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Feb 21, 2011 12:03 PM

Kauai questions

Hi everyone,

I am reading up on the relevant posts, preparing for our March trip. But I can already see that the tips I need don't totally overlap with what has been posted. So please share your advice with me.

My family is travelling to Kauai for about a week,staying on the Eastern shore near the river. We've found on past trips that it makes it easier to see both N and S of the island. We've been 3 times already, but most recently was nearly 4 years ago, so I am sure much has changed.

We are trying hard to keep costs down, so I'm not looking for any "nice" or "spendy" places. I would love, however, a tip on a grocery store that has good value and good choice, so that we can do at least breakfast daily - and maybe 1 other meal sometimes - in our hotel. We don't have a full kitchen though - a micro maybe, fridge, and coffee pot.

Otherwise, please let me know the best lunch/dinner options - on a budget - emphasizing fresh quality ingredients. Parameters I guess would be if we can eat between $30 and $60 per meal, more or less, all included (there are 2 adults 2 kids). We prefer the north shore, and will probably spend more time there than on the south. None of us really like too much processed food, so we'll be staying away from the spam, the mac salad, etc. and focusing on fish and fruit (I hope!) And now, this is a toughie - my older son is allergic to all nuts. So not only must he avoid all the mac and other nuts flying about, but as a family we tend to avoid places where 1/2 the menu is nut encrusted, so that we keep down the likelihood of cross-contamination. Not much of a vacation otherwise.

When we've been to Kauai before, I remember that Brick Oven Pizza, Shrimp Place, Jo Jos shave ice were all ok-very good (S), Tropical Taco long long wait and not awesome, Wishing Well shave ice great (on North), Ono Char burger was yummy, Hamura's Saimin overrated, and there was one diner (I can't recall the name) in Lihue (really run down from the outside) but absolutely delicious and fresh fish inside. Unexpected. I know we went to a lot of places - I just can't recall at this juncture.

Thanks everyone. I promise to post the trip when we return.

Brick Oven Pizza
2 2555 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo, HI

Tropical Taco
5-5088 Kuhio Hwy Shop A, Hanalei, HI 96714

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  1. E, sasha1, Aloha Kaua:

    Your first question is the easiest. Kaua'i has chains and independent groceries now, just like everywhere. If you're staying near Kapa'a/Wailua, there are Safeway and Big Save in Waipouli, and Costco on the Puhi side of Lihu'e. Good prices and good choices there. If you like organic/healthfood oriented food, there are two good markets, one in Kilauea, and the other in the new toney shopping center in "new" Koloa Town. Pricey ($34 for a free-range chicken, ironic when they''re running everywhere)! but good selection of offbeat stuff.

    Re: eats (grinds), check out my comprehensive reviews of November 2010 on this board. Hanalei's a tough market for good, consistent, inexpensive food.

    Brick Oven Pizza... If you haven't been in 4 years, BOP opened a 2nd location just N of the Wailua River. Wasn't the same as in Kalaheo, but maybe an off night.

    The diner you remember may have been Ma's. Ma Ma is with us now only in uhane, and her place is pau. If I was to recco one fantastic, inexpensive, healthy place for a family to eat, it would be Garden Isle Chinese in Lihu'e on Rice Street. Outrageously good vegetable dishes there.

    Also--CAN'T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH--if you want the best ingredients, forget the grocery stores for most. Go to the farmers' markets and meet some nice people. They now have them every day except Sunday somewhere (I think Kapa'a and Lihu'e have 2x/week. For fish, IMO, Kilauea Fish Market is the best, but there are good fish markets in Hanalei (Dolphin), Liuhu'e (Fish Express), and Old Koloa Town. If you look and smell, even Costco and Big Save gets 'ono fish. I would not even hesitate to buy fish from the side of the road--look for signs saying "Fresh Akule".

    Enjoy your trip. Aloha.

    Brick Oven Pizza
    2 2555 Kaumualii Hwy, Kalaheo, HI

    8 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Mahalo Kaleokahu! You have no idea how much I am looking forward to the farmers markets. I live in the PNW now, and our f.m. is only open April to Dec, and the tail end on both sides is either lettuce or pumpkin. So we actually get fresh produce maybe 6 months.

      I love your idea of the fresh fish, but I don't think we'll have a full kitchen. Do the fish markets sell any form of prepared fish, like ceviche, poke, or even smoked?

      The last time I ate chicken on an island where they were running everywhere, instead of eating fish which I should've done was on my honeymoon in Tahiti. It was the worst chicken ever :) Tasted like the garbage it was pecking at on the side of the road.

      I'm looking forward to your Chinese rec. We don't have any good chinese food in the town I live in - ditto for Mexican. I was spoiled though, living in LA for a decade first.

      1. re: sasha1

        Aloha, sasha1:

        A'ole pilikia.

        You will enjoy the farmers' markets. There are seasons in Hawai'i nei, but not like in the PNW (where I am, too). HUGE bouquets of tropical flowers for $2-5, and lots of exotic fruits and veggies year-round. If you don't recognize it, BUY IT, and then ask how to prepare. Also, watch other local shoppers--see what they snatch up when da car horn blows, then next time you be the early bird.

        Yes, the fish markets all gets poke, and it's almost all 'ono. Strangely, Costco gets *very* onolicious poke ahi. The best smoked fish IMO is at the little Koloa fish market; their smoked marlin is sooooo good. I encourage you to call ahead and ask your hotel if they have or will make available a BBQ near your room. And if they won't, go to Waipouli Variety and get yourself a cheap hibachi, or cook in a beach park (provided). Fish tastes bettahs on the beach, hiki no? Also, watch for the Saturday market in Anahola Hawai'ian Homelands--good opportunity to taste real wild pua'a kalua.

        Yes the moa kulaiwi can be stringy and tough. It was more of a bad joke that some other small kine "fresh" moa comes from the mainland for $34, sold as health food.

        You mind me asking where you're staying? There are hidden little lodging gems on Kaua'i beaches that are not expensive at all.

        1. re: kaleokahu

          Not a little hidden gem - Aloha Beach just near Lydgate. Package deal. I would love to have the $$ to do Kauai my way, a la carte! Thanks much for your suggestions. I just read up on your long post too, so I feel a good way towards equipped to travel :)

          1. re: sasha1

            sasha1: Google "The Fish Shack Anahola". I think she has 2 family-sized units besides the Shack itself. Cheap, private, quiet and on a swimming (reef) beach.

            1. re: kaleokahu

              It's bought already. Maybe next visit.

              1. re: sasha1

                sasha1: I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. I merely suggested you check it out, maybe drive down there while on Kaua'i, take a look,

                  1. re: sasha1

                    Have a(nother) wonderful trip. And prepare yourself for Mini-Golf on your way to Hanalei. Don't worry, there are kahuna 'ana'ana working on that one...


    2. I came in here for the first time (Hawaii area) to look for tips for our first trip to Kauai coming up in 11 days. I couldn't have asked for a better start than this!

      1 Reply
      1. re: jcanino

        Glad I got this started for you - we may very well run into each other there :) It will be interesting to compare stories on the board when we return.

      2. Is this a very quiet board, or is it just me?

        Please locals and recent visitors - chime in - I'd love to have more than 1 opinion before heading west.

        To boil it down - I'm looking for yummy, non budget-busting places that use lots of fresh, local ingredients and don't have nuts all over their menu. Anywhere on the island is fine, but we like the north side better, and will probably concentrate our time there.

        Question on the famer's markets too: which 1 or 2 offer the biggest, most variety of produce, without an overwhelming focus on arts&crafts. Any kind of homemade cookery - juices, jams, breads are great as well. I know they go all week long - if I only go to 1, which should it be?

        6 Replies
        1. re: sasha1

          I follow this board regularly, but I just don't have anything to add, that's probably the case with others too. Just didn't want to you feel ignored. Those are good specific questions and it sounds like Kaleokahu had some great answers for you. You may just have to wing it and see what you can find once you are there. I'll look forward to your report when you get back.

          Have a great trip, wish I were going this year!

          1. re: mwest9

            That's cool. I love Kauai so much, I would probably be happy just sustaining on the wonderful little bananas and pineapple for a week and just taking in all the scenery. Man, if I was a multi-millionaire, I'd be plonking my second house down on Anini Beach at this very moment.

            1. re: sasha1

              sasha1: Don't forget to pick Anini for Ni'ihau shells. Between the two streams in the park. Aloha.

              1. re: kaleokahu

                Kaleo kahu - can you answer my FM question? Which is the biggest, most variety, breads, jams, and won't miss the crafts if there aren't any?

                1. re: sasha1

                  sasha: Gosh, all the FMs are pretty good. I actually like the smaller ones better, but lots of vendors go to all. Maybe not so much on the West Side. The one in Anahola is more craft-y, but gets good cheap lei.

                  Kapa'a is always beeg, Lihu'e and Hanalei, too. Hanalei has more crafts, but still predominantly foodstuffs. Not a lot of bakery products at the FMs. For that, I say stop at the little bakery in the Kong Lung complex in Kilauea. You could even do triple duty (bakery, fish, FM) in Kilauea on your way to/from Secret Beach!

            2. re: mwest9

              I agree. Most of my experiences are fine-dining, so could well be considered "budget-busting."

              Also, some of the Hawai`i board feel that if you did not eat there last night, your review is just too old to be useful. However, I have never seen a one of those, who had any offering, so obviously they do not dine out much - just complain.

              Up thread, I see some valued responders, and think that their recs. would be more timely and in keeping with the post, than mine.

              That's why I am refraining from making any Kaua`i recs.



          2. We had some of the best chicken veggie stir fry at Keoki's Paradise in Poipu for $10+ and it was so much food that we would split with a mai tai and some local beer..great happy hour.
            Costco is always a good thing while in the islands to stock up on cocktails, pineapple, mango and other goodies..POG!
            Lots of small local great restaurants by the river area..can't remember the names.
            Had great meals at Dolphins in North Shore.
            We stayed at the Grand Hyatt and I suggest having drinks and experience how gorgoeus this resort is...Red Salt is excellent too.
            Kauai is so magical and my fave island with so much Aloha spirit.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Beach Chick

              Beach Chick:

              I'll second your rec of the Grand Hyatt, especially the Stevenson's Library bar and the Anara Spa.

              Folks visiting the hotel often do not realize that spa and beach privileges can be purchased without staying there. The Travoltas enjoy it.

            2. How about some ideas for breakfast. We are staying at the Kauai Marriott in Lihue (Marriot Reward points for entire week). I know we (myself, wife and 20 yo daughter) don't want to eat breakfast every day at the Marriott.

              7 Replies
              1. re: jcanino

                Aloha, jcanino:

                Kalapaki Beach is OK, reward points or no. You go up the road toward Lihu'e, about a mile, about to the cutoff to the airport, meybe past a bit. On the hema (left) side, you'll find a place that does dakine local breakfasts, all in one big room, 'ono grinds, low price, locals. Gets to Garden Isle Chinese, you hele too far. Go early for mikana (papaya) pancakes.

                Luana 'oe (You enjoy),


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Thank you. WE will be spending some time exploring looking for places.

                  1. re: jcanino

                    jcanino: I think there are two bfast places on Kaua'i now (used to be 4) that never disappoint. The 2 that are left are Kountry Kitchen and Ono Family Restaurant. Both in Kapa'a. Might be worth checking if Bali Hai in Princeville is back in business--that view while munching kalo hashbrowns is special.

                    Ono Family Restaurant
                    4-1292 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746

                    Kountry Kitchen Restaurant
                    1485 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa, HI 96746

                    Bali Hai Restaurant
                    5380 Honoiki Rd, Princeville, HI 96722

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Thank you all for your help. Unfortunately we have had to cancel our trip as I am having emergency eye surgery to repair a detached retina.

                      1. re: jcanino

                        E jacanino, Aloha: I'm sorry, I hope you are just *delaying* your hele.

                        E Ola,

                        1. re: jcanino

                          Seems that Hawai`i trip cancellations are in the cards. We had a major stopped, as we were walking onto the UAL jet at LAX -had to head home in a hurry, and call every restaurant (and golf course), on the way home. "Stuff" happens, and we roll with those punches.

                          Maybe "next time" for both of us,


                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Aloha Bill..
                            You're walking onto the plane and had to head home..hope all is well.
                            We were flying that morning to Paris on 9/ gotta roll with those punches for sure.
                            Mahalo to you!