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Farmer's Market on Oahu that is almost as good as the Saturday KCC market?

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Hi Chowhounds,
It's clear from this board that the Saturday farmer's market at KCC is the best one on the island in terms of variety and quality of produce and cooked foods. The only problem is that we arrive on Saturday afternoon (when the market is closed), and leave on Saturday morning (when the market might be open, but we can't get there because we'll be wrangling two kids to the airport). So here is my question: What is the second best farmer's market in terms of variety and quality of produce and cooked foods? We have a rental car and an alarm clock. So it doesn't matter where or when this market takes. Just tell me the best one to go to, and we're there. Thank you!

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  1. The Kailua Thursday night is just as mass hysteria as the Saturday market. They have lots of prepared foods. It starts at 5:00. Many people have said they like the Sunday Kailua market as well but I don't think it has as many prepared foods but sells other things like crafts.

    24 Replies
    1. re: manomin

      Excellent! Thank you so much for this information. We will be staying in Lanikai so this Thursday market sounds perfect. Two additional questions:

      1) I assume, given the mass hysteria that you mentioned is present at the Kailua market on Thursday, it is crucial to be there before it opens. Will getting there by 4:45 pm do?

      2) Are there any farmer's markets that are just plain duds in terms of fresh fruit? We plan to visit several farmer's markets throughout the week we are on Oahu to replenish our (hopefully bountiful) supply of dragon fruit, rambutans, lychees, and mangos. My plan is to have a list of the markets happening each day, and depending on where we are on any particular day, cruise by at the appropriate time. But I would like to avoid any markets that don't have a great fruit selection.

      1. re: pastrychefy

        note that some afternoon farmer's markets are the same vendors from the morning ones
        my mom took a friend from pearl city to the windward mall farmer's market, and she said that she saw some of the same vendors at the drive-in theater by pearlridge shopping center wednesday morning

        that said, if you are staying in lanikai, you should go to the windward mall one wednesday afternoon
        it is run by nalo farms, as is the sunday one at the mall

        1. re: pastrychefy

          Even though I work across the street and have to park at the same lot the market is held it I avoid it and hate leaving the lot on Thursdays, everyone is a zombie and not aware of the world around them. However they do allow people to come in and pre-select what they want and then when the horn sounds at 5:00 you then purchase your pre-selected items. That is a nice thing. I don't know what time pre-sale starts but it's probably about 4:30 from what it seems my co-worker leaves to do this. Alot of the city & county sponsored markets have many vendors who just buy stuff at Costco and re-sell it there so it is not necessarily local produce nor that fresh. I was just at Foodland and they had dragon fruit and several other local items including these really cute tiny Sugarland watermelons on sale of 79 cents a pound, I bought two.

          1. re: manomin

            79 cents a pound for dragon fruit?! That's amazing. We'll hit the Foodland for sure. Means I can eat eight times as much, and still pay less than the $8 a pound they are charging where I live for small, dried out looking ones.

            Thanks everyone for the tips on the farmer's market, Foodland, and Chinatown. Will follow the advice and report back, hopefully with our tropical fruit urges satisfied!

            1. re: pastrychefy

              Nowhere will you find dragon fruit for 79 cents a pound. If you go back and read the post it states the watermelon is 79 cents a pound, not the dragon fruit. Manomin just is pointing out that you don't need to go to a farmer's market to find things like dragon fruit, they can also be found in grocery stores.

              1. re: pastrychefy

                I did not say dragon fruit. Re-read and you will note it says the tiny sugar land watermelons are 79 cents a pound. I did not look at the price of dragon fruit but there were lots of them. Killersmile read the post correctly. I have to say those sugarland watermelons are just amazing! Few seeds and incredibly sweet, full of the flavor you want in a watermelon, the taste I remember as a child. I also bought a package of Superior Farms ground lamb that was awesome, American lamb. If for some reason you miss something or going to a market Foodland has a good selection of Nalo Farms greens and other produce.

            2. re: pastrychefy

              If it's a variety of fresh tropical fruit that you're after, you're probably better off going to Chinatown. I regularly shop one of the four farmers' market on the Windward side: the Thursday night market in the parking garage behind Macy's in Kailua; the Sunday morning market in the Kailua Elementary School parking lot; and the Wednesday evening and the Sunday morning markets at Windward Mall. All of them will have local bananas (apple, candy or Williams); fresh pineapples, papayas and mangos if they are in season. The other fruit you listed are all hit-or-miss with the different vendors; may be one vendor will have dragon fruit or lychee but not the others.

              There are differences between the markets: the largest is the Wednesday night one at Windward Mall--lots of vendors selling vegetables but not much in the way of prepared foods.
              The Sunday market in the Kailua elementary school parking lot targets upscale buyers with an emphasis on organic produce and prepared foods that will appeal to those with more "sophisticated" tastes. One thing I find funny is that most of the vendors there sell single vegetables (for ex, a sole zucchini regardless of size) for $2.00 each, so that they neither have to weigh purchases or make small change.

              The Thursday evening market in the parking structure behind Macy's probably has the best combination of food stalls selling foods and produce vendors. It's easiest to find parking if you get there between 4:30 and 5 p.m. when the horn blows to start the market. Not sure about the prepared food booths, but you can buy from most vendors prior to 5 p.m. -- you just can't carry the purchases away until after the horn.

              1. re: honu2

                It seems like the farmer's markets in Oahu are organized/sponsored by different groups. The "biggies" (e.g., the Saturday KCC and the Thursday Kailua) are backed by the Hawaii Farmer's Bureau. Then there are the Nalo Farms markets at Windward Mall. Then there are just a bunch of "people's open markets" throughout Oahu. Are the people's markets smaller, and less organized? Are they worth going to if what I'm looking for (as mentioned above) is yummy prepared food and tropical fruits?

                1. re: pastrychefy

                  I would skip the people's open markets. Those are meant to bring fresh produce to the neighborhood and are more targeted at reaching the low income population. Like manomin says above, it is not necessarily local produce nor that fresh and there really aren't prepared foods. The Sunday market in Kailua is pretty small and doesn't have a large selection to choose from. Basically for the best mix of fresh local produce and prepared foods I would say go to the Thursday Kailua Hawaii Farm Bureau sponsored market. You may as well check out the Wednesday market at Windward Mall while you are at it.

                  1. re: killersmile

                    It does not necessarily to reach the low income people... Hawaii Kai has a farmers market and the population does not necessarily low income?

                    I go the FM, beside cheaper price, it also has a variety of locally grown produce. Sure, it is not the same as farmers market such as in CA, but it suffices. Some of the organic produce is as expensive as the supermarkets, but fresher. Thank God for farmers market....We also help the "lower income" local vendors that way.

                    1. re: roro808

                      you're misunderstanding. the hawaii kai farmer's market is different from the people's open markets. run by different entities and serving different purposes. Have a look at the city website for a better understanding of what the people's open markets are. https://www1.honolulu.gov/parks/progr...

                      1. re: killersmile

                        It matters not who runs the market. I frequented the Hawaii Kai market some time ago and it's no different than any others. Where else can you get locally grown cucumbers three for $1.00 ? Certainly not in the supermarket. Besides, the idea is to get fresh and cheaper produce as well as support the local vendors. Not all are locally grown, but most are. You can get a variety of local produce such as ampalaya (bitter melon leaves), zucchini flowers, freshly picked kale, kohlrabi, chards, beets, mangoes, avocados and much much more. Granted, some produce are imported, not all. Just visit the friendly markets and enjoy.

                        1. re: roro808

                          Sheesh, some people just seem to want to argue for the sake of it. I was just providing information to the OP regarding where they would find the closest approximation of what they are looking for. They wanted a good mix of produce and cooked foods. If you have gone to many different markets and think that all markets are the same, then that's your opinion, but having gone to many different markets, it's my opinion that they definitely are not all the same both in terms of scale and variety of offerings.

                          1. re: killersmile

                            I agree. The one thing that keeps me away is the crowds which drive me nuts. I'm awaiting my Kula Field's CSA box today. Direct from Maui to my door on Oahu.

                            1. re: manomin

                              Ooh, mind posting a review of the box? I always liked the idea of a CSA but was frightened off by some of the bad reviews about not so fresh produce. For some reason, I have a hard time getting away from the idea of picking out my own produce.

                              1. re: killersmile

                                Look at the Kula Fields website. I've been doing this almost 2 years now. The stuff comes with a chilled/frozen water bottle, never a problem with freshness and they take your preferences. For example, I don't like that much cabbbage so I get a good substitute.

                                1. re: manomin

                                  Aloun Farms, Mao Farms do the same fresh produce box. They will deliver to a certain delivery point for you to pick up.

                  2. re: pastrychefy

                    Something new to the Kailua food scene is a Kailua Brunch Fest which is planned to be on every third Sunday in the parking lot next to Walgreens. The first one was this past Sunday, but I didn't go so can't comment. However, the intention is to have different vendors provide breakfast items.

                    The Sunday market in the Kailua Elementary School parking lot may be a fun eating experience since they have tables set up under a tent and usually a band. Belgian waffles and crepes are available.

                  3. re: honu2

                    I'll 2nd the chinatown recommendation. If tropical fruits are in season, you'll find them somewhere in chinatown for reasonable $. Plus, there's other good snacks down there and its a bit of a trip! Theres a couple food tours that run through chinatown, if you're into that thing. cant be hard to google 'em.

                    1. re: fatstern

                      If you do venture into Chinatown for tropical fruit, I would start with a couple of stores on Maunakea Street on the first block mauka of Hotel St. (One is at the corner). These are stores that make smoothies and bubble tea drinks using fresh fruit, so they usually have papayas, mangoes, pineapple and husked coconuts for sale. Also durian and soursop, if you're so inclined. Bpth are a very short walk from the underground Smith-Beretania municipal parking garage that you can only enter from Beretania.

                  4. re: pastrychefy

                    Hopefully you are arriving soon as the season for fruits like lychee and mangoes doesn't run for much longer. I also can't remember seeing any rambutan lately and dragon fruit is infrequent as well. Like honu2 says, your best bet for tropical fruit is to head to chinatown where there will be the largest selection available.

                    1. re: killersmile

                      At last night's farmers' market in Kailua, no rambutan, dragonfruit, or longon for sale. Two vendors had limited amounts of lillikoi (passion fruit), one had star fruit and guavas also in limited amouts. Small amounts of pre-packaged lychee (probably sold out within the first hour) and mangoes are getting scarce. Papayas, bananas, pineapple, Thai watermelon, limes, and cantaloupe readily available.

                      1. re: honu2

                        I get into Oahu tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon. Looks like Chinatown is my best bet for the fruits that I am looking for. I still plan to hit several of the markets mentioned in this thread for other fruits and veggies, and prepared foods. Looking forward to enjoying the bounty that Hawaii has to offer. Thanks a bunch chowhounds!

                        1. re: pastrychefy

                          Hopefully there will still be some choices left; of course the best selection is early. There is one shop I'd highly recommend, just mauka (toward the mountains) of the corner of Hotel and Maunakea...not on the corner, but the next door up Maunakea. Last Sunday he had 4 different kinds of local mangoes, 3 kinds of mountain apples, 3 types of dragon fruit...I could go on, but he even has cacao pods. He can also tell you which farm or source for each.

                2. You might consider a visit to the Waipahu Festival Marketplace (approximately 30 min. west of Waikiki). Open 6d/wk., morning to evening, but very crowded Friday and Saturday. There are about a dozen stalls with local produce and four with local, fresh fish and three or four with prepared foods. Of course, if one is interested in prepared foods, Thelma's is just a half-mile west, and Poke Stop and Don Quijote (lots of poke and cooked foods) are just a half-mile west of Thelma's.

                  I cannot comment on the open markets in eastern Oahu, not having been to any other than the small one in Kaneohe (where I bought a wonderfully fragrant vanilla bean for a dollar). However, the two Kapolei open markets I patronize provide me with almost all of the vegetables and much of the fruit (some organic) I consume [including ripe sapodillas as sweet as maple syrup], wood-fired pizza, grass-fed beef, Naked Cow dairy products, fresh baked goods, Brazilian treats, excellent Penang curry ($5/pt.), etc. I am very fond of west Oahu open markets.