Best Places to eat on Kauai - AMA Hanalei

Since it was my first time visiting Hawaii, I wanted to ensure I ate local Kauai foods and knew all the best Kauai restaurants. I was on the hunt for the best food in Kauai.

I spent the first half of my trip in a house in Princeville and the second in a luxury resort in Poipu. As a result, we cooked a few nights at home while at our rental home. We also enjoyed breakfast, lunch, and dinners at restaurants in the Princeville area and Poipu.

Learn more about accommodation options in Kauai and other essential tips in this Kauai travel guide. You can find information here on what to wear in Kauai during the day and at dinner.

Based on my experience, the following recommendations are the best places to eat on Kauai Island.

Kauai Best Food

One of the best things to do while on vacation in Kauai is to try all the local specialities. Some of the best dishes in Kauai you need to try include: shave ice, fish tacos, anything with macadamia nuts and coconut shrimp.

Read on to find out some of the must try food in Kauai.

Shave Ice

Wishing Well Shave Ice Hanalei Kauai
Wishing Well Shave Ice

There are many places to find Shave Ice in Kauai, such as Wailua Shave Ice, Wishing Well Shave Ice and JoJo’s Shave Ice.

For those unfamiliar with Shave Ice, it is comparable to a slushie or ice cream. However, the ice starts plain and the flavours are added just before serving.

I had never tried shave ice before, and I enjoyed it. It is refreshing on a warm day, and it is fun to select your flavours. Plus, it is very pleasing to the eye.

Food Trucks

There are several places you will be able to try these local foods, and not all of them are restaurants on Kauai. For example, you will find many food trucks around Kauai, in Koloa and Waimea. There is usually a collection of food trucks in one spot, so you will find a variety of vendors to suit the whole family.

Mai Tai

I had never tried a Mai Tai cocktail before I visited Kauai and was immediately impressed by the taste. A Mai Tai is made up of rum, syrups, and fruit juices.

For those wondering where to find the best Mai Tai, I enjoyed the flavour of the Mai Tai from Tahiti Nui.

Additionally, I loved the lilikoi foam on top of the Mai Tai at Beach House Restaurant.

Hawaiian Dishes

Other typically Hawaiian dishes include Poi, macaroni salad, kalua pork and foods served with pineapple. Poi is a side dish that consists of a starchy vegetable that is mashed. It is sometimes made from taro, which is a local root vegetable. The best way I can describe Poi is that it is a type of Hawaiian style mashed potatoes.

Luau

Grand Hyatt Kauai Luau buffet
Grand Hyatt Kauai Luau buffet

One good place to try these foods is at a luau, a traditional Hawaiian show with a buffet feast. You can consider Luau Kalamaku, Grand Hyatt Kauai’s Luau and Smith Family Garden Luau.

Book your Luau here

Now you should know roughly where to find traditional food on the island and eat Kauai dishes. Continue reading to find out the best places to eat on Kauai.

Best Kauai Restaurants

During my vacation, I ate in as many Kauai restaurants as possible. Therefore, I will give you my opinion on the best restaurants in Kauai.

The restaurants featured on this list are places I visited, tried to visit, or ones for my next visit. Everyone who visits or lives on Kauai loves to share their favourite spots.

One of the main reasons I want to return to Kauai is to experience the restaurants I missed. I filled as many Kauai restaurants as I could into my 10-day itinerary, but there are still plenty to try out on my next visit.

As with all of the restaurants, make sure you check the opening hours before visiting any restaurants, food trucks or cafés. If you are travelling in an off-peak time or during holidays, the establishment may be shut. Plus, even during normal scheduling, the restaurant may not open every day of the week.

Read more about visiting Kauai in winter here and the activities in Kauai when it’s raining.

Best Places to Eat on Kauai’s North Shore

Hanalei Bay lookout Princeville Kauai
Hanalei Bay Lookout on North Shore Kauai

Some of the best places to eat in Kauai are in the north. Even if your accommodation is in the south or east, try to make sure you reserve a table at a restaurant in Hanalei Bay.

Some restaurants are famously hard to get a reservation, so you need to book them as soon as reservations open, which could be 30 days or more before your desired date. These restaurants include AMA and Bar Acuda.

Alternatively, some restaurants do not take reservations, so you will have to try your luck on the day. For example, Tahiti Nui and The Dolphin Restaurant.

Tahiti Nui

You may be familiar with Tahiti Nui restaurant if you have seen the film The Descendants starring George Clooney. The atmosphere here is casual and there is usually live music playing from 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, which is a treat.

As I mentioned, you do not need to make a reservation for Tahiti Nui. However, you can expect to wait around 30 minutes for a table. Either show up early or get your name on the list and have a walk around while waiting for the text that your table is ready.

The food is good at Tahiti Nui – but the real star is the Mai Tai. In my opinion, Tahiti Nui is the best restaurant in Kauai for a Mai Tai. 

Tiki Iniki 

Another good option for drinks in the Princeville area is Tiki Iniki. The food is fine, but the cocktails are tasty and come in fun tiki cups. 

You will find Tiki Iniki in the same plaza as the supermarket Foodland, so you are bound to be in the area at some point. It is possible to walk here from most Princeville accommodations. Therefore, you could opt for a drink at happy hour and walk home.

Tiki Iniki is also a decent option to spend New Year’s Eve in Princeville. It is good because you can make a reservation online to guarantee a table. 

Wishing Well Shave Ice

Wishing Well Shave Ice Hanalei Bay Kauai

There are plenty of places that sell fresh shave ice around Kauai, but the shave ice sold at Wishing Well in Hanalei was good. (Whereas the shave ice at Hyatt Kauai Resort was too dense and hard to eat.)

For my shave ice, I opted for flavours like lime, pineapple, and lychee. Next time I will choose one with lilikoi (like passionfruit) and fresh papaya. You can also get condensed milk on top.

When I was visiting Hanalei Bay in December 2021, the bridge to Hanalei Bay was closed many times. Therefore, Wishing Well Shave Ice was unable to open for a few days. So, when it finally opened, the queue was long – it took us around 30 minutes to get to the front. 

Check Wishing Well’s Instagram page for opening hours. 

Nourish Hanalei

Nourish Hanalei is a healthy food stand with an incredible view of Hanalei Bay. They sell products such as Acai bowls, veggie bowls and wraps. Find out their opening hours on the Nourish Hanalei Instagram page.

AMA

This spot was hands-down my favourite restaurant on Kauai because of its incredible view and delicious food. In addition to the renowned ramen bowls AMA serves, there are also delicious cocktails, tasty appetisers, and finger-licking doughnuts for dessert. 

AMA is in Hanalei Bay and offers an impressive view of mountains and greenery. You should book a table for during daylight so you can experience the restaurant’s full beauty. So, if you are visiting Kauai in winter, you may need a table as early as 5:30 PM.

In my opinion, it is one of the best restaurants in Kauai because it not only serves impeccable food, but it also has the ambience to match it. Check out all the noodles on the menu here

Remember to make your reservation in advance. Or you can try your luck with a walk-in as soon as it opens. One of the best things about AMA Kauai is that the host may let you wait by the fire pit with a cocktail.

Bar Acuda

Bar Acuda Hanalei Bay Kauai
Bar Acuda

The sister restaurant of AMA, Bar Acuda, is located next door. Bar Acuda serves tapas-style food at a high price point, so be warned. 

It is difficult to get a reservation for Bar Acuda Kauai, so make sure you book online exactly one month before your desired reservation date. Keep an eye on the dates taking bookings a few days ahead of the one-month mark to stay on the case. 

I missed out on this restaurant because they are generally only open from Tuesday to Saturday, and I got my dates mixed up for making the reservation.  

Visit Bar Acuda’s website here to book your table. 

The Dolphin

During my time in Princeville, we wanted to cook some fresh fish to eat at home in our VRBO rental. Therefore, we visited The Dolphin’s fish market and bought Monchong, a local Hawaiian fish. 

We served the Monchong with a panko crust and papaya salsa – it tasted deliciously fresh. I would recommend purchasing fish from The Dolphin. 

There is also a restaurant at The Dolphin, but it does not take reservations, so you should show up early to guarantee a table. 

If you are looking for a fish market in the south, you could try Koloa Fish Market.

Hanalei Bread Co. 

Hanalei Bread Co. Kauai
Hanalei Bread Co.

If you are looking for the best breakfast in Kauai, you could try Hanalei Bread Co.

They serve coffee, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and yoghurt and fruit bowls. I liked the pineapple pastry.

Plus, they sell coffee beans that you could take home as souvenirs for family and friends. I also purchased a Hanalei Bread Co. t-shirt as a memento of Hanalei Bay. 

Holey Grail Donuts

Not only do these doughnuts look picture-perfect, but also the dough is made from the superfood taro (that I explained earlier), which means they are healthy, right?

Holey Grail is another food stand that I sadly did not get to try because it was never open during my days in Hanalei Bay because of the flooding. I will make it my mission to try one next time I am in Kauai or Oahu. 

Best Places to Eat on Kauai’s East Coast

While some of these East Coast restaurants make good pit stops when travelling around the island. Others are best visited if you are staying in Kapa’a.

So, if you are staying in Kapa’a, which I recommend in my 3-day itinerary, there are plenty of places to spend your evenings and arguably where you will find some of the best food on Kauai.

Kapa’a Food Trucks

I came across these food trucks when driving from the south of Kauai to the north. I saw a big group of funky looking food trucks and knew I wanted to stop and try them out another time. 

I visited during the Christmas holidays (early January 2022); as a result, many food trucks were closed. I was hoping to try some Mexican food. However, we were lucky enough to try the food at two food trucks. 

The first food truck I tried was Da Melting Pot where I ordered the Ahi Katsu – it was excellent. I would order that dish again if I were to return. 

The other food truck was Chicken in a Barrel. I highly recommend the Chicken in a Barrel Plate with a side of brown rice and chilli beans. 

JO2

The small restaurant is in an unassuming location; but worth making a reservation for. The food at JO2 is highly rated and there is a great deal for an early dinner prix fixe meal.

Lava Lava Beach Club

This restaurant was one of my family’s favourite spots during our whole trip to Kauai purely for the sensational beachfront setting. Some of my family even went for a dip in the sea while waiting for the food to come.

We visited during their Grab and Go lunch period, meaning there was no full bar and a smaller menu of options to choose from. 

The food was delicious. I ordered the Spinugula Salad with Coconut Shrimp and I loved it. Two of my group said the fish tacos were the best they had tasted so far on Kauai. 

I would recommend also coming to Lava Lava Beach Club in the evening for the live music and lively atmosphere. The restaurant does not take reservations, so arrive early and put your name on the waitlist. 

Lava Lava Beach Club was another restaurant I could not resist purchasing a t-shirt from because I loved the designs. 

This restaurant in Kauai is close to Wailua River, which means it a great post-kayak to Secret Falls food stop.

Hukilau Lanai

This restaurant is recommended on the East Coast of Kauai for excellent food. Book your reservation two weeks in advance for Hukilau Lanai, a well-sought-after restaurant.

Consider the food and wine tasting night at the weekend at Hukilau Lanai. Find out more on the Hukilau Lanai website

Bubba Burgers 

Even though it took a long time to be served (45 minutes due to labour shortages), it was worth the wait. I ordered a teriyaki beef burger with pineapple, and it was exceptional.

The burgers are small, so in hindsight, I wished I had ordered two. 

There are two Bubba Burgers locations in Kauai, one is on 1421 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa (East) and the other is located at The Shops at Kukui‘ula in Poipu. 

Pono Market

If you want to try the extremely popular poke bowls and plate lunch at Pono Market, you need to come early. Pono Market regularly sells out by noon. I suggest arriving before 11:00 AM for an early lunch or buying food to take home with you for later.

Duke’s Kauai

Kalapaki Beach in Kauai
Kalapaki Beach

Duke’s is famous for its Hula Pie, an indulgent and creamy dessert. You can also order a cocktail served inside a pineapple; it is known as La Piña. It is located within the Marriott property in Lihue and close to the airport.

There are two options for dining at Duke’s, upstairs in their more formal restaurant, and downstairs in their beach bar area. You can make a reservation at Duke’s for the upstairs, but not downstairs.

The best seats are upstairs along the railing with the open air and view of Kalapaki Beach. Choose an early sitting and you may be seated at one of these tables, or you can request one when booking. 

Best Restaurants Kauai South Shore

There are some magnificent restaurants dotted around the South Cost of Kauai, from casual take-out joints to upscale establishments. There is something to suit all preferences.

If you are staying in the Poipu area, remember to book a ride with Aloha Spirit Shuttle to get from your hotel to Poipu restaurants. It is a tip-based shuttle.

You should not rely on the shuttle for your whole trip. You need to rent a car in Kauai. Click here to find great deals on rental cars in Hawaii.

Continue reading to find out where to find the best food in Poipu.

Beach House

Beach House may be one of the most popular restaurants in Kauai and arguably the best Kauai restaurant for a sunset view with an upscale meal. 

Make sure you have reserved a table for around 30 minutes after sunset and come early for a cocktail from the bar. You can drink the cocktail on the front lawn and watch the stunning sunset. 

The Monkeypod Mai Tai is delicious and comes with honey-lilikoi foam on top, making it extra special. All the food was tasty, including the pork potstickers and seafood linguine that I ordered. See the Beach House menu here.

So, for those looking for the best restaurant in Kauai for sunset, Beach House is a strong contender.

Brennecke’s Beach Broiler

Brennecke’s is a low-key dinner spot on the water. Book your table for a little after sunset and look for the turtles on Poipu Beach.

Tidepools

The Tidepools Restaurant is in the Grand Hyatt Kauai hotel, which is convenient if you are staying there. Read my review of the Grand Hyatt Resort

A visit to Tidepools is also worth it if you are not staying at the Hyatt hotel. The food was great but quite dear, and the surroundings were stunning – including the Hyatt’s hotel grounds and the restaurant’s location by the koi pond. 

Tidepools is a luxurious restaurant and would be a romantic dinner experience. 

It is one of the best restaurants in Poipu for its incredible setting.

Keoki’s Paradise

Keoki’s Paradise is owned by the same company as Duke’s, so you will find some similarities between them. For example, the Hula Pie and the cocktail served in a pineapple. In their version of the Poipu Piña Colada, you can add other flavours, such as lilikoi or mango. Check out the Keoki’s Paradise menu here

If you want a fun Hawaiian themed restaurant, you will find it at Keoki’s Paradise. It is in a convenient location to many Poipu hotels.

Merriman’s Kauai

The Shops at Kukui'ula Kauai
The Shops at Kukui’ula Kauai

The location of Merriman’s Kauai is unassuming in its mall location. However, it is a plantation-style building with views of green-open space that will make you soon forget you are in an outdoor shopping mall. 

Most of the food served at Merriman’s Fish House is caught locally or grown locally. Ask for a table along the front for the best sunset view at Merriman’s.

Eating House 1849

Eating House is another restaurant located in the Poipu mall with a great sunset view.

Make sure you order the chocolate souffle cake. You can even remake the souffle when you get home with chef Roy Yamaguchi’s recipe.

Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs

Poipu Beach Kauai

Puka Hot Dogs is another option close to Poipu and is known for its interesting hot dogs. Order a hot dog with Aunty Lilikoi’s Hawaiian mustard and your choice of fruit relish: mango, pineapple, papaya etc.

Look at the Puka Dog menu to help you make your decision.

Take your hot dog to Poipu Beach and you can watch for the turtles on the beach at sunset again.

Little Fish Poipu

Little Fish Coffee Poipu

This coffee shop offers plenty of breakfast options in a convenient location in Poipu. The coffees, bagels and smoothies are good.

Some people say that Little Fish serves the best coffee on the south of the island.

The line can be extremely long, so order online and choose your pick-up time to save time. 

Another option for good coffee on Kauai is Aloha Coffee in Koloa, and you will not have to worry about big queues like at Little Fish.

Best Places to Eat on Kauai’s West Coast

There are less options for dining in Kauai on the West Coast, but there are still some good spots.

Porky’s Kauai

Porky’s offers a good pitstop for comfort food after visiting Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon. It serves delicious Hawaii-style pulled pork sandwiches. Worth the mess you make and sticky fingers as you eat. 

Porky’s Kauai is the best place to eat in Kauai before a Na Pali Coast boat tour starting in Port Allen.

Japanese Grandma’s Café

This restaurant serves sushi, ramen, and other Japanese dishes in Hanapepe. There is a lovely atmosphere at night on the outdoor patio, but make sure you have a reservation. 

Otherwise, come for lunch but check the Japanese Granda’s Cafe Instagram page to make sure they are open. 

Best Places to Eat in Kauai: By Category

  • Best food in Kauai for on the go: Porky’s Kauai
  • Best food in Kauai for breakfast: Hanalei Bread Co.
  • Best restaurants in Kauai with a view: AMA or Lava Lava Beach Club
  • Best restaurant in Kauai for a romantic dinner: Tidepools
  • Best Mai Tai in Kauai: Tahiti Nui or Beach House
  • Best dessert in Kauai: Eating House 1849 or Duke’s
  • Best fish tacos in Kauai: Lava Lava Beach Club

Further Reading

Now you have finished reading about the best restaurants on Kauai, hopefully you have a good of where to eat in Kauai. Now, you may need help to plan the rest of your trip to Kauai.

Start with my Kauai Travel Blog, which will give you an overview of everything you need to know.  Then, my 10 Day Itinerary for Kauai or 3 Day Kauai Itinerary.

If you still need help selecting hotels for your stay in Kauai, read my article on Where to Stay in Kauai.

I also have articles on How to Choose a Napali Coast Boat Tour, Kauai in Winter, Best Things to Do in Poipu, and Best Things to do in Kauai When it Rains.

FAQ – Best Places to Eat Kauai

What to eat in Kauai?

You will eat well while in Kauai, whether you want to order from food trucks or more upscale restaurants. There are a huge range of food offerings that cover all tastes and requirements.

Some Kauai local food and dishes worth trying include: poi, shave ice, poke, fish tacos, loco moco, lilikoi, hula pie, and Kalua pig.

Where to find the best local food Kauai?

You will find some of the best Kauai food at food trucks around Kauai, such as those found in Kapa’a.

You may also want to try Pono Market for its famous plate lunch – you can check out its daily offerings on Instagram.

To try the local loco moco dish, head to Kilauea Market Cafe.

Where to find the best lunch in Kauai?

One of the must eat Kauai restaurants for lunchtime is at Lava Lava Beach Club.

Imagine finishing a morning activity along the Wailua River and stopping for tasty fish tacos on the beach. You could also have a quick dip in the sea while you wait for your food.

Pono Market is another popular location for lunch, but you may need to order well before midday because it can sell out early.

Where is the best breakfast Kauai?

If you do not have breakfast included at your hotel in Kauai, there are plenty of incredible options to find the best breakfast in Kauai.

For the best breakfast in Poipu, there is Little Fish Poipu; however, be prepared for a long wait or order ahead.

The best breakfast in Kapa’a is thought to be Kountry Kitchen or go to Passion Bakery Cafe for Malasadas.

The best breakfast in Hanalei is Hanalei Bread Co.

Do you need reservations for Kauai restaurants?

Many of Kauai’s best restaurants require a reservation to dine there.

Some dinner reservations can be quite difficult to get hold of, so you should keep an eye on their bookings calendar and book exactly when they are released. Some examples of restaurants that need booking include, AMA, Bar Acuda, Tidepools, and Beach House.

Alternatively, some restaurants do not accept reservations and you will need to show up early and get your name on a waitlist to be seated. For example Lava Lava Beach Club and Tahiti Nui.

Does Kauai have fast food restaurants?

While there are the typical fast-food outlets in Kauai, such as Mc Donalds and Burger King. There are also excellent local fast-food restaurants in Kauai, such as Porky’s and Bubba Burgers.

If you are looking for other food options on-the-go in Kauai, there are plenty of food trucks that will serve up an excellent meal or snack quickly.

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