Looking for a guide to the best Kauai restaurants? This list from a Hawaii local has a dozen great recommendations for you to try out during your trip to the island. While you can of course try Hawaii’s local cuisine, Kauai also has amazing food from other cuisines, from traditional Japanese food to classic all-American burgers. Which of these amazing Kauai restaurants will you choose to dine at?
Where Are the Best Kauai Restaurants?
Many visitors to Kauai expect the best Kauai restaurants to be the classy ones situated on the oceanfront, but that isn’t always the case. Some of the best restaurants on Kauai are little holes in the wall that many visitors easily pass without a second thought. This guide is meant to help you discover many of the best Kauai restaurants.
As for which parts of the island the best Kauai restaurants are located in, most are concentrated on the east and south shores of the island. In comparison, the west side of the island has practically no restaurants, so be sure to fill your belly before you head on any adventures in that direction!
What Are the Best Kauai Restaurants?
Poke is an iconic Hawaii dish – after all, that’s why it’s on our Hawaii food bucket list. However, finding fantastic poke can be a little bit difficult. There’s an art to filling the cubes of ahi with flavor. And luckily, Ishihara Market has mastered it.
Because I like my poke a little bit spicy, the chili pepper shoyu (soy sauce) ahi (tuna) poke was my choice. But if that doesn’t sound like an option that you would like, Ishihara Market has a lot of variety. As for my poke, the seafood was very fresh and high quality, as there were no chewy or fishy parts. The seasoning also had enough time to soak into the fish – the fatal flaw of many unfamiliar poke places. Lastly, it was quite reasonably priced ($12 per pound) for good quality poke.
Waikomo Shave Ice
Choosing the best shave ice place on the island is quite the controversial topic. Many vote for Wailua Shave Ice, because they’ve managed to expand to Portland and San Diego. Others believe Uncle’s or JoJo’s is the best. I’ve chosen Waikomo Shave Ice.
This little, clean food truck tucked away in an overlooked shopping center is a hidden gem. First of all, they clearly use natural fruit flavors. Honestly, the competitors that just use sugar and food coloring are such a disappointment in comparison. Second, the flavors they do offer definitely have a local spin, like mango, lychee, guava, and lilikoi (passion fruit). But just in case those are a bit too adventurous, they also offer more recognizable flavors, like strawberry and mandarin orange.
*Pro Tip: If you mix lilikoi (passion fruit), either mandarin orange or blood orange, and guava together, you’ll have a delicious POG slushy at the end!
Although its name may be a bit off putting, Da Crack has become a local favorite. This Kauai restaurant may not have any seating area or even a place to step into when you order (hence the name, the crack, because it’s literally a crack in the wall), but it does serve up some tasty, affordable food.
To create your meal, you first have to decide if you’d like a burrito, bowl, or taco. From there, you pick your protein, rice, beans, salsa, and extra toppings to top of your filling meal. Plus, even with its affordable price, Da Crack still uses high quality ingredients, including fresh fish and locally sourced sea salt. So if you’re looking for a budget-friendly Kauai restaurant that’ll still fill your belly, Da Crack is a fantastic option.
Little Fish Coffee
Just like with shave ice, there are so many fantastic acai bowl places on Kauai. While some will argue that Kalaheo Juice Hale on the North Shore is the best, others will advocate for Akale’s on the South Shore. Personally, Little Fish Coffee is my favorite.
It took us THREE DAYS to finally get an acai bowl from Little Fish Coffee, because the line was so long at the Poipu location. It’s very close to a slew of Kauai hotels, like the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club and the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, which is probably the reason for such long lines. (Pro Tip: for a shorter line, head to the Hanapepe location instead.)
That said, once I got to try the acai bowl, it was delicious! The extra toasty, honey-laden granola was definitely the best part. There was also something different about the acai too, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. It’s also topped with an amazing array of local fresh fruits, giving it a fun Hawaii twist.
Located just steps away from Waikomo Shave Ice and Da Crack, Makai Sushi is a great place to grab a bite it to eat. While it doesn’t seem very professional at first glance, it does serve up some delicious food.
Makai Sushi is most well-known for its gorilla poke bowl. While most poke bowls come with one type of fish, the gorilla bowl includes THREE types of fish: ahi, ono, and salmon. And if you want to amp it up another notch, there’s also the Godzilla bowl, which comes with crab in addition to those three types of fish!
The sushi rolls at Makai Sushi are also quite delicious. They’re a great melding of textures and flavors. While they’re not representative of traditional Japanese sushi, they are still quite tasty.
If you do choose to eat at Makai Sushi, do know that the prices are quite steep. For example, the gorilla poke bowl is $16 and a single sushi roll is $14.50.
*Pro Tip: If you find yourself a little closer to Lihue than Poipu, the owner of Makai Sushi recently opened Mauka Sushi in Lihue. You can still get the fantastic gorilla bowl there, and you can even get a sushi burrito!
Kauai Juice Co.
When most people think of juice places, they think of juice cleanses and healthy green juices. While Kauai Juice Co. does have quite the array of green juices, it also has a few sweeter juices for those of us who loved juices before they turned green. My recommendations are the Akala and Omega (both of them are sweet, non-green juices, of course).
Because Kauai Juice Co. is a little pricey, there are a couple of ways to get a little bit of a discount. First of all, the large size is a much better value than the small size. Second, they offer a kamaaina discount for Hawaii locals. And lastly, if you decide to visit Kauai Juice Co. a second (or third or fourth) time, you can return your cleaned class bottle for $0.50 off.
If you’re willing to stop by a place that’s a little less elegant, but is instead a local hotspot, head to Hamura Saimin for your taste of local Hawaii food.
As its name implies, the vast majority of Hamura Saimin’s menu consists of saimin, a local Hawaii dish that’s a blend of Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino pancit. They’re well-known for their special saimin, complete with wontons, roast pork, and an egg. But if that seems like a little too much, you can always opt for a bowl of their regular saimin. Oh, and for dessert, don’t forget to get a slice of the lilikoi chiffon pie!
Pro Tip: Because Hamura Saimin is ALWAYS busy, you can opt to call in your takeout order instead of waiting.
After a long day of exploring the beautiful island and its never-ending list of things to do, you’ll be in need of a tasty, filling meal. Street Burger checks all the boxes.
Situated right along Kuhio Highway in Kapaa, Street Burger may be one of the best Kauai restaurants. As its name implies, this pub-influenced eatery serves up, well, a variety of burgers. (Don’t worry. If you’re a vegetarian, you can switch to a house-made veggie patty for an extra $2.) While you can opt for your classic cheeseburger or BBQ burger with bacon, this Kauai restaurant also has a ton of creative burgers, like the Greek burger with olive tapenade and feta or the Wailua burger with crispy spam and jalapeno-pineapple marmalade. I personally recommend the Lamb burger or the Street burger.
As if those exciting burger options weren’t enough, many of the ingredients are also locally sourced. For example, all of the beef used is from local Kauai ranches. And the lamb is from the private Hawaiian Island of Niihau just 17 miles off of Kauai’s shores.
While the salad could use a little dressing and the service is a tad slow, dining at Street Burger is an overall fantastic experience. Oh, and don’t forget to top off your meal with some piping hot donut holes! These fluffy spheres aren’t quite donut holes and aren’t quite malasadas, but, regardless, they’re delicious!
Lappert’s Hawaii (which is not affiliated with Lappert’s Ice Cream on the mainland) was established in the sleepy Kauai town of Hanapepe when a successful San Francisco restauranteur decided to move to the islands. Since then, Lappert’s Hawaii has become one of the most well-known ice cream companies in Hawaii.
From the moment you step into any Lappert’s Hawaii location, you can tell that you’ll be getting a good quality product. From the sweet smell of the shop to the array of ice cream flavors, Lappert’s Hawaii is extremely inviting. What makes Lappert’s Hawaii stand out from its competitors is not just the types of flavors they offer – like lilikoi (passion fruit) and Kona coffee – but also the concentration of these flavors. While many companies just put a little bit of flavoring, the flavors in Lappert’s Hawaii’s ice cream hits your taste buds at full force – and is absolutely amazing!
Japanese Grandma Café
The Japanese Grandma Café may be one of the most unique Kauai restaurants. This cute, cozy restaurant that only seats about two dozen people truly makes you feel like you’re dining in the home of a Japanese grandma.
The menu at the Japanese Grandma Café consists of filing, yet light dishes. Plus, there is something for everyone. There is a long list of options for sushi lovers, all of which are crafted by a traditional Japanese sushi chef with 30 years of experience. That’s how you know you’re getting a good quality product! There are also tasty entrees like misoyaki fish and pork tonkatsu for those who would prefer to have something other than sushi.
The best time to eat at the Japanese Grandma Café is every Friday night during Hanapepe Art Night. Because space is limited, try to make a reservation for 5:30 p.m. – right when they open – a couple of days in advance. Then, when you finish your meal, the Hanapepe Art Night will be in full swing!
Eating House 1849
If you’re looking for a taste of Hawaii regional cuisine with a modern twist, Eating House 1849 is an amazing option. Owned by amazing local chef, Roy Yamaguchi, it’s hard to be disappointed by any of the dishes at this fantastic Poipu restaurant. Try the slow braised honey mustard grilled beef short ribs, the huli huli style spicy pork belly, or the crispy fried cauliflower and brussel sprouts that everyone raves about!
Pro Tip: Reserve a table in advance (preferably on a Friday, when the shopping center has live music) and request a table in the back on the lanai (balcony). Your table will have a stunning ocean view in the distance!
Holey Grail Donuts
Located on Kauai’s North Shore, Holey Grail Donuts is truly a special treat – and the reviews tend to agree. These taro-based donuts are them fluffy on the inside and nice and crisp on the outside. And because they’re fried in coconut oil, it doesn’t feel heavy or make you feel gross after eating them! (They also happen to be naturally vegan!)
And we certainly can’t forget to write about the flavors! These donuts are topped with delicious seasonal flavors made of high quality ingredients that change every single week. All four of the flavors that I tried that week were absolutely delicious!
If you want a box of Holey Grail Donuts, be sure to get there early, because at peak times, the wait can be over an hour! (Or you can visit on a rainy day on Kauai, and there’ll likely be no line!) And to get the best bang for your buck, order the variety box. That’ll give you a box of four donuts for $12 (as opposed to $4 per donut).
Looking for more Hawaii food guides? Check out our list of the best Oahu restaurants!
Do you agree with our list of the best Kauai restaurants? What other Kauai restaurants do you think should have made it into this list? Let me know in the comments!
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