Compared to other Hawaiian islands, Kauai is relatively rugged, with red soil to the south, lush greenery up north, and the Napali Coast’s impenetrable mountains out west, accessible only by hiking trails or boat. When natives and visitors take a break from all the possible recreation, they need replenishment. Discover 17 top places to eat and drink well on Kauai.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
The Haraguchi family owns and operates labor-intensive taro fields and the historic Haraguchi Rice Mill, and also runs Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.. Their roadside stand with green bench seating on Kauai’s north shore serves taro-driven specialties like calcium-rich smoothies and kulolo, a springy steamed cake of taro, coconut milk and brown sugar. They also sell plate lunches like Lau Lau, featuring chicken thigh or pork wrapped with taro leaves and steamed to tender in ti leaves. Be sure to ask to borrow the bottle of bright orange chile water, spiked with moderately spicy but still plenty-flavorful Hawaiian peppers.
MUST ORDER: Kulolo, Lau Lau, Taro Mochi Cake, Taro Smoothie
The Haraguchi family has been an agricultural institution on Kauai’s north shore for over 100 years, starting with rice, and later focusing on taro. Fifth-generation farmer Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama leads tours of her family’s labor-intensive taro fields and the historic Haraguchi Rice Mill. Learn the process of raising taro, which takes 14-16 months from planting to harvest. That is, when the fields aren’t contending with wild boar damage or flash floods, which happen about five times a year and have been known to deliver neck-high waters. Tours also include a walk through the family’s historic rice mill and fresh taro tastes. Better yet, tour fees benefit the 501(c)(3) organization’s restoration and conservation efforts.
MUST ORDER: Taro, Coconut
The government developed Sunshine Markets to supply Kauai residents with high-value produce. On Wednesday, the rotating market touches down at Kapa’a New Town Ball Park Parking Lot. Like every Sunshine Market, proceedings start with a whistle and offerings don’t include prepared foods (or sampling). Local expert Marta Lane writes a farm-driven column, leads culinary tours and wrote a book on Kauai cuisine. She led my market tour, where I learned about local produce like ice cream mangoes, egg fruit, and noni, a “canoe crop” that Polynesians brought to Hawaii and delivers a numbing quality and blue cheese funk.
MUST ORDER: White Pineapple, Egg Fruit, Ice Cream Mango, Soursop Mint Juice
10. Keo’s Huli Huli Chicken
Keo has been grilling at Anahola Marketplace for the past seven years, with Susanne running front of house. He grills over pine, a cousin to ironwood, and marinates his birds with shoyu, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic. I ordered two delectable half chickens with steamed jasmine rice and mixed greens from Susanne’s garden tossed with her creamy papaya seed dressing. Their food is simple, but soulful.
MUST ORDER: Chicken, Mixed Greens
11. Konohiki Seafoods
Konohiki Seafoods has been open since 2016 in Lihue’s Hanamaulu Plaza. A line snakes around a table of treats, prodigious poké case, sushi case, and fried food bins. My family and I ordered awesome scallop tobiko poké, hamachi poké, crunchy cucumber salad, inari sushi filled with shrimp, mayo, and tobiko, and fried ginger chicken sold by the piece that stars bone-in dark meat with ginger strands in the batter. We ate our haul at a covered picnic table by the highway on the way to our hotel in Princeville, shielded from a downpour and surrounded by wild chickens.
MUST ORDER: Fried Ginger Chicken, Hamachi Poké, Scallop Tobiko Poké
12. Mark’s Place
Mark’s Place is low-key plate lunch spot that’s operated in Puhi Industrial Park since 1998. People raid shelves and turn to the dry erase board to find specials before retreating to green outdoor picnic tables (or back to work). Hawaiian comfort food is guaranteed, and if you’re lucky, they’ll still have fried chicken musubi or glutinous butter mochi in stock.
MUST ORDER: Poached Shrimp Salad, Butter Mochi