Salt & Wind Travel

12 Kauai Best Restaurants To Eat Local (2024)

At Salt & Wind Travel, we help you dive into destinations for their culture and food and the island of Kauai is no exception. Here are the 12 Kauai best restaurants for you to enjoy on your next trip, from coffee spots like Little Fish Coffee and classics like Hamura Saimin to fine-dining spots like Red Salt and Merriman’s.

Kauai Best Restaurants
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12 Kauai Best Restaurants For Your Next Trip

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 places we share with our travel planning clients headed to Hawai’i. As someone who grew up on Kaua’i, I’m sharing places that locals frequent for delicious meals, be it a quick bite or a special occasion. For breakfast (or brunch), lunch, and dinner, here’s our pick of the best Kauai restaurants:

Coffee On Kaua’i

Yes, we’re starting our list of Kauai best restaurants with coffee because that’s always our first and biggest priority of the day!

Little Fish Coffee, Poʻipū

When the morning craving hits for something nourishing but not super heavy, Little Fish near Po’ipū Beach answers the call. They’ll help you have a great start to your day with healthy food like açai bowls, bagel sandwiches, and fresh local fruit. For those who need a boost ASAP come morning, this is the perfect spot. Their coffee is brewed from coffee 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 in The Garden Isle. 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

Hawaii Food

Local Hawaii Comfort Foods

On the list of Kauai best restaurants, we had to also include some local comfort foods so you can eat everything from poi and poke to saimin and plate lunch.

Poke at Koloa Fish Market, Old Kōloa Town

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). Fortunately, most of the poke shops on the island use local fresh seafood. Kōloa Fish Market in Old Kōloa Town does both. Pro tip: Since the spot has no 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 a perfect place 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 one of the best things on the menu, the liliko’i chiffon pie.
Hamura Saimin, 2956 Kress St, Līhu’e, HI 96766

Hanalei Taro & Juice Company, Hanalei

Renowned for their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients, Hanalei Taro & Juice Company specializes in a range of dishes that highlight the versatility of taro, a staple in traditional Hawaiian food. Of the many food trucks across Kauai, this is a great place to add to your list. The menu features an array of innovative offerings, from the hearty and flavorful taro veggie burger to unique twists like Hawaiian taro hummus.

A must-try is their signature dish, the laulau, traditionally prepared by wrapping pork and fish in taro leaves and steaming to perfection, offering a dish that encapsulates the essence of Hawaiian flavors. Equally noteworthy are their fresh, tropical smoothies and juices, made with local fruits, providing a refreshing complement to their savory dishes. Hanalei Taro & Juice Company not only offers a taste of authentic Hawaiian cuisine but also showcases the agricultural richness of Kauai.
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co, 5-5070 Kuhio Hwy # B, Hanalei, HI 96714

Macadamia Banana Croissant Tarte Tatin Recipe

Best Places For Brunch

Kauai best restaurants include some awesome brunch spots (though you could also make this Kauai-inspired Banana Tarte Tatin if you aren’t traveling there soon):

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 the freshest local ingredients and 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

Hawaii Food Culture

Best Fine Dining Restaurants

We wanted to include nicer spots on our list of Kauai best restaurants but it should be said that all these spots are high-end food but still quite casual by mainland standards:

Red Salt, Ko’a Kea Resort, Poʻipū

Located within Ko’a Kea Resort in Po’ipū, the best tables at this fine dining restaurant 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 fresh local ingredients 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

Of the upscale restaurants on Kauai, Merriman’s is one of the most classic, making it a great option for a first trip to the Aloha State. 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 who 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 ocean views, Merriman’s eponymous Kaua’i outpost is located in the Kuku’iula Shopping Center in Po’ipū. It 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

Beach House, Poʻipū

The Beach House Restaurant in Poipu, Kauai, is a renowned dining destination celebrated for its exquisite Pacific Rim cuisine and arguably the best views of any restaurant on this list. This restaurant specializes in blending the freshest local seafood with exotic flavors from around the Pacific, creating dishes that are both innovative and deeply rooted in the island’s culinary traditions.

A highlight on their menu is the Wasabi Crusted Fresh Catch. In this dish, the punch of wasabi complements the delicacy of locally sourced fish, creating a harmonious blend of flavors. Another must-try is their Kauai Shrimp and Scallop Risotto, a luxurious combination of local shrimp, tender scallops, and creamy risotto, perfectly capturing the essence of Pacific Rim cuisine. And don’t miss out on their delicious cocktails like the No Ka Oi with local vodka and Thai basil or the Monkeypod Mai Tai with passionfruit and honey foam.
Beach House, 5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

Bar Acuda, Hanalei

Bar Acuda in Hanalei, Kauai, is a celebrated dining spot acclaimed for its exceptional approach to tapas and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. This restaurant is a culinary haven for those who appreciate the art of sharing small plates crafted with a fusion of local Hawaiian ingredients and Mediterranean flavors. A standout feature is their commitment to sourcing local, island-grown produce and fresh fish, making it some of the best food on Kauai’s north shore.

Among their specialties, the honeycomb goat cheese is a crowd favorite, offering a delightful blend of creamy cheese with a sweet, local honey accent. Seafood enthusiasts should not miss the chance to indulge in their seared catch of the day, perfectly cooked and seasoned, to highlight the freshness of the ocean. The relaxed yet sophisticated ambiance of Bar Acuda, combined with its curated wine list, makes it the best way to have a memorable dining experience on Kauai’s north shore. 
Bar Acuda, 5-5161 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the top restaurants in Kauai include Hamura Saimin, Tip Top, and The Beach House. These restaurants offer a range of cuisines and dining experiences, from casual to fine dining.

Kauai's restaurant scene is unique due to its emphasis on local ingredients, including fresh seafood, tropical fruits, and locally-grown vegetables. The island's diverse cultural influences are also reflected in its culinary offerings, creating a unique dining experience.

Yes, Kauai has several fine dining options. Restaurants like Beach House, Merriman's, Red Salt, and Bar Acuda are known for their upscale ambiance and exquisite menus, often featuring locally-sourced ingredients and creative dishes.

Hawaiian Shave Ice

Bonus: Classic Sweets To Try in Kaua’i

You can also dive into island favorites when it comes to sweets. Here are a few places of note:

Now that you’ve got a roadmap of Kauai best restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a quick pro tip: 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.

Hawaii food tours

Things To Do For Food Lovers In Hawaii

If you’re traveling to Hawaii, we highly recommend you dive into the food scene, be it a hands-on cooking class, a farmers market tour (which we can help arrange, or a farm visit. For a full list of what to do, check out these Delicious Food Activities On Each Hawaiian Island.

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.

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