Kauai's diverse South Shore food scene offers up an array of savory flavors sure to satisfy any culinary taste
Kauai, Hawaii's Garden Island, is a heavenly, tropical locale complete with picturesque ocean and mountain views, pristine beaches, and idyllic weather.
Then there’s the lifestyle.
Surfing Pacific waves. Hiking across Waimea Canyon State Park or exploring the rainforest of Alaka'i Wilderness Preserve. Golfing on oceanfront championship courses. And, of course, opting for the favorite pastime of lazily bumming it on the beach. Even amidst all of this perfection, though, one does tend to get hungry.
Thankfully, the island of Kauai (and the South Shore region in particular) provides a delightful culinary menu to match the magnificent environs.
Not just your standard fare, the "sunny side" of Kauai boasts some distinct establishments, from a literal hole in the wall to high-end dining. A 25-year-old Hawaiian institution that was sustainable before such a thing was cool. And a couple of spots that have perfected the Hawaiian delicacy that is the plate lunch.
No matter where you travel along Kauai's South Shore—Hanapepe, Kalaheo, Koloa, or Poipu—you'll find comfort at every table and within every bite. Every one of these eateries is good enough to top any best-of list. In fairness to each, we'll present them alphabetically as 10 can't-miss restaurants on Kauai's South Shore.
5022 Lawai Road, Koloa
What better way to begin a tour of Kauai’s South Shore food scene than at a place that offers perhaps the best scene on the entire island? Living up to its name, The Beach House is everything you'd want in an oceanfront restaurant. Relaxed, casual atmosphere. Excellent Hawaiian-inspired dishes sourced from local boats, ranches, and farms. Daily live music. Spectacular sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
Many would contend that The Beach House's oceanfront lawn is the optimal front-row seat to nature in all its glory. It's why the eatery has established a reputation as not only one of the most popular places to dine on the island but also a prime destination for weddings and large group events. So whether it's a date night, a company function, or the most important day of your life, The Beach House is always up for a good time.
3620 Hanapepe Road, Hanapepe
Heading further west on our journey of South Shore cuisine, you'll discover the charming and historic Hanapepe. Although it’s located miles away from the more notable resort beaches, this small community is worthy of a day trip for its Glass Beach, the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, and its quaint little shops and boutiques.
Hanapepe is also home to several fantastic places to eat, including the under-the-radar Bobbie's Restaurant. The definition of a local eatery, residents in the know love this place. A small operation (there's only a handful of tables inside), it's perfected the uniquely Hawaiian culinary tradition that is the plate lunch. Bobbie's generous portions of Hawaiian barbeque ensure that even the heartiest island appetites leave satisfied.
2827 Poipu Road, Koloa
We'd be remiss if we didn't feature another local favorite and the spot most often identified as the place that serves the best Mexican food on Kauai. So named thanks to its squeezed-in facade in the middle of a nondescript strip center along Poipu Road, don't let the "hole-in-the-wall" appearance fool you.
Fresh, made-to-order items infused with authentic Mexican and Latin American flavors, Da Crack is a favored stop for hungry locals and curious out-of-towners. Ingredients are local, and there is a commitment to healthy eating with vegan options available.
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Road, #A-201, Koloa, (located in The Shops at Kukui'ula)
Our list doesn't feature many chain restaurants, and it's a testament to Kauai residents’ (and visitors’) devotion to an authentic dining experience. That said, we'll make an exception for one uniquely Hawaiian restaurant group—the Chef Roy Yamaguchi stable of island-wide eateries.
Kauai is home to Eating House 1849. Here, Chef Roy puts forth his take on old-school Hawaii dining. The name invokes Hawaii's first restaurant and honors the local network of farmers and fishers that make island dining an exceptional experience. The modern interpretation offers delicious upscale-affordable plates. The bright, open concept welcomes patrons for any occasion. As far as chain restaurants go, Eating House 1894 is undoubtedly one worth linking up with.
2-2560 Kaumualii Highway, Kalaheo
One of Kauai's main attractions is the breathtaking Waimea Canyon. A full day spent hiking the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" requires one to eat a hearty meal on the way or to refuel on the way back. For such a stopover, you can't go wrong with the Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company.
Arguably one of the most popular diners on Kauai, the expansive breakfast menu does not disappoint, and the coffee, of course, provides the perfect morning jolt. The lunch menu is equally impressive, with outstanding burgers, grilled wraps, and sandwiches. Not to be outdone, dinner might be when the cafe shines brightest, where the locally sourced ingredients come together in some of Kauai's best comfort food.
5482 Koloa Road, Koloa
Fish markets are staples across the Hawaiian islands. After all, what better spot to grab fish fresh off the boat and sample the essence of island cuisine? The South Shore food scene is fortunate that one of its fish markets, the Koloa Fish Market near the Old Koloa Town village, is one of Hawaii's best. The small little shack serves outstanding and affordable lunch plates and specialty dishes for locals and visitors alike.
While there's much variety on the menu, the main draw here is the poke. A traditional Hawaiian offering of raw, cubed fish mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil, poke dishes most often feature salmon or tuna. The Koloa Fish Market is widely recognized as Kauai's top purveyor of Ahi poke.
1-3555 Kaumualii Highway, Hanapepe
For the dessert portion of our list, we head back out to Hanapepe to grab a sweet treat (or two or three) at Lappert's Hawaii. A genuinely homegrown ice cream factory, Lappert's has five locations on three islands—but the real frozen magic all happens at the original Hanapepe location.
Made in small batches, the ice cream and sorbet comes in a number of flavors, from the traditional (chocolate chip cookie dough) to the innovative (green tea). Lappert's also specializes in locally sourced coffee, roasting it at home in Hanapepe.
5492 Koloa Road, Koloa
When the craving for excellent Italian strikes, it’s a call that requires answering. La Spezia, centrally located in Old Koloa Town, is the place to go for classic Italian plates, a very well-appointed wine list, and a cozy, intimate atmosphere.
For those who want the Mediterranean experience earlier in the day, La Spezia features a phenomenal breakfast menu Tuesday through Saturday and is a must-visit brunch spot every Sunday.
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Street #42, Koloa (located in The Shops at Kukui'ula)
Farm-to-table dining is a hot trend in cuisine. And what's not to like? The locally sourced fare is equal parts delicious and environmentally conscious. And while many Hawaiian restaurants do it better than most, Chef Peter Merriman was well ahead of the curve.
His restaurants—five eateries across three islands—have set the standard for sustainable food sourced amongst Hawaii's rich natural resources for over a quarter-century. The Kauai Fish House, beautifully outfitted in a classic plantation setting, serves nightly dinners with 90% of the ingredients locally caught, raised, or grown.
Downstairs from the main restaurant is Merriman's more casual Gourmet Pizza & Burgers. Featuring the same locally sourced approach to its menu, the cafe is the perfect spot for a laid-back lunch or relaxed happy hour and dinner.
2251 Poipu Road, Koloa (located in the Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort at Poipu Beach)
For our final can't-miss South Shore restaurant, we visit the Ko'a Kea Hotel & Resort and the celebrated Red Salt, which offers upscale dining in a low-key atmosphere. Upon entering, you’ll notice that the decor is immediately eye-catching—the bar area is a luxe island lounge, and the dining space is an exquisite portrait of open, contemporary warmth. It's indicative of what's to come.
Praised as one of the top restaurants in Kauai by Honolulu Magazine, dinner is a modern take on classic Hawaiian dishes. Order Executive Chef Noelani Planas' tasting menu, and you won't be disappointed. Of course, as part of the Ko'a Kea Resort, Red Salt pulls double duty and serves one of the best breakfast and brunch menus on the island as well.
Ready to experience all that the island of Kauai has to offer? Let Sean Ahearn and Jim Karlovsky be your guides to the Kauai real estate market. Whether it's the South Shore’s great community of Poipu or the North Shore enclaves of Hanalei and Princeville, their expertise ensures that you'll find your piece of paradise.