How to Do Hawaii Island Like a Local

Resident Pomai Weigert shares her favourite places to go on the Big Island

Hulihee Palace, courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and Tor Johnson

PomaiWeigertPomai Weigert has called Hilo, the historic epicentre of Hawaii Island’s farming and sugar industries, home for the last two years. As a community relations lead for the Hawaii AgriTourism Association, she works with local farms to spread the idea of “sustainable aloha,” a term she and her mother coined to refer to the idea of creating deeper ties to communities and the land through collaboration. “It’s very rooted in culture,” she says of the island. “There’s a strong Hawaiian presence that still exists, with lots of old families who have been here for generations.”

Here are a few of Weigert’s favourite spots.

Photo by Jessica Pearl

Short N Sweet Bakery & Cafe, Hilo

“If you’re a local, Short N Sweet is where you’re going for coffee or breakfast. It’s owned by a husband and wife and is located in what used to be the old King’s Hawaiian Sweet Bread building—which locals will mention anytime they reference this place. The husband, Dien, bakes the best sweet bread [a soft roll sweetened with pineapple and brown sugar].”

Hulihee Palace, Kailua-Kona

“This is both a historical museum and palace. It is the former vacation home to Hawaiian royalty. I love it because it is rich in native Hawaiian culture and history and is right on the water.”

Punaluu Bake Shop, Naalehu

“This place is a landmark on the way to South Point [Kalae] and Papakolea Green Sand Beach and it feels like it has been there since the beginning of time. The big draw is the ice cream. They make a bunch of specialty flavours, but I always get the macadamia nut.”

Rusty’s Hawaiian, Kau Farmers Market and other locations 

Rusty’s has the best coffee on the whole island. A lot of times people who come to the island only know Kona coffee, but Rusty’s has Kau coffee from the south side of the island. The farmers in Kau tell me Kau is the younger, hotter sister of Kona as far as coffee is concerned.” 

Getting there: WestJet’s seasonal flights from Vancouver to Hawaii Island resume on October 28, 2016.