Easy recipes for vacation cooking w/o easily accessible ingredients?

I’ll be in Volcano Nat’l Park for a few nights next month and want to try cooking some meals in our rental cottage (need at least 1 dinner + some prep for picnic lunch since local food options generally suck) but afaik there aren’t any markets or groceries in the immediate area (i.e. Volcano Village) so we need to plan accordingly. We’ll likely be picking up basic ingredients in Hilo the day before at the big weekend farmer’s market but I have no idea what kind of produce will be avail and we won’t have a cooler to keep fish/meat for several hours between stops in Hilo and Volcano so I’m going to rely mostly on dry goods.

We’ll be moving all around the island (3 different lodgings) and packing very light, so bringing anything from home is o-u-t. Kitchen at cottage is decent sized but I have no idea how well stocked it is (website indicates fully equipped) - photos here: http://volcanoteapot.com/the-cottage/

I’m thinking of doing pasta for dinner and I’ve been digging through Elizabeth Minchilli’s recipes for inspiration but lack of quality source for fresh cheese, cured meats, etc. on island is a concern w/o knowing what vegetables we’ll find locally. I don’t want to weigh too heavily on this but it’d be nice to be able to cook one good meal in our cottage. Does anyone have thoughts or suggestions for easy recipe ideas given our many limitations?

I may be able to contact our hosts to request they stock certain ingredients in advance, for which we’d compensate them. I’d rather not trouble them with that though.

Go to the market and get some local fish or prawns. The island is plentiful with fruit and vegetables also . Get a foam ice chest if you have to . For one night treat yourself to the best seafood on earth. Pasta you can cook that anywhere.


I’ve used a makeshift cooler with success before. Line a cardboard box with layers of newspaper for insulation. Place a strong plastic bag inside. Fill with ice and the food. tie it off. cover with newspaper, close lid of the box. This worked great for a 6 hour drive in the summer in the south.

I’ve done this on vacation directly from the airport. I just pack a strong plastic bag. Grab some freebie newspapers at the racks of tourist info. Box can be had at the market for the asking.

Or perhaps the hosts could supply a cooler? Either way, this will open up so many other options for your meals.


Great ideas; don’t know why I didn’t think of the foam ice chest/makeshift cooler but this solves everything! We can pickup really fresh seafood at Suisan Market in Hilo and have a great meal!



The cottage is charming. This is going to be a fantastic vacation!

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When you say bringing anything from home is out - and we don’t know what might be available in the grocery - I’m not sure how to help . . . . the make shift cooler idea is a great suggestion btw!

But given your initial constraints - I might try to pack/bring/buy a can of thai curry paste and coconut milk (you might even be able to get fresh coconuts to grate and make your own cream/milk). A coconut curry with rice can go with any vegetables you can get really, and you can add any protein you can get.

Edit: If you’re doing pasta - I might steer away from the tomato route. I seem to suggest this a lot - but a pasta tossed with lemon butter sauce (maybe 3 lemons juiced, 1 stick butter per pound of pasta) is a great summer/warm weather pasta option. They have lemons in the kitchen picture so someone got them somewhere. It can also be easily topped with any fish/seafood you may or may not be able to get - or roasted chicken if that’s all you can find.

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Can the owners of this BnB share what will be dirctly avail to you in order to stock up on pantry items? They are supposed to be there to help guests, right? You cant be the first to ask.

Re. pantry items and other ingredients, I’ve discovered a wonderful source in Hilo with a good looking stock list on their website: https://www.bigislandlocavorestore.com

I’m not too concerned anymore about stocking up on supplies now that I’ve got a better sense of what I’ll be cooking. I think I will end up bringing along a small spice blend/rub for fish as that’s really easy to pack and doesn’t take up any extra space or weight in our luggage. The Thai curry/coconut milk suggestion is a great one and should be easy to find in Hilo!

This is where I’ll likely be shopping for fish and the website indicates - “Most of the time our fish market has ahi, mahi-mahi, ono and salmon available. We can have up to 50 other varieties of fish on hand throughout the seasons.” - https://www.suisan.com/our-services/fish-market/

I think I’ll plan ahead for a blackened mahi (any other simple suggestions?) but then adjust that based on whatever the freshest daily catch turns out to be. The only seafood we’re not fans of is (cooked) salmon but that’s not really a local species anyway. If I can get my hands on fresh octopus we could cook it in its own water and then do an octopus/potato salad for lunch leftovers the next day.

For side dishes, I’ll probably make a simple salad – there’s a delicious looking homemade lilikoi (passionfruit) balsamic vinaigrette sold at the above shop, as well as fresh chevre from a local goat dairy. I’m sure there will be an abundance of seasonal greens, tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, etc. Perhaps I’ll toss in some tropical fruit as well. We’ll also pick up a homemade batard from the same shop and stock up on lots of snacking foods (dried fruits & local chocolate) for our drive through Volcano Nat’l Park.

I’ve been trying to figure this out in the back of my head for the past few days and the answer (cheap throwaway cooler) was so simple and obvious, lol… this is all finally coming together!

Thanks everyone!!


I think I’m going to pick up some Jasmine rice and coconut milk to serve with the blackened mahi. That way, I can make a nice fried rice w/ leftovers (plus garlic, ginger, scallions, sesame, soy) for next day lunch, minimizing time/effort. :slight_smile:

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I’m a big fan of the “breakfast leftover frittata” too. Great way to use up leftovers, tasty breakfast, can be served with salad for a lunch - made even better if you find some local selling fresh eggs!

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Oh there’s plenty of local farm fresh eggs at the above linked shop in Hilo which is what gave me the inspiration for the next-day fried rice. I think the hosts provide some basic continental breakfast (reviews all mention really good Portuguese sausage- not sure if they just provide the links for us to cook? Surely they won’t be cooking breakfast in our actual cottage rental… I hope not anyway!)

My vote is to make some poke. Yellowfin and bigeye are caught locally. When in rome… : )

I love to grill so I’d personally buy a cheap charcoal grill, styrofoam cooler, and marinate some chicken or fish for a day or two (if you can grill there.) Hawaii has some cool spices and sauces they make locally. I’ve gotten some good curry there too but don’t know the particular area you will be at. Don’t forget some parks locally may have charcoal grills where you can take a cooler too.

Mahi tacos ( blackened or not)

Grilled wahoo or sashimi

If I had to summarize my recommendations, try to eat local ingredients and be outside as much as you can. Take it all in! Mahalo

Also, Hawaii has killer food trucks! If you have a car I would stop by a few of those. In fact, that is one great thing about hawaii…hitting up different trucks as you tour the island and visit spots/beaches.

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I don’t want to make poke just because we’ll probably eat our fill of it over the course of the 2 weeks that we’re there. I’ve already got at least 4 poke specific markets on our itinerary, one of which falls the day before this planned meal, so we’ll likely get sick of eating it (if that’s possible). I could do yellowfin steaks… but I’ll probably just play it by ear and see what the freshest local catch happens to be on the day that we visit the market.

I don’t think that our cottage has a grill; at least I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere on the website or in reviews. We’ll be in the middle of an isolated National Park in Volcano and we’re staying in a time capsule 1920’s cottage that’s nestled in a tropical rain forest and bamboo grove, so I want to make good use of that unique setting. It’s the very reason we’re not venturing out for dinner on the night in question. We’ll have already spent a full week on the beaches around the northwest side of the island, followed by 2 nights in Hilo, and this will be the tail end of our trip (final 2 nights) so I really want to just relax at the cottage and cook some great meals!

Mahi tacos could work nicely with a fresh mango salsa but I have no idea if we’ll find tortillas anywhere and don’t want to count on that. Whatever we end up cooking, we’ll need to rely on stovetop or oven in our kitchen. From my research, there are also no good food trucks anywhere nearby. Well, there’s a Thai food truck that seems to get good reviews but based on what I’ve seen in photos, I’m skeptical at best. Food trucks are fine for quick lunches by the beach on the other side of the island, but I’d much rather focus on a good home cooked meal for our time in the rain forest. :slight_smile:

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This recipe is amazing and basically a pantry meal, just need spinach (in a pinch frozen works), i skip the step of adding the slice of bread all together. Serve with some crusty bread to scoop up with an maybe a side salad

For picnic a sturdy grain salad works well- base of quinoa or barley with olives, some sunflower seeda or chopped nuts, vinegrette, chopped jarred roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, giardinara…

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OK thanks for explaining some of the factors.

So are you apprehensive about cooking outside because of the weather, or the fact that there may not be a grill available? I just love being outside in hawaii. I wish I could get back some hotel hours I racked up. Either way I’m sure you will have a blast but I’d err on the side of not cooking indoors…or if you have to, take that food and make sure to eat “out” in the beautiful scenery if you can!

I’m sure a lot of us would love to see some food and island pics :slight_smile:

I’m just fairly certain, based on all the photos that I’ve seen and reviews that I’ve read, that there’s no outdoor grill available at out cottage rental. I’m sure it would be noted otherwise. No big deal though as we’ll have plenty of time for outdoor meals on this trip… and I’d be glad to share photos when we get back!

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I’m making this tomorrow night for dinner! :smiley:

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Hope you enjoy it as much as i do!