For a long time, Kauaʻi had a reputation for being a bit of a food desert, a place that was, culinary speaking, stuck in the plantation days, a cuisine centered around bland and plain foods, like rice and boiled beef, without color or flavor.
Times have changed in recent years, however. The last decade has seen Kauaʻi make huge strides in its food scene, both in quality and quantity. Local products have become more in-demand, with farmers driving their availability and popularity. So, food wise, there has never been a better time to visit Kauaʻi.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Below you can find a summary of our preferred farmers markets, farm tours, and other food-related activities, including must-try local foods.
Related: Culinary activities on Maui, Oʻahu and the Big Island
Are you planning to also visit other islands in the state and do you like our style? Then the following guides might be a good place to start your culinary trip planning:
- Culinary tours and activities on Maui
- Culinary tours and activities on Oʻahu
- List of farm tours on the Big Island
Farmer’s markets in Hawaiʻi are special thanks to the abundance of local and unique produce that grows in our tropical gardens. Attendees have the opportunity to taste hard-to-find local fruits/vegetables and meet the local farmers who grow them, bringing each person just a little bit closer to their food. It’s a fun way to stock up on groceries, buy healthy snacks, mingle with locals, or simply enjoy a walk and talk with a friend while exploring the market.
Here are 3 popular farmers markets on Kauaʻi. For a more complete list, see the one put together by Tasting Kauaʻi.
Kalalea Anahola Farmers Market (Sunday)
- Where: 4541 Hokualele Road, Kīlauea, Sunday, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
- What to Expect: Farmers from Kalalea and Anahola sell their fresh produce alongside plate lunches, shave ice, and other local products.
- Website: Kalalea Anahola Farmers Market
Kauaʻi Community Market (Saturday)
- Where: Kauaʻi Community College/Grove Farm Park, Līhuʻe, Saturday 9:30 am – 1:00 pm
- What to Expect: Farmers from across Kauaʻi sell fresh produce. Also: Special food demos, guest presentations, and tours of the KCC organic farm.
- Website: Kauaʻi Community Market
Anaina Hou Farmers Market (Tuesday & Saturday)
- Where: 5-2723 Kuhio Highway, Kīlauea, Tuesday 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
- What to Expect: Organic, fresh produce from farms across the island.
- Website: Anaina Hou Farmers Market
Want to visit the source of your food and spend a morning or afternoon connecting with the local producers? Curious as to how dragon fruit is grown, or coffee is decaffeinated? Below are our suggestions of local farms to visit on Kauaʻi.
Taro Farm Tours
While not as crowd-pleasing as the pineapple, coffee, and chocolate tours below, don’t sleep on a tour of a local taro farm. Taro is a revered crop in Hawaiʻi that has a lasting historical legacy to go along with a strong, modern pulse. If you’re looking for a food tour that blends educational, historical, and cultural components, then we suggest heading to a taro farm.
- Hanalei Taro (website)
Pineapple is not native to Hawaiʻi, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming synonymous with the islands. Taking a farm tour is a great way to learn about its history as one of Hawaiʻi’s major cash crops. Kauaʻi is not known as a pineapple-growing island (at least compared to Maui, Oʻahu, and Lānaʻi), but it does have one farm that offers tours.
- Sugarloaf Pineapple (website)
Coffee is a top agricultural product in modern-day Hawaiʻi, and the state is famous around the world for its most prestigious growing area, the Kona Coffee region, on the Big Island. But keep in mind that coffee is grown on every island, and each region produces a different flavor that’s delicious in its own right.
Kauaʻi can brag about having the state’s largest coffee plantation, Kauaʻi Coffee Company, which offers a self-guided tour and tastings throughout the day.
- Kauaʻi Coffee Company (website)
Though not a major export, chocolate is certainly beloved on the islands! Cacao, the agricultural product from which chocolate is produced, is grown throughout Hawaiʻi, and tours offer insight into the process of how America’s favorite treat is made. There are several chocolate tours on Kauaʻi to choose from.
- Lydgate Farms (website for tickets)
- Garden Island Chocolate (website)
- Kauaʻi Chocolate Company (website)
- Wild Chocolate Kauaʻi (website)
Other Local Farms and Tours
If you’re interested in learning more about locally-produced products, you should consider taking a tour at an independently-run, family-owned farm. Here, you will have a look at how things are produced, how they are brought to market, and, perhaps most importantly, you’ll get a chance to see the lifestyle of the modern-day Hawaiian farmer, getting a glimpse of the island through the eyes of a local family and their particular specialty.
Products include tea, vanilla, goat cheese, and more!
- Kauaʻi Farmacy Tea Tasting (website)
- Vanillery Farm Tour (website)
- Kauaʻi Kunana Dairy (website)
- Haraguchi Rice Mill (website)
Hungry? Ready to explore? A food tour is not only a great way to try a variety of cuisines in a short amount of time, but also to make the rounds and learn more about the island’s restaurants and purveyors.
Most food tours on Kauaʻi are focused by region, i.e., the east side or south shore (as opposed to a certain kind of food theme) and are walking tours (burn off one meal on the way to the next!). Prices range from $100 to $200 per person, typically for a 2 or 2.5-hour tour.
- Tasting Kauaʻi: The most comprehensive food tour company with a variety of offerings throughout the island’s different regions (website)
- Ono Food Tours: North shore only, focused on restaurants of Hanalei (website)
Delicious Local foods (and where to try them)
While in Hawaiʻi, you should be on the hunt for local dishes. Here are a few of our favorite, and where to try them.
Translating from Chinese to mean “thin noodle,” Saimin is usually served as a soup with dashi broth and thin noodles made from wheat and egg. The noodles are made fresh in the islands and the dish can be topped with green onions, meat, seafood, or eggs. The Saimin noodle dish is special because it originated in Hawaiʻi during the plantation days and is a unique Hawaiian culinary experience here today.
Learn more about Saimin in the following video (spoiler: Saimin is life!)
Kalua pork is the Hawaiian version of pulled pork. In traditional times, the pig was cooked in an imu, or underground oven, using hot rocks and banana leaves. The pork is slow-cooked with salt, allowing it to stay moist. It is not usually served with any sauce, although some places add barbecue sauce when serving it as a sandwich.
If you’re going to a lūʻau, you will definitely have the chance to try kalua pork. Otherwise, try these fine establishments on Kauaʻi:
Good to know: If you don’t have the patience to cook Kalua Pork the traditional way you can also make it in a pressure cooker!
Poi is the most traditional and one of the most important foods of ancient Hawaiʻi. Once a mainstay of the Hawaiian diet, poi still exists in the modern era, although convincing visitors to eat it has never been easy. For some, poi remains an acquired taste – it is taro, pounded down into a paste of various consistencies. Sometimes it is bland, other times tangy or even sour. It is mostly served as a side dish at restaurants, accompanying fish or pork dishes, but many farms in Hawaiʻi also sell it by the pound.
We encourage you to give it a try – it goes great with salty or sweet dishes, like kalua pork or certain types of poke.
Curious about Poi? Learn more about it in the following video:
Poke is arguably the most popular of the local dishes in Hawaiʻi, and its fame is now sweeping the globe, with poke shops popping up across mainland America and even Europe. There’s nothing like trying this fresh-fish dish from the source, though. Poke is a simple combination of cubed, marinated, sushi-grade fish that can be eaten over rice (it’s known as a poke bowl) or eaten on its own (we like to use a toothpick).
There are endless poke options on every island, but here are a few to target on Kauaʻi:
- Pono Market (Kapaʻa)
- Konohiki Seafood (Līhuʻe)
- Kōloa Fish Market (Kōloa)
- Hanalei Poke (Hanalei)
- Ishihara Market (Waimea)
Laulua is a traditional Hawaiian dish consisting of meat, fish, or vegetables (or a combination) wrapped up and steamed in a taro leaf, which, when prepared in this manner, is akin to the taste and texture of cooked spinach. It was a convenient meal for ancient Hawaiians, who could wrap up whatever they had and steam them in underground ovens.
Want to make Laulau yourself? Check out the following video:
A great treat to beat the heat! You’ll see this dessert/snack spelled two ways (Shave Ice and Shaved Ice), and though no one really knows which one is correct, everyone knows not to call it a snow cone. Either way, it’s finely chopped/shaved ice with sweet syrup poured over top. The syrup is sometimes artificial (sugar-based) and other times made from fresh fruit.