We just returned from an amazing vacation to The Big Island of Hawaii. It wasn’t just that we were traveling with great company (my parents and my brother’s family) or that the weather was perfect, or that the island is absolutely gorgeous. The icing on the cake is that it was really easy to dine out and eat well gluten-free! As anyone with food restrictions knows, dining out on the road can be a real challenge. Menu options are often limited, and many restaurants aren’t able to prepare food safely at all.
Hawaii was just the opposite: we were blown away by the gluten-free options! There were more restaurants offering gluten-free menus than we had time to try, and the menus were extensive. Instead of having one or two items to choose from, the gluten-free menus were nearly as long as the regular menus.
The best part for us was that the restaurants and hotels really seemed to understand celiac disease and cross-contamination. We felt like they were taking great care to prepare safe food for us.
Here’s where we ate:
Californian cuisine with Italian influence, casual; gluten-free menu
We ate at The Beach Tree twice, because we loved it. The views were spectacular and the food was fresh and delicious. It’s an open air design with a partly covered dining area, just steps off the beach, with beautiful views.
The gluten-free menu is extensive as it parallels the non-gluten free menu. They have a vegan menu as well. We found everyone to be highly aware of celiac and the importance of avoiding cross-contamination.
Dishes we tried among us: fresh chips with salsa and guacamole, caprese salad, turkey burger with potato fries, mahi-mahi tacos, superfood salad and a hot dog with fries.
Californian cuisine with Hawaiian influence, casual; gluten-free menu
The Hale Kai Restaurant is located steps from the pool, with views of the ocean, with outside and al fresco dining. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed. We found our server knowledgeable about celiac and cross contamination and when she didn’t know about a particular item, she checked.
The kitchen was very accommodating and took steps to make sure the shared items on the table were also all gluten-free. The menu is extensive with interesting twists on the usual fare that offer something for everyone.
Dishes we tried: fresh chips and salsa, vegetable summer rolls with tofu, avocado & chili sauce, macadamia nut hummus with purple sweet potato chips, lobster fried rice, kale and sweet potato tacos, and steak frites.
American cuisine with sushi bar; gluten-free menu
We stayed at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows and found everyone to be very accommodating and aware of celiac, and the need to prepare dishes without cross-contamination. I called ahead several times so they were expecting us, and our celiac status was noted by the hotel, so when we gave our room number, we heard “Ah, the special ones.” That was us: “The Special Ones!”
They prepared all my son’s food separately in the kitchen, doing so in a timely manner so his food came out with the rest of ours. Dishes we tried: Grilled cheese, cheeseburger, vegetable sushi, chips & salsa, strawberries salad, fresh fruit platter, omelettes with roasted potatoes, gluten-free toast and bacon, and pasta with tomato sauce.
Italian cuisine, casual; Most items on regular menu can be made gluten-free
Pueo’s Osteria was another place we ate at more than once because my son likes pasta, and because it was easy and delicious. They don’t advertise that they offer gluten-free food but nearly everything on their menu can be made gluten-free, including pizza and pasta. It was recommended by the Find Me Gluten-Free app, as well as our hotel concierge.
They don’t print a specific gluten-free menu, but nearly everything on the menu can be made gluten-free. Our reservation noted that we had a person with celiac and needed to dine gluten-free. It was very busy but our server immediately asked who needed to eat gluten-free, and took time to discuss the menu.
All the gluten-free dishes are prepared separately, with efforts made to avoid cross-contamination. Dishes we tried: pasta alla norma, pasta with marinara, margarita pizza.
Vegetarian cuisine; casual. No specific gluten-free menu but most dishes are gluten-free, and they offer vegan and raw options, a juice bar and a kombucha bar
Luckily for us, Under the Bodhi Tree was just a bike ride away from our hotel, so every day we biked over to pick up green juices, smoothies and treats. The staff is very knowledgeable. All the prepared treats are gluten-free.
Everything was very fresh, locally sourced, prepared with care — and yummy! Dishes we tried: green juices, kombucha, tropical acai bowls (with nut & seed mix instead of granola), black bean brownie.
American cuisine; gluten-free menu
The restaurant is partly al fresco under covered dining and partly indoors. The place was bustling when we arrived but they offered us a wide range of gluten-free offerings. They could also prepare dishes not on the gluten-free menu, but recommended sticking with the menu if we were celiac, saying that would be the safest way to avoid cross-contamination. They can accommodate vegetarians as well.
Dishes we tried: macadamia crusted goat cheese with vegetables, filet mignon with cauliflower potato mash, and roasted seasonal vegetables with a cauliflower steak.
Thai cuisine; casual. This outdoor stand’s menu is 100% gluten-free.
Sadly, we didn’t get to eat here, but we sure wanted too! If any of my readers get a chance, please send your impressions of Racha Thai!
Hawaiian cuisine with an international influence; resort casual. No specific gluten-free menu but most items could be made gluten-free. Vegetarian friendly too.
Dining at Roy’s Hawaii was a real treat. They offer a fascinating menu, and the food is prepared perfectly. The menu is extensive — there’s something to satisfy seafood lovers, meat-eaters and vegetarians, in addition to being very accommodating for gluten-free diners.
The staff, manager and kitchen were very aware of celiac and cross-contamination issues, and were there to please. Each dish was better than the last.
Dishes we tried among us: edamame (served instead of bread), surf & turf (filet mignon, shrimp in a butter wine sauce and haricot verts), grilled tofu steak (offered instead of meat or fish on any dish) and the BEST warm chocolate souffle ever!
Disclaimer: As always, this was our experience. We always speak with restaurants in advance about our gluten-free needs and ask questions to make sure we are comfortable that the chef can prepare food free of cross-contamination. Please, always do your own due diligence as chefs, owners and menus change!