Best Places to Eat in Kauai, Hawaii
On our honeymoon, my new bride and I opted for a 2 week excursion in Kauai, the smallest and northernmost island of Hawaii. We could not have been happier with our choice! There are endless reasons we loved it, but I want to talk a little about the food situation, which is outrageous!
To start, if you've never been to a Luau, don't let the movies curb your expectations. If you're anything like me, you would expect a raging party that shoots into the wee hours of morning. The Smith Family Garden Luau wasn't quite that - more along the lines of an outdoor dance recital. However, the on-stage portion of the Luau was preceded by a tour of their botanical gardens (which is gorgeous), and then a food festival inclusive of a fantastic pig roasting ritual - Kalua Pig. Hundreds of people gather for the weekly event, and the menu is a buffet inclusive of teriyaki beef, sweet and sour Mahi-Mahi, chicken adobo, kalua pig. There's also a slew of side dishes - different types of rice and salads that are all unique. Luaus are also famous for Ono, a purplish side that usually has the tourists saying "Oh, no!." My advice, you're not missing anything if you don't try it. Finally, the indigenous drink of the Luau is the Mai Tai, a tropical run-based cocktail that will have you loopy if you don't pay attention.
Outside of the Luau, we ate at a number of phenomenal places in various parts of the island. We stayed at the Marriott Kauai Beach Club in Lihue, so most of our food destinations were in that area. (As a note, the Marriott Kauai is a gorgeous resort - the pool is unbeatable, great hospitality, and perfect for a more secluded, romantic honeymoon.)
One thing about going away for 2 weeks straight is you tend to miss your go-to home foods. So we needed to find pancakes! We discovered a hidden gem called the Kountry Kitchen in Kapa'a, just north of Lihue. The pancakes were HUGE and delicious, plus packed with so much of whatever style you like (chocolate chip, macadamia nut, banana...etc.), and you could choose from tons of flavored syrups. The service was great, the atmosphere was cozy, and the memories are burned into my brain! DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE - but be warned, there is usually a waiting list for breakfast and lunch.
Fish tacos are a must-have on the island. There are so many varieties - different kinds of fish, raw, fried, boiled, baked, etc. We tried fish tacos in a number of different restaurants and even from food trucks, the best one being Paco's Tacos. The price here was very good, and best of all, they came with avocado sauce!
We also ventured to a well-known restaurant called Duke's in Kalapaki Beach. The restaurant is named after a Hawaiian surfer, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku - known as the "Father Of International Surfing". Dukes has a huge, wonderful menu - all kinds of seafood, plus steak and chicken, and its loaded with island favorites. The bar boasts the kind of cocktails you would expect from a tropical vacation - large glasses, magnificent colors, and topped with luscious fruits - just like the movies. But the real kicker is the dessert - so don't overeat on the fresh fish. Make sure you save some room for their famous (an ginormous) Hula Pie:
Poipu Beach is at the southern tip of Kauai - it was about a 35 minute drive from Lihue, but with travels leading through an amazing tree-lined street that just made driving feel, well, different... comfortable. One thing that you should try in Kauai is shaved ice - the island is famous for it. Not that it's really exciting - its just what it sounds like at the end of the day, shavings of ice. But they flavor it with sweet fruit syrups, so the sugary sweetness is desirable to many. I can't remember the name of the place we got ours, but there are dozens of them. My recommendation is to get something near the beach. We ate one on the water and that gave us the opportunity to watch the whales playing out in the ocean and even see a monk seal right up close on the shore. Priceless.
Though we encountered a number of other hidden gems, dives and even fruit stands, I'll wrap up this journey with The Feral Pig. Yes, that's the name. What would you be expecting? Coyote Ugly? Biker bar? Well, the answer is neither. It was actually friendly, spacious, and had a super-cool atmosphere. Its a local favorite on Kalapaki Beach, just outside of Lihue and right next to our resort. They do breakfast, lunch and dinner - and they're good at all of them. Our favorite was the Ahi Poke, a raw tuna side that was fresh and delightful. We also had some killer fish tacos here. Don't let the name scare you away!