We just got home from a week long vacation in Kauai and we’re already missing the delicious fresh foods we got to eat. We made it to all the different sides of the island, although we stuck mainly to the North and East since that’s where we were staying. If you want to see what kind of activities we recommend and beaches to explore, check out this post. And then come back and see why we’re missing the Garden Isle cuisine!
Since this was the closest area to where we were staying, we ended up eating around here a lot. We found it to be much more local feeling and had some seriously good eats. Here were some of our favorites.
◊ Wailua Shave Ice – We may have found ourselves at this shave ice truck every night we were in Kauai and one day we may or may not have been here twice, but we won’t confirm or deny that. Really though, it is seriously THAT GOOD. We tried most of the different combinations but our favorite recommendation is the Lava Flow, it speaks for itself!
◊ Scorpacciata – Located next to Wailua Shave Ice, this pizza food truck was calling our names on one of our stops for shave ice. It makes for the perfect lunch or dinner combo. Try the Hawaiian, because – when in Rome, right?!
◊ The Local – This was one of the best dining experiences we had while on the island. There was great food, great atmosphere with live music, and a small, but tasty local beer menu. It is more of a small plate/tapas style restaurant but the 4 of us ordered 2 pizzas and a large fry (which were damn good fries!) and were very satisfied and full.
◊ Saimin Dojo – If you’re feeling something a little different than seafood, get your booty to Saimin Dojo. We are big ramen fans so it was fun to find a place that really delivered on the flavor. Plus, the kalua pork dish was AMAZING.
◊ Coconut’s Fish Cafe – This was such a random, delicious find in the middle of a shopping mall in Kapa’a. It was almost like a Q’doba or Chipotle but for seafood and better. This was our first and only coconut shrimp experience and it did not disappoint. The staff were very helpful and sweet and the outdoor patio was a great place to watch the sun dip under the mountains before getting dark.
◊ Mariachi’s Mexican – This was our very last dinner in Kauai and it was a successful last dinner at that. The four of us love Mexican food and were really pleased with the choices we made, especially our shrimp and mahi mahi chimichanga. They also have a great happy hour if you like a good draft beer deal!
This was just a little ways up from from Kapa’a so we drove by here a lot on our way to the North shore and picked out a couple favorites.
◊ Lava Lava Beach Club – We found ourselves here twice during our stay, which is something we don’t often do while we travel but our first taste of Lava Lava was so tasty that we had to try it again. We recommend sticking with their lunch, unless you make it between 3-5 for their happy hour plates or 3-6 for their happy hour drinks, which are both significantly discounted. Our dinner experience was nice and relaxed, although a bit overpriced for the portion some of us received. If you do happen to make it on a night of live music, find yourself a nice comfy couch, order a mai tai and take in the ocean view! And absolutely try their lunch Kalua pork sandwich or their fish and chips.
◊ Kenji Burger – On our first night of dinner we ordered take out from Kenji burger before passing out from the time change. We tried the ahi sushi burrito and our friends tried a sushi burrito and burger and we all enjoyed the food, although we are a little biased to how good Reno’s sushi is. This was one of our cheapest meals of the trip, where you can get yourself a full meal for under $15 which was a steal compared to a lot of our other finds. Plus, if you can find yourself a yellow coupon book around the island, there is a coupon for a free side of fries and a drink which saves you around $5 so take the bargain where you can get it!
This was as far North as we could go due to the recent flooding that Kauai had in April. We found this place to have more of a Santa Cruz, beach-hippy kind of vibe with really fresh juice bars and food trucks, as well as cute shopping stores.
◊ Hanalei Bread Company – This is a cute, hip coffee house across from the main shopping village of Ching Young in Hanalei. We actually had ordered shave ice next door after our first beach day (which we won’t even tag because there are way better places around) and headed to grab an iced coffee from the shop. We had this listed as a potential breakfast place to check out but never ended up ordering food, just the drinks. It’s a cool, local place to grab a cup of Joe and shop around.
◊ Aloha Juice Bar – This was one of our favorite stops in Hanalei! It’s an open air stand that specializes in fresh juices, smoothies, and açaí bowls and sells fresh fruit to go. We finally made it here on our last day in Kauai after hanging on Hanalei Beach and we desperately needed a cold, refreshing pick me up. The boys both got fresh smoothies and us girls tried our first açaí bowl of the trip and I think we could have both eaten our weight in them. We recommend trying the bowls with the added passionfruit drizzle and coconut flakes for an extra tasty treat!
◊ Federico’s Mexican – If you’re looking for a tasty, cheap place to eat in Hanalei, this is a good option! The four of us really love Mexican food so we tried breakfast here one morning and enjoyed it on the lawn in front of the restaurant.
◊ Kauai Burger – We debated on whether we would put this on the list since our experience was a little less than satisfactory, but we really like the food truck area that Kauai Burger is located near. We were all craving a burger and planned on heading to Nom Burger but ended up with a bout of missed directions, so we landed at Kauai Burger. The girls in the truck were having a bit of a rough day because their fryer was broken so we waited a very long time for our burgers and fries, but it did end up being a pretty good eat. Kauai Burger has decent prices and a liquor store next store to buy water, drinks, or alcoholic beverages to go with your meal.
We never spent time in Princeville, but drove through it often to get to Hanalei. We only tried one place in Princeville but it was delicious!
◊ Tiki Iniki – We found this tiki bar and restaurant when we were looking for Trucking Delicious – which we finally found in Hanalei next to Kauai Burger. Instead, we opted for Tiki Iniki since we were all starving and needed food ASAP. We tried to fresh catch burger with Ahi, pineapple, and a ginger/cilantro dressing – very fresh and appetizing! If you find yourself in the Princeville Shopping Center, this is a great little joint to check out – especially for happy hour.
Koloa was such a really cute little town that we drove through when we headed to Poipu Beach. There’s some cute shops, great restaurants, and of course food trucks to try in Koloa – many tasty options!
◊ La Spezia – One of our travel buddies found this little wine bar for breakfast one morning – based off of a mouthwatering photo of their blueberry marscapone filled French toast. La Spezia did not disappoint either, it was just as mouthwateringly good in person as it was in photos. They’re open for breakfast and dinner + cocktails and both menus looked so scrumptious. Do yourself a favor and get a plate of this delish sweet bread!
◊ Puka Dog – This place should be added to your list in Koloa, mainly because of the experience and the hype around it. Puka Dog was featured on the Travel Channel and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, so of course we had to try. A Puka Dog is basically a polish dog tucked into a freshly baked bun with your choice of garlic lemon secret sauce in different spice levels. Then, you can add a topping of fruit relish! In our opinion, you should stop to have at least one after a long beach day.
◊ Island Taco – The next time we made it to the Poipu Shopping Village, Puka Dog had a line almost triple in size from the first time. Instead, we headed to the taco place across the way that had a much smaller line and bigger portions. We always split our foods (which helps on cost and on not overeating!), so we split 2 wasabi ahi tacos and were struggling to finish each of ours. It was definitely more bang for our buck!
This was the town we were staying in, although we didn’t really make it into the “town” area very much. We actually drove down into the beach area of Lihue on our very last night and saw a couple cool options to eat at, so if you’ve made it to any of those – let us know!
◊ Sunrise Cafe – We drove by this cute coffee truck a few times on our way down to Poipu and finally stopped for coffee and pastries. It was so YUMMY, I wish we would’ve known sooner! You absolutely must try their muffins and anything with the signature macadamia nut syrup.
◊ Kauai Beer Company – You guys! We surprisingly didn’t make it to either of the two breweries on Kauai but this would’ve been our top pick of the two if we had. It has great reviews online and has a rotating selection of craft beers brewed on the island plus has Hawaiian pub style food. Someone tell us how it is so we know for next time!
We spent most of our time on the opposite side of the island from Waimea, but when we finally did make it to the West side we tried two island specialties, ice cream and poke bowls!
◊ Lappert’s Ice Cream – This was an island recommendations from many people before we left. The ice cream at Lappert’s is creamy and refreshing and there are many unique flavors to try. To be honest though, we’d much rather have some fresh shave ice. Lappert’s is worth trying if you’re feeling something more rich and gooey, and especially if you want a homemade milkshake!
◊ Ishihara Market – This little grocery store was the highest reviewed place to grab poke in the Waimea area. They sell actual poke bowls that are pre-mixed but we missed the lunch hours so they were sold out. Instead, we bought half pound portions of the mango ahi and the wasabi ahi and two rice balls to mix with them. There’s also a lot of other “deli” items like cucumber, potato, and scallop salads to go with your poke and since it’s a grocery store you can grab your own drink to go! That’s just what we did, grabbed our poke and beer and headed behind the store to the beach a couple blocks down. Wish we could eat that fresh fish all day long!
There’s a farmer’s market every day of the week, at different times and different areas of the island. It’s a great place to get cheaper fruits, veggies, and locally made products like juice, honey, and salsa!
We were told there isn’t much of a “foodie” culture in Kauai, but we beg to differ! We really enjoyed the fare we had on the island and got to try some really fresh, local eats. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!