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. 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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. 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

  • 7. 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

  • 8. 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

  • 9. 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

  • 10. Makana Terrace

    $$$$ | American

    There's no doubt this spot is pricey, but you're paying for the view—sit on the terrace if you can—and for an attentive staff. The menu is simple...Read More

  • 11. Merriman's Fish House

    $$$$ | American

    The regional food served up at chef Peter Merriman's namesake restaurant is enhanced by a sophisticated setting and lovely views from a pretty...Read More

  • 12. Nanea Restaurant and Bar

    $$$ | American

    This is the signature restaurant of the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, and its casual, open-air seating is the perfect compliment to...Read More

  • 13. Opakapaka Grill and Bar

    $$ | Fusion

    A trip to this oceanfront oasis requires a narrow, cliff-hugging ride along the exquisite North Shore coastline or a short walk from the condos...Read More

  • 14. Plantation Gardens

    $$$ | American

    A historic plantation manager's home has been converted to a restaurant that serves seafood and meats with a Pacific Rim and Italian influence...Read More

  • 15. Postcards Café

    $$$ | American

    This plantation-cottage restaurant has a menu full of seafood but also offers additive-free vegetarian and vegan options. Top menu picks include...Read More

  • 16. Tidepools

    $$$$ | Seafood

    Of the Grand Hyatt's many notable restaurants, Tidepools is definitely the most tropical and campy, with private grass-thatch huts that seem...Read More

  • 17. Casa di Amici

    $$$ | Italian

    Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood above Poipu Beach, this longtime restaurant has an outside deck open to sweeping ocean views. It boasts...Read More

  • 18. Josselin's Tapas Bar & Grill

    $$$ | Contemporary

    Chef Jean-Marie Josselin, one of the pioneers of Hawaiian regional cuisine, has a winner with this fun, sophisticated, small-plates restaurant...Read More

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