic and home-cooked deliciousness waft out the front door. Chef and owner Amelia Antonucci Fisher is notably humble and unassuming, and she whips up the best comfort food on the island.

Dishes are made with locally grown ingredients from reputable farmers and herbs grow just outside the restaurant’s property. The Strawberry Patch offers delicious, home cooked meals with creative presentations. It’s BYOB, so guests can bring their favorite wine or beverage to enjoy with their meal.