Ponds – Hilo, Big Island, HI

One of the best restaurants Hilo side

While the road leading here was more industrial, Ponds sticks out when you get past that part of Hilo and the From the outside you see the Hawaiian style A-frame and a turquoise building. Drive any further beyond this and you’ll get to both a nice seapark and a nice residential area.

Ponds is the type of Hawaiian restaurant you hope to find with local island style decor, reminiscent of Magnum PI, fresh food, good views, and a nice breeze through the window. If you are lucky, real nene geese might be hanging out by the pond and parking lot, the pond is what gives Ponds its name and view.

The bar at Ponds is both small and well stocked. The whole bar has the authentic Tiki-vibe you can only get in the islands with a nice painting of the Mauna Kea Observatories. The bar can make phenomenal mixed drinks and a good selection of craft brews are on tap.

The bar at Ponds
The bar at Ponds

The dining area goes and goes throughout the building. If you can, ask to sit by the windows and you watch the koi, birds, swimmers, and kayaks in the pond below you. If you’re traveling with kids, it’s a good way to keep them occupied. It’s hard to capture the view in a photo due to the windows and sunlight, but the vibe is very local Hawaiian. The last time we stopped by they had live music with a ukulele player, in a suit and tie, near our table. This is the Hawaii you wanted from the guidebooks webpages.

Many seats look out on the pond at Ponds
Many seats look out on the pond at Ponds

We had a group of five at the last visit and could sample more of the menu. One new option to us were the Kalua pork sliders. These came in sweet buns, I believe from the Punalu’u bakery, and ere very good. The pork was tender and flavorful. There wasn’t a need for any sauce.

Kalua pork sliders in sweet buns

The coconut shrimp is one metric my wife likes to judge restaurants by. The ones at Ponds are both huge and the best we’ve had in the islands. An appetizer platter comes with 5, but this is equivalent to 10 at most restaurants. The grilled pineapple and sweet cilantro pineapple sauce that come with it are nice compliments.

Coconut shrimp

The calamari tempura comes with a “Ponds” spicy cocktail sauce. The calamari was very fresh and perfectly fried. It was lightly breaded and tempura style. The meat was juicy and easy to eat. This was fresh calamari which was perfectly prepared and fried.

Calamari Tempura – Fried calamari, extremely fresh and light breaded

Whenever I go to Ponds, I typically get the opakapapa wrap with fries. This is the Hawaiian word for Snapper and it can be very fresh in Hawaii. I want to try more of the menu, and still do so through picking off the plates of others, but this is very well balanced and extremely good. The opakapaka is extremely fresh and the goes well in the wrap. The fries are both typical and delicious.

The excellent opakapaka wrap with fries

As fish and chips, the opakapaka works well too. Per their menu, this is their signature dish. This is breaded in a light tempura beer batter and comes with well balanced sauces. As with everything the quality and care is noticeable.

While the fish and chips are signature dish, really every dish at Ponds shows the same care and this extends to their salads. The Salmon salad is a full meal in itself with a great combination of salad greens and local fruits and vegetables, such as avocados. The salads at Ponds are well worth their price and their signature dressing, the papaya poi vinaigrette, are perfect blend island flavors for the salad.

Grilled salmon salad

Ponds Hilo
135 Kalanianaole Ave
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 934-7663
Yelp | Webpage
First Visit: 2013
Most Recent Visit:  4 January 2018
Cuisine Rating:  16
Decoration Rating: 16
COST: $$ (on the low side of $$)
BEST BET (meats):  Opakapaka, Shrimp, Seafood
BEST BET (meals): Opakapaka Wrap, Coconut Shrimp, Fish and Chips

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