After 8 days, & a few extra pounds on the Big Island, here's my report to the best of my recollection (Which at times may be a bit fuzzy due to lots of mai tais!):
The night we arrived I dragged my family to a luau. We chose the Royal Kona Resort for 2 reasons. First, they had a luau on a Thursday, and second the price was unbeatable! Thanks to the internet, my husband, 2 daughters & I all dined for about $80, all drinks included. The biggest surprise was how much we all enjoyed the Kalua Pig from the Imu oven. It was incredibly succulent and flavorful! There was also Kalua turkey, a tuna sashimi, laulau , delicious local "sweet" potatoes, poi, fruits, cakes and more.
Breakfast one morning in Waimea at Hawaiian Style Cafe. HUGE quantities of good food for a reasonable price. My daughters were advised to split a pancake stack which consists of 2 dinner plate sized pancakes. They also had their new favorite, guava juice. My husband & I had omelettes which came with toast (or the stack of pancakes),& meat which in our case was bacon. My mouth waters remembering a mound of what must have been a dozen strips of thick, crisp bacon... And I enjoyed the first of many cups of Kona coffee.
Lunch at Quinn's Almost-By-The-Sea in Kona. We had quick burgers for the adults & chicken tenders for the kids. Uninspired cooking and not very memorable.
Breakfast at the French Bakery (Kona). The coconut/pineapple muffins are a must! Very light, fluffy & moist. The girls loved the sugar doughnuts. We had them wrap extra muffins to take back to our hotel for the next day's breakfast. Here we discovered POG, pineapple orange guave juice, another favorite with the kids.
Kailua Candy Company (Kona). A wonderful place which allows you to sample most chocolates. We bought some white & milk chocolates for the girls, & shipped a few pounds of assorted & truffles back to the mainland for gifts. Macadamia turtles & coconut haystacks are delicious.
Mrs. Barry's Kona Cookies (Kona). Another great place for treats. Some samples available, & they too ship. Loved the chocolate dipped coconut cookies best. Very fresh & taste homemade.
Roy's Waikoloa Bar & Grill for dinner (Kohala Coast). You need to make reservations a few days in advance.We had a great table by the windows overlooking the water (lake). The food was good, the wine list was better & the dark chocolate souffle made it all worthwhile. Gooey middle with a perfectly crisped crust. Good value for the money.
Imari (Kohala Coast). We met friends here & they chose the restaurant. In a nutshell, avoid at all costs. We all had sushi and it was not good. It was a sort of omakase for $38 per person & 2 person minimum. It included clam, hamachi, tuna, sweet shrimp & more. Most of it was tough & not very fresh. Beware of the kids menu. It is acceptable food, like teriyaki chicken or beef, but grossly overpriced.
Daniel Thiebaut (Waimea). Also had a good wine list. The food was very tasty, we both had fish. A bit pricey, but a lovely meal on our last night.
Merriman's (Waimea) for dinner. Husband had the ono which he said was so-so. I had the lamb tenderloin, a special. I thought this was quite possibly the best dinner I had the entire trip. The herbed lamb was lean, succulent and extremely tender. Went well with a glass of zinfandel.
Parker Grill (Waimea) for lunch. Husband was going to have a hamburger until he was told that he couldn't have it medium rare since it was frozen. He had a fish sandwich instead. I had a salad. Completely underwhelmed by this experience.
Lunch at Canoe's Cafe in Hilo. Really great sandwiches on a busy day of sightseeing.
Thai Thai at Volcano. Very good soups. Beware, I ordered the chicken Tom Kah medium spicy, & it was HOT! My eyes were watering & I had to drink alot of water, but the flavor was wonderful!
What's Shaking on the 4 mile scenic route in Hamakua (North of the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden) Some of the best smoothies ever. Made with all fresh fruit & juices, like guava, passion fruit, etc. Very refreshing!
Saturday night clambake at Hau Tree (Mauna Kea Resort)
This was another highlight. Dinner on the beach at sunset. All you can eat Kehole (Maine) lobster (husband ate 2 1/2 lobsters),crab legs,fresh sweet shrimp,clams (good),mussels(only okay), prime rib (we didn't try...too busy eating seafood!),etc. Lots of fresh fruit, & make your own sundaes featuring Hagen Daas vanilla & chocolate ice cream! They make a strong Mai Tai too.
To all who gave such sage advice, Mahalo!