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World's Worst Mexican Restaurant in Hilo?

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Feb 15th, 2012, 04:05 PM
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World's Worst Mexican Restaurant in Hilo?

I get a job benefit week of partially subsidized travel for Medical Continuing Education. This year I elected to use this benefit for travel to a medical meeting on the Big Island. Here are some notes from this trip:
Arrived Sat night into a rain shower - some welcome! We chose flights that connected in Denver and LAX, then into Hilo, on the East (windward) side of the island. My personal goals on this trip were to 1) attend the meeting, which was at a resort on the Northwest side of the island;(leeward; close to Kona) and 2) get as close to molten lava as legally possible. (visual image of Mike Myers' Dr Evil saying "Molten Lava," then cackling a maniacal laugh) Currently, the only Hawaiian Molten Lava you can get is on the Southeast side, south of Hilo. So we chose an itinerary that had us flying into Hilo and then out of Kona. This worked well, except for a minor rental car drop off fee.

Anyway, found our way in 45 min with the rain, to the very charming "My Island" B&B run by a family originally from Minnesota, but has been transplants on the island for nearly 40 years, and the B&B is currently run by the 1st gen. younger daughter Ki'i, who is a baker extraordinaire. The B&B is stated as a "Connecticut style" farmhouse built in 1886 by an original Congregational missionary family who settled on the island during the 19th century. The B&B is in the Village of Volcano (yes the address is: Volcano, Hawaii 96785) Ki'i's breads and pastries for breakfast made getting out of bed something to look forward to!! The grounds were delightful, and worth the trip just to see this lovely spot.
On Sunday we hiked one of the larger craters (Kilauea Iki) as well as the Lava Tube (basically a long cave) We got to a lookout platform near the molten lava, (the Kilauea Overlook) where one could see a lot of steam and sulfur dioxide smoke coming up out of a crater, but did not get to actually see the lava. It seems the NPS is risk adverse in case someone with terminal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) manages to spend $2000 getting to this place, hiking the several miles into the crater, and then their Oxygen tank runs out just as they are getting a big whiff of sulfur dioxide. Yes, that could be a harmful scenario. So the rest of the 99.98% normal humans on the planet must perceive the otherwise harmless caldera from over a mile away, just to avoid the chance that one moron out of 100,000 might hurt themselves. Aren't our bureaucracies wonderful?? Thank an attorney.

Anyway, there are many steam vents around the park to explore as well. We also drove the 15 miles to the coast to see where a recent lava flow wiped out a highway, and then flowed into the sea, creating a neat sea arch.

Within the Park boundaries was a curious anomaly, an old WWII era Military camp which now is operated as a retreat by the Army's Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Service. This is called the Kilauea Military Camp and it is open to the public, with a small bar with limited hours, but probably cheap beer, (did not partake) an old Bowling Alley (looked inside - was escorted around by a cockroach) a cafeteria (not open at the times we were hungry) and an old Chapel and Theater. The theater facility is also used by a local community theater company which was showing "The Fantastics" which we enjoyed. In the town of Volcano, just outside park boundaries, are the delightful and recommended Kiawe Kitchen, famed for unusual pizza and sandwich dishes, and Thai Thai restaurant, which served very good Thai dishes.

On Monday we drove to the East coast and bathed in a "Hot Pond", in the poorly marked Ahalanui State Park. - this is not a Hot Springs pool , but rather, sea water which collects in a small pool about 20 yards in from the surf, and then geothermal energy heats the water to a mildly warm temperature. It is actually a very relaxing experience, since the sea water in that area can be chilly. We then drove around the towns of Kalapana and Pahoa, then drove through Hilo to the North shore. By making this particular drive, one passes through a remarkable array of ecosystems, from hardwood and pine forests, to savannah, to tropical rainforest, etc. North of Hilo is the lovely Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens, which are stunningly beautiful, complete with two separate waterfalls. The Gardens are on the 7 mile Old Mamalahoa Highway, by itself quite scenic and lovely.

While in Hilo we shopped for food in their historic district and found what may have been the worse Mexican Restaurant on the planet, Reuben’s. I know, what do you expect, a Mexican restaurant in Hilo name Reuben's? Well, this place had awful Margaritas, bland food, high prices, and slow discourteous waiters. I mean the place needs a match. Fortunately, on the way out, we found an avocado stand in the nearby Farmer's Market, with wonderful avocados. One good fresh avocado can negate a whole bad restaurant experience. Otherwise, I don't know that Hilo itself was much to talk about.
After that we proceeded to our resort by passing through the high altitude town of Waimea, which is actually the heart of Hawaii's livestock community. This is a sort of surreal experience, to leave the jungles along the shore, and in less than an hour be driving past herds of cattle grazing on rolling grassy hills. But that is reflective of the remarkable ecologic diversity that makes this Big Island so famous.

Our resort, the Hapuna Beach Prince, was OK, but not terribly remarkable. This facility is immediately next to a Mauna Kea resort, and they share a very fine common tennis facility, which DW took advantage of. Immediately adjacent to the resorts is the small port town of Kawaihae, which boasts a few nice eating spots; the only drawback is that you dine with a view of a shipping freight terminal, to include fuel tanks. I guess this helps lower real estate costs.

Heading into the west Coast town of Kailua- Kona, we visited the very nice Royal Palace and original Congregational Church from the early 19th Century. Interestingly, we did independently confirm that the original Congregationalist missionaries were in fact from Connecticut, verifying the connection between this church and the B&B we stayed in. After visiting this town we drove south a bit, got lost and almost ran out of gas, tehn found the very excellent Mi’s Italian Bistro. Very, very good quality food.

In summary, a trip to the Big Island is a must. Highly recommended are the “My Island B&B, the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens, and MI’s on the highway south of Kona.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 04:17 PM
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What a strange title.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 05:56 PM
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The downer experiences makes one enjoy the positive experiences more. Can't always be Mr. Upbeat.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 05:57 PM
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The Thai restaurant in Volcano is GREAT!
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Feb 15th, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Enjoyed the report - but why would one go to a Mexican restaurant in Hilo?
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Feb 15th, 2012, 07:24 PM
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Tomsd - did not research food options well in advance of going to Hilo. Parking in that city is a challenge.. WE were hungry and it was there. Bad combo.
Starrs is correct. Thai Thai in Volcano is a real find.
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Feb 16th, 2012, 09:23 AM
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>So the rest of the 99.98% normal humans on the planet must perceive the otherwise harmless caldera from over a mile away, just to avoid the chance that one moron out of 100,000 might hurt themselves. Aren't our bureaucracies wonderful?? Thank an attorney. <

Actually, there are a lot more morons than 1 out of 100,000. Hawaii has a lot of tourists that come and do incredibly dangerous (and stupid) things - and they all probably figure they spent a lot of money to come to Hawaii, so they have a right to see what they want, how they want.

Then when something happens - death, injury - someone (the State, a private landowner) gets sued. Even when the person who was killed or injured ignored posted warning signs, ignored warnings from locals, jumped barriers, etc. I doubt the sole reason the National Park Service keeps people from getting closer is the chance that someone with COPD runs out of oxygen. It's not just bureaucracies and attorneys.
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Feb 16th, 2012, 09:26 AM
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I love your subject line. It reminded me of wretched Chinese restaurants in which I've dined abroad. Those in Salamanca and Bologna stand out.

HTTY
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Feb 16th, 2012, 09:29 AM
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Enjoyed the report - but why would one go to a Mexican restaurant in Hilo?

I had the same thought, Tom, but then remembered how much I like Red Hot Mama's on Kauai.
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Feb 16th, 2012, 09:36 AM
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Enjoyed the report - but why would one go to a Mexican restaurant in Hilo?

When traveling for an extended period I sometimes want a change of pace or an inexpensive ethnic meal.
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Feb 16th, 2012, 10:13 AM
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Disclaimer:

I have never been to Hawaii and do not eat Mexican food that often. But I must agree with the chorus, why?

We have long eaten with the idea, if the food does not look like it belongs, it probably doesn't. Of course, a recommendation is always the exception.

And if one contain oneself for two weeks not to eat the food they usually eat, then pack crackers and cheese.
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Feb 17th, 2012, 09:54 AM
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There are Mexican restaurants all over the U.S. Why dine in any of them?
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Feb 17th, 2012, 10:22 AM
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There are Mexican restaurants all over the U.S. Why dine in any of them?

There is bad ethnic food all over the country. If there is a community that of group in that town, at least you have a fighting chance.
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Feb 17th, 2012, 12:38 PM
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My two cents - a well written trip report hidden behind a title that sounds like it's a complaint thread. If the goal is to share good info with other travelers, my guess is that more people will skip over this thread (because of the title) than read it.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 08:46 AM
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Thanks all for your interest. Just as we should be quick to praise a good business, we should also be quick to point out when a business seems to go out of their way to provide poor service. But Starrs' point is good, if my title hid my points about the good businesses, that did provide good value, then that is an unfortunate unintended result of my choice of tongue-in-cheek title. Also, thank you for the clarification, chepar, it is sad society must bear the burden for stupidity.

It may strike one as odd to think you could find decent Mexican food in a small town in Middle Tenn, but we actually have some genuinely outstanding Mex restaurants here! So why not in Hilo?
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 09:11 AM
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starrs - I might be the exception but I actually opened the thread because of the title. If it seemed like just another Hawaii trip report, I wouldn't have bothered. But I was intrigued by the worst mexican restaurant in Hilo (which probably is the only mexican restaurant in Hilo).
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 09:41 AM
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Just an opinion.

If I were planning a trip, I'd open trip reports not complaint threads.

Different strokes for different folks.
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Feb 23rd, 2012, 09:45 AM
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If the title was an "Amazing and Awesome Trip to Hilo" three people would have read it.
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