Favorite Places to Eat on Kauai
I know a lot of you have asked for more Kauai related recommendations so here are some of my favorite places to eat on island. I tend to favor healthy dishes, local ingredients, and family owned small places so a lot of these lean that way. If you've been here and don't see your favorite place on this list - leave me a comment below so I can go check it out :) I've organized it from west to north, with **stars beside some of my super favorites. Menus linked in the title for each. Happy eating friends!
Every Friday the typically sleepy Hanapepe town stays open with food vendors, musicians, and artists all showing off their talents from about 6-8pm (supposedly stays open until 9 but I would advise 8pm). It’s a really fun stop especially if you’re coming back from watching the sunset on the west side or after a good hike up in Waimea Canyon. There is everything from fresh baked breads and pizzas to tacos, pulled pork sandwiches, Hawaiian style plate lunch, cookies, and organic frozen popsicles. Most are in small food trucks like Porky’s Kauai or little corner shops so it’s a very fun and homey environment plus a great stop for locally made gifts and goods.
Located in Old Hanapepe Town (3871 Hanapepe Rd), I only tried this quaint restaurant after my parents kept raving about it. We went during art night (note: it tends to get busy early in the evening on Friday’s) and they had set up tables out on the sidewalk in addition to their indoor seating. It’s surprisingly good, with great sushi and quick service. Plus I loved the vibe, very casual yet clean and delicious. I only tried the miso soup and a little bit of sushi but I would love to go back.
Ishihara Market is a quintessential island style market. In the front, it’s a normal grocery store, but in the back, they have plate lunches and a ton of different kinds of poke and other island favorites. Because it’s in Waimea, it’s the perfect place to pick up food for a westside adventure. I stop here to grab poke, garlic soybeans, and li hing mui fruit on my way to watch the sunset or go hiking up in Kokee.
Kauai Juice Co **(also have locations in Kapaa, and Kilauea)
I love Kauai Juice Co. because they were my first intro to fresh pressed juice, and it’s been such a pleasure watching them expand but stay so true to their ideals and desire to strengthen the community.
When they first opened, they didn’t even have a store, it was just a little window in the side of a building.
Along with being delicious, their juices are made as much as possible with agriculture grown on Kauai, bought directly from farmers. They also have a recycling program, which means their 17 ounce bottles can be dropped off at one of their locations for fifty cents each in store credit.
I get a Ginger Snap shot every time I leave for or get home from a trip to boost my immune system. The Rainbow Unicorn Juice, Watermelon juice, and Green Bottle are some of my favorite juices. They also have a variety of ready-made meals. I love the kelp noodles and the spring roll peanut sauce wrap. In the last few months they also started carrying organic and locally sourced bone broth made here on island. You can get it with scallions, carrots, onions, seaweed and other little veggies for a nourishing and easy to digest snack.
I've also recently gotten into adaptogens which are derived from mushrooms but with no psychedelic properties. They sell great locally made root butters, mushroom teas, and other natural products that help my body be better at coping with stress (amongst a whole bunch of other things).
This family owned cafe is always packed for breakfast. Pretty much everything they make is amazing. For breakfast, try their veggie tofu wrap. (John and Chris if you read this please bring back the cajan eggplant wrap!) At lunch, I like the salad with pasta and grilled chicken or brown rice veggie bowl. Vegetarian options, their staff is super friendly, and I don't drink coffee but I hear that's good too.
The Eating House is a nice restaurant with a sunset view. It has a lot of the food you can expect from a Hawaii fusion restaurant, such as local beef and fresh fish, but to me are done in a more interesting way. My favorite things to order are the Crispy Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts and the Spicy Ramen Bowl, which is HUGE and can easily be split between two people.
HUGE burritos, great street tacos, simple no frills kind of take out. This was a favorite hole in the wall of all of us South shore kids growing up for cheap Mexican food. It was called Nortanas, but affectionately called “The crack” probably because the location is the smallest little window sandwiched between a tiny alleyway and a small grocery store. It closed sometimes during high school then was reopened by a local family. 808-742-9505 I would recommend calling in your order ahead of time.
Such a hidden gem. This Lawai (5-10 min outside of Poipu) spot has been transformed in the last few years from an abandoned warehouse into a fun and hip artisan market and food spot. It’s a shared space featuring handcrafted Etsy-esque items, a boutique coffee place, food trucks including The Fresh Shave - best shave ice on the south shore for sure. Kind of open from 11-3 most days but worth calling.
Makai Sushi makes amazing, albeit slightly expensive sushi in Poipu. It’s a small locally owned sushi bar located in the Kukuiula Market. For a poke bowl the Gorilla Bowl is my fav, which has three different types of fish, ocean salad, onions, avocado, etc. Super yums.
After you eat your Gorilla Bowl, head outside for some Loco Coco shave ice, which is located in a food truck in the parking lot. The owner, Thomas, makes all of his own flavors from fresh fruit. The shave ice isn’t the syrupy overload a lot of people are familiar with. Loco Coco is not super sweet and Thomas makes all of his own flavors from fresh fruit and he makes the honey too! My favorite is the calamansi, which is a tangy lime from SE Asia and a flavor I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Little Fish has locations in both Poipu and Hanapepe. The Hanapepe shop is small and in the older part of town with lots of cute character. It has some seating inside and more in the courtyard in back. Great smoothies, acai, and yummy sandwiches. Sidenote: I hear this place has gotten suuuuper busy lately so take that into consideration.
I LOVE THIS PLACE!! Lol honestly if you’re here on a Saturday (9:30-1pm) please stop in, the earlier the better. I only went for the first time a few weeks ago to buy vegetables and was blown away by how many awesome vendors are there with specialty foods. I went back the following weekend just to eat. Maybe it doesn’t compare to what some people have in big cities but I really love it - woodfired pizzas, homemade croissants, sugarloaf pineapple ice cream, tacos, and exotic fruits etc. Bring cash.
Deli and Bread is one of those family-owned establishments that has been here as long as I can remember, and it’s also been busy that long. It's somehow kind of the only good sandwich place on Kauai (that I know of at least). If you go here at lunch time, it’s pretty much standing room only, but orders come up quickly and tables will open. On your way out, grab a loaf of their fresh-baked sweet bread to make French toast in the morning. (An alternative is the newly opened Great Harvest Bread Co just down the street. I've only been there once so I didn't want to add it to the main list.)
From the outside, Mark’s Place is decidedly unsuspecting. Located in a blue building across from the feed store in the Puhi industrial park, this unassuming place offers some of the most quintessential Kauai cuisine, like their huge portions of beef stew and chicken katsu. Not going to say it's the healthiest, but such a staple of local food.
Papaya’s is a natural food store with grab-and-go food options and a grill with some heavier fare. This is a great place to stock up on snacks if you’re on the way to the north shore. They were some of the first to have a selection of vegetarian and vegan options on our little island. Try their Taro burger, which is topped with veggies and pineapple slaw and is SO GOOD.
This vegetarian café is open for both lunch and dinner, but I recommend dinner. The ground of the outside seating area is covered in glass pebbles and the area is lit with string lights, giving the restaurant a casual island vibe. Like many places on this list, they source many of their ingredients locally. The flavors are rich and decadent, and for those of you who love meat, you won’t be missing it. Try the sweet potato samosas or the coconut mac nut tofu.
Tiki Tacos **
I eat Tiki Tacos almost every time I drive to or from the North Shore. Everything they serve is amazing. They source all their meat locally and make their tortillas in house. This is not a place to go for the ambience. It’s basically a hole in the wall with a few tables, but the food is WELL worth it. Try the Kalua Pork Taco with guacamole or the Roasted Veggie Taco. The portions are also really big so you probably only need one.
You’ll recognize Java Kai by the turquoise storefront in the heart of Kapaa town. Java Kai feels like your local hippie café grew up and went to art school, it’s funky and has the work of different artists hanging on the walls. Pop in here on your way to rent bikes and cruise down the bike path along the east side beaches. They’re known for their coffee and breakfast. I like the Kauai Gold Smoothie and Rainbow Salad.
Pono Market is a grab and go local market similar to Ishihara Market. There’s not an actual grocery store inside, but they have a counter full of local favorites, and for a much better price than almost any other place around. Try the Hawaiian plate or the fried chicken, but go early as this place tends to sell out. The family who owns it is also very involved in the community, donating a lot of money to the local schools and sports programs.
This shave ice truck is another gem among the many, many shave ice places on the island. The local boys who own it have expanded to Portland and San Diego, but they started out in their retro trailer in Kapaa town, slinging shave ice made with fresh local fruit and house-made syrups. I forget what it's called but the Haupia topping on coconut one is particularly yummy.
This Kapaa based food truck makes amazing Italian style pizzas and I haven’t tried their fries but everyone raves about them. They do down to the south shore occasionally as well (which is where I first tried them) so check their location and hours. They have gluten free crust options and a revolving offering of off menu items depending on what is in season.
On the way up to the north shore, you might notice Moloaa: a long, pastured strip along the highway between Kapa’a and Kilauea that seems relatively uninhabited. There are a ton of small, organic farms in that part of the island and a lot of the produce from there makes its way into local food establishments, including Kauai Juice Co. Moloa’a Sunrise Juice Bar is a cute, small shack along the highway, and really the only thing around for a few miles. They serve delicious smoothies, wraps, and fish tacos. As you’ll find at most places on the north shore, there are great vegetarian options here.
Hanalei Taro is a food truck in the heart of Hanalei town. Taro was central to the Hawaiian agricultural system and is grown today in the big paddies to the left of Hanalei Bridge as you enter Hanalei. Those taro paddies are part of a sixth-generation farm and produce the taro products that are served on the food truck. Hanalei taro is great place to try taro in dishes like the taro acai bowl. This is also a great place to stop if you’re interested in trying some other good island food like kalua pork (ask for a side of BBQ sauce) and lau lau. Don’t be afraid to try poi (mashed taro), it’s super delicious and to me tastes like rain (maybe just me). Check the hours if you’re planning on this for lunch, they’re closed at sort of odd times.
Fresh Bite **
Fresh Bite Kauai is a great lunch food truck in Hanalei in a little alcove of maybe 5 food trucks. These all only opened in the last year or two and Fresh Bite is my favorite of the bunch. The menu is filled with vegetarian and vegan options or locally sourced beef. A bunch of items come as either a salad or a wrap, and they also have sandwich and dessert options.
Japanese cocktail bar and ramen restaurant in Hanalei town that I think I like because it’s just so different than what is being served elsewhere on the island. I went here a few months ago for a friend’s birthday and we all shared a bunch of the dishes - all were awesome. It’s a great outdoor atmosphere and no reservations needed. I haven’t been there a ton so I hope it’s consistent, but from what I experienced I can’t wait to go back. Open every night 5-9pm.
Hanalei Farmer’s Market
Saturday’s 9:30-12 pm. I just moved to the north shore of Kauai and as I’m writing this I’ve just realized I missed it haha. Will update as I go.