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Living in Hawaii I- Hilo: Big Island’s Jewel in the Crown-Getting Around
I retired from my government job last May, 2010 and moved to Hawaii in July, 2010. I came bringing my wife and her 4 four legged critters in tow. I thought that I would relay a little information about the transition while the memories remain fresh and does not fade with the list of other experiences that I have forgotten over time. While I have learned a little about the other islands, my specialty is the Big Island of Hawaii.
When we take that weekly visit to town, it is a given that we stop somewhere and get something to eat. Hilo reminds me of a large carnival, synonymous with cotton candy. There are people on the roadside selling fresh fish and Hawaiian exotic delicacies from the back of their car or truck. I am a meat and potatoes sort of guy who is now introduced to lau-lau, tofu and things like that. My wife is better acclimated and has a palate that is consistent with the environment. The Asian flair in the food is more than evident. The first thing that I notice is the dearth of so many restaurant chains. I could not find an Olive Garden, Red Lobster or many of the signature steakhouses that I took for granted in Colorado. I am quite fond of the aforementioned restaurants so it is not by coincidence that I mentioned them. There are many businesses that have gone ‘belly up’. It is evident that the dour national economy is here when you see so many establishments that have been shuttered. Down the streets and thoroughfares, everyone is very courteous and yields the right of way even when it is not warranted. No road rage around here. We dined at a favorite restaurant of ours before crossing the street to the bus station on foot. My significant other says that the bus station is surrounded by seedy characters. Teenagers smoking cigarettes and dressed like carnival performers. I have been to bus stations that make this look like a folk dance, and you know, it did look like a folk dance. The way some of these kids were dressed!! I told her, if this is a bad as it gets, remember its counterparts in Los Angeles, Denver, or Washington D.C. Compared with those places, this Hilo bus station is light weight and I think that we can handle it. We then took an after-brunch stroll through CoconutIsland which is nearby. I could not see why it was referred to as an island, but anyway, it was a scenic experience. I have provided a picture or two to illustrate.
Bus Station-Banyon Tree
Stroll through Coconut Island
Now that we are natives and not tourists, we know how to eat where the food is good and inexpensive without having to settle for a fast food outlet. I am going to recommend 3 places that we always seem to find ourselves visiting when we come to town.
Try the Hilo Rice Noodles Soup Restaurant, which in my experience has a distinctly Vietnamese flavor. The soups are hearty with herbs, fresh basil and cilantro. Bean sprouts are provided as well. Put this together with some very tasty vegetable wraps in a burrito like sleeve made of rice, and you are well on your way to a healthy and filling meal with no regrets about calories. The two of us usually pay roughly $26.00 for the experience. The establishment has a functional layout and the service is fast and courteous.
The Food Court, next to the Walmart (there is only one in town) is the place to go for us to experience Hawaiian cuisine at down to earth prices. There are 4 restaurants located within a mall like design. Each restaurant has an Asian motif. You order from one of the restaurants and seat yourself in a common area. There I was introduced to many of the Hawaiian, local, specialties. The Missus is slowly changing my view as to what constitutes ‘food’. I am eating strange vegetables and fruit, but I couldn’t get into the poi. Again, it is a smorgasbord of aromas and flavors. We usually escape from here after addressing a tab of about $25.00 for two.
Reubens has to be the most improved restaurant since my visit to the islands back in 2003. I am picky about Mexican food and am quite fond of it. Coming from the southwest, I have some idea what it should taste like. Although, it fell short of my expectations when I dined there then, it is fabulous now. It is quite a treat; I had a great fish burrito with all the spicy sauces and flavorings I have come to expect. After a couple of great drinks, we were ‘looped’ and ready for the stroll in the park. This establishment is located in the downtown area and is quite reasonably priced. We paid about $40.00 for it all, but in all fairness, we ate like horses.
So it is possible with a little planning to enjoy great meals in Hilo without breaking the bank. Bon Appetit……