Salt & Wind Travel

10 Of The Best Food In Kauai To Eat Local (2024)

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If you’re familiar with our “thing” here at Salt & Wind, we’ve got a knack for helping you travel to destinations that are not only gorgeous, like Italy, Mexico, and Hawai’i but also crazy good places to eat. And as for the Hawaiian Islands, Kaua’i—otherwise known as The Garden Island—is no exception.

Best Food In Kaua’i

It’s easy to find tasty eats no matter what side of the island you’re exploring, but we rounded up some of our favorites to help navigate the options. These are just a few of the places we share with our travel planning clients headed to Hawai’i, and, as someone who grew up on Kaua’i, I’m also sharing places that locals frequent. For breakfast (or brunch), lunch, and dinner, here’s where we go in Kaua’i for the best local food.

Coffee On Kaua’i

Little Fish Coffee, Poʻipū

When the morning craving hits for something nourishing but not super heavy, Little Fish near Po’ipū Beach on south shore answers the call with açai bowls, bagel sandwiches, and fresh local fruit.

For those who need a boost ASAP come morning, coffee brewed from beans grown on the island’s north shore and Hawai’i Island’s Kohala Coast has you covered, too. Enjoy the expansive lānai—aka Hawaiian for the outdoor patio.

Little Fish Coffee Po’ipū, 2294 Poʻipū Rd, Kōloa, HI 96756

Dark Horse, Old Kōloa Town 

What used to be Koloa Hongwanji Mission social hall is now a minimalistic, airy coffee shop. The company’s roots are in San Diego, which might seem odd until one learns its founder grew up on The Garden Island. They’re known for their cold brew, and the Kaua’i location serves one with an exclusive haupia (coconut!) foam.

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, 5521 Kōloa Rd, Kōloa, HI 96756

Hā Coffee, Līhuʻe

This converted bus located in Rice Shopping Center sells coffee, tea, and specialty lattes like the Bee Sting (typically two espresso shots plus a squeeze of honey)—including all of the milk and “milk” options. Beans come from local farms. Also, find light bites like açai bowls and bagels. And did you know Hā means “breath of life” in Hawaiian?

Hā Coffee, 4291 Kress St, Līhuʻe, HI 96766

On the east side, Java Kai in Kapa’a is our caffeine hub of choice. And on the north shore, we like Hanalei Bread Co. and coffee house.

Local Hawaii Comfort Foods

Poke at Kōloa Fish Market, Old Kōloa Town

Fortunately, most of the poke shops on the island use local fresh seafood. Traditionally, poke is sold by the pound at grocery stores like Foodland and Big Save, and in recent years as poke bowls with rice and sides from kimchi to wakame (seaweed salad). Kōloa Fish Market in Old Kōloa Town does both.

Pro tip: Since the spot doesn’t have any seating, the best bet is to order a poke bowl and/or a lau lau or kalua pork plate lunch and head to one of the south side beaches to enjoy.

Kōloa Fish Market, 3390 Poʻipū Rd, Kōloa, HI 96756

Saimin at Hamura Saimin, Līhuʻe

As a uniquely local food, saimin is Hawaii’s version of ramen. And when you want saimin in Kaua’i, this humble eatery is the classic go-to (around since 1952). It’s one of those places where the short and sweet menu hasn’t changed much, if at all.

Serving sizes are quite large here, so unless you’re ravenous, we recommend ordering a bowl size down, so you have room for a chicken or beef BBQ skewer and a slice of liliko’i chiffon pie for dessert.

Hamura Saimin, 2956 Kress St, Līhu’e, HI 96766

Best Places For Brunch

La Spezia, Old Kōloa Town

Pass through La Spezia’s screen door (a common architectural feature among Hawai’i’s plantation-era homes) for brunch and expect flavorful omelets, benedicts, quiche, and banana pancakes. Its kid’s menu includes pancakes, an egg sandwich, and french toast sticks.

The cozy yet composed space also features a small yet fully stocked bar, including wines from Italy. Dinner is also notable here, with dishes featuring house-made pasta like rotating gnocchi dishes, short rib ravioli, and eggplant parmesan.

La Spezia, 5492 Kōloa Rd, Kōloa, HI 96756

Tip Top, Līhuʻe

Tip Top Cafe serves breakfast and lunch and has an unpretentious vibe, though that can (refreshingly) be said about virtually all of the food establishments on the island. Tip Top’s been around for over a century, and the banana-macadamia nut pancakes, oxtail soup, and loco moco are all reliable local comfort food staples

Tip Top Cafe and Bakery, 3173 Akahi St, Līhuʻe, HI 96766

Best Restaurant For A (Little)  Fancy Dining Experience

Red Salt, Ko’a Kea Resort, Poʻipū

The best tables at this fine dining restaurant (yet still quite casual by Mainland standards), located within Ko’a Kea Resort in Po’ipū, are situated along the indoor restaurant’s sweeping windows for distant ocean views.

Kaua’i local and Executive Chef Noelani Planas’ menu highlights local seafood and produce like a furikake (nori, sesame seeds, and more—aka lots of umami) crusted fresh catch of the day, lobster risotto, and vegetarian options like cauliflower fried rice with crispy tofu, mushrooms, and root vegetables. Reservations recommended.

Red Salt, Koʻa Kea Resort on Po’ipū Beach, 2251 Po’ipū Rd, Kōloa, HI 96756

Merriman’s, Poʻipū

We’ve written about Hawaiian Regional Cuisine (aka Pacific Rim cuisine) before and how Chef Peter Merriman was one of the original dozen chefs during the 90s that began making a more conscious effort to partner with local farmers and producers and use local ingredients, which wasn’t a thing back then due to heavy reliance on imported goods.

With views of the ocean, Merriman’s eponymous Kaua’i outpost is located in the Kuku’iula Shopping Center in Po’ipū and is a fave of kama’āina (Hawaiian for “person of the land”) and tourists alike.

Local and regional ingredients shape the seafood-forward menu, like scallops and Kaua’i shrimp on jalapeño mashed potatoes and soy ginger butter. The restaurant’s open-air location on the second floor makes it easy to pair with sunset—call ahead to reserve a table with unobstructed views. Reservations are recommended here, too.

Merriman’s Kaua’i, 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St, Koloa, Hawai’i 96756

If you’re looking for more fancy restaurants, Beach House restaurant in Po’ipū is another great choice.

Where to Find Sweets in Kaua’i

A sample of the island’s treats include malasadas (essentially, Portuguese hole-less doughnuts) from Kaua’i Bakery in Lihue or VIP Treats and Sweets in Kapa’a, gelato from Papalani Gelato, and shave ice from Wailua Shave Ice.

A hula pie from Duke’s Kaua’i or Keoki’s Paradise is also a classic sweet treat and involves ice cream studded with macadamia nuts, chocolate sauce, and whip cream.

Now that you’ve got a roadmap of where to eat in Kaua’i for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a quick pro tip for 2023: Keep an open mind and be patient, as business hours might be a bit inconsistent due to staffing challenges (which we’ve noticed happening in other destinations, too).

And when traveling in Kaua’i—and the other Hawaiian islands—we highly recommend pulling over to the side of the road if you notice locals selling some fresh fruit or smoked meats because chances are it’ll be delicious.

More Hawai’i Travel Tips

Planning to visit Kaua’i? Check out these additional articles:

Have Us Plan Your Hawai’i Trip

Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency specializing in Hawai’i vacation planning? If you’re looking to plan a trip to Hawai’i, our Hawai’i trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary.

Photo Credit: Hawaii Local Food By Jeremy Pawlowski Homemade poke with tuna and vegetables. By Martí Sans 

Hawaiian Diacritical Marks: In an effort to be accurate and respectful of the Hawaiian language, we use diacritical marks in our articles on the region. For more about which marks are used in the language and how to find proper spelling, refer to this Hawai’i Magazine article.  

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