Kauai Restaurants

On Kauai, if you're lucky enough to win an invitation to a potluck, baby luau, or beach party, don't think twice—just accept. The best grinds (food) are homemade, and so you'll eat until you're full, then rest, eat some more, and make a plate to take home, too.

But even if you can't score a spot at one of these parties, don't despair. Great local-style food is easy to come by at countless low-key places around the island. As an extra bonus, these eats are often inexpensive, and portions are generous. Expect plenty of meat—usually deep-fried or marinated in a teriyaki sauce and grilled pulehu-style (over an open fire)—and starches. Rice is standard, even for breakfast, and often served alongside potato–macaroni salad, another island specialty. Another local favorite is poke, made from chunks of raw tuna or octopus seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce, onions, and pickled seaweed. It's a great pupu (appetizer) when paired with a cold beer.

Kauai's cultural diversity is apparent in its restaurants, which offer authentic Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, and Hawaiian specialties. Less specialized restaurants cater to the tourist crowd, serving standard American fare—burgers, pizza, sandwiches, surf-and-turf combos, and so on. Poipu and Kapaa offers the best selection of restaurants, with options for a variety of tastes and budgets; most fast-food joints are in Lihue.

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  • 1. Dondero's

    $$$$ | Italian

    With a beautiful setting, good food, stunning ocean view, and impeccable service, Dondero's is one of Kauai's better restaurants. The elegant...Read More

  • 2. Eating House 1849

    $$$ | Asian

    Hawaii's culinary superstar, Roy Yamaguchi, has moved his signature Hawaiian-fusion-cuisine restaurant on Kauai's South Shore to an updated...Read More

  • 3. Hamura Saimin

    $ | Asian

    Folks just love this funky old plantation-style diner—locals and tourists stream in and out all day long, and neighbor islanders stop in on...Read More

  • 4. Hukilau Lanai

    $$ | American

    Relying heavily on superfresh island fish and local meats and produce, this restaurant offers quality food that is competently and creatively...Read More

  • 5. JO2 Restaurant

    $$$ | Eclectic

    This is the newest creation of Jean-Marie Josselin, the renowned chef who brought Hawaii regional cuisine to Kauai in 1990, and it reflects...Read More

  • 6. Kauai Grill

    $$$$ | Eclectic

    Savor an artful meal created by world-renowned chef Jean-Gorges Vongerichten, surrounded by a dramatic Hanalei Bay scene that's positively stunning...Read More

  • 7. Makai Sushi

    $ | Japanese

    The menu is simple—poke bowls, sashimi, and four types of sushi rolls—but the freshness of the fish and attention to quality preparation set...Read More

  • 8. Red Salt

    $$$$ | Eclectic

    Smart, sophisticated decor, attentive and skilled service, and an exceptional menu that highlights Hawaiian seafood make Red Salt a great choice...Read More

  • 9. Restaurant Bar Acuda

    $$$$ | Spanish

    This hip and pricey tapas bar is a top place in Hanalei in terms of tastiness, creativity, and pizzazz. Owner-chef Jim Moffat's brief menu changes...Read More

  • 10. Restaurant Kintaro

    $$ | Japanese

    If you want to eat at a lively restaurant that's a favorite with locals, visit Kintaro, but be prepared to wait—or better yet, make reservations...Read More

  • 11. Beach House

    $$$$ | Asian

    This restaurant has a dreamy ocean view, making it a good setting for a romantic dinner or a cocktail and appetizer while the sun sinks into...Read More

  • 12. Brennecke's Beach Broiler

    $$$ | American

    Casual and fun, with a busy bar and windows overlooking the beach, Brennecke's specializes in big portions in a wide range of offerings including...Read More

  • 13. Bull Shed

    $$$ | Steakhouse

    The A-frame structure makes this popular restaurant look distinctly rustic from the outside, but inside, light-color walls and a full wall of...Read More

  • 14. Café Portofino

    $$$ | Italian

    The lengthy menu at this mostly authentic northern Italian restaurant is as impressive as the views of Kalapaki Bay and the Haupu range, and...Read More

  • 15. Duke's Canoe Club

    $$$ | Seafood

    Surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku is immortalized at this casual bi-level restaurant and bar on Kalapaki Beach where surfboards, photos, and other...Read More

  • 16. Eat Healthy Cafe

    $$ | Vegetarian

    A restored plantation cottage surrounded by tropical foliage is the casual setting for this island café. The menu emphasizes local and organic...Read More

  • 17. Gaylord's

    $$$ | Eclectic

    Located in what was once Kauai's most expensive plantation estate, Gaylord's pays tribute to the elegant dining rooms of 1930s high society...Read More

  • 18. Hanalei Gourmet

    $$ | American

    This spot in Hanalei's restored old schoolhouse offers dolphin-safe tuna, low-sodium meats, fresh-baked breads, and homemade desserts as well...Read More

  • 19. JJ's Broiler

    $$$ | American

    This spacious, low-key restaurant serves hearty fare, with dinner specials such as lobster and Slavonic steak, a broiled sliced tenderloin dipped...Read More

  • 20. Kalaheo Café & Coffee Co.

    $$ | American

    Folks love this busy roadside café—especially for breakfast, though it's good for lunch and a simple dinner, too—for it's casual atmosphere...Read More

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