Kauai vacation restaurant dining guide

Many restaurants in Kauai offer wonderful ocean views. This photo was taken at Makana Terrace from our table while dining at St. Regis Princeville.
Many restaurants in Kauai offer wonderful ocean views. This photo was taken at Makana Terrace from our table while dining at St. Regis Princeville. Note that as of late 2019, this resort is undergoing renovations and may be closed. 

You’re going to Kauai and you’ve reserved your hotel and now you’re trying to pick out some good restaurants for your vacation. So, where do you start? Where are Kauai’s best restaurants? How do you make your selections? Let me help take some of the pressure off you by providing you with some great Kauai restaurant resources.

1. Go Visit Hawaii Picks
Before I list the restaurants that we particularly like, I just want to remind you that I’m not compensated in any form for recommending these restaurants (or anything else that I write about, for that matter.)

We spend a lot of time researching the restaurants we choose for our own Kauai vacation. We read tons of reviews. Where possible, we like to find restaurants with ocean or other special Kauai views. We also focus our attention on restaurants that serve Hawaii regional cuisine. We can get great Italian or Mexican fare at home on the mainland, but we can’t get Hawaii regional cuisine. That’s why our recommendations are very much focused on Hawaii cuisine.

If we like the restaurants where we dine, we share them on the following lists that we’ve tried to neatly organize by category.

Most romantic Kauai restaurants with excellent Hawaii-regional cuisine, fine dining and ocean views:

  • On the east side of Kauai, a romantic restaurant is the Hukilau Lanai in Kapaa. If they are offering a tasting menu, it is usually an exceptionally good value. The food is quite good with many locally sourced ingredients. Make a reservation in advance and request a table on the lanai.
  • On the South Shore, we found the sunset views from The Beach House to be very romantic. The view is so lovely that we’ve often seen weddings taking place on the lawn beside the restaurant. Both service and food are very good here.
  • Also on the south side, Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt Kauai in Poipu has a little bit of ocean view, but it’s surrounded by koi-filled pools and waterfalls that provide a very romantic setting.

Other Kauai fine dining restaurants featuring Hawaii regional cuisine, but without ocean views

  • Gaylords at Kilohana near Lihue offers fresh island-grown food served in a courtyard setting. Note that they have great happy hour specials Monday though Saturday at around 4pm to 5:30pm, which can help you stretch your vacation budget. I recommend arriving well before sunset anyway so that you can check out their lovely grounds.
  • Plantation Gardens in Poipu offers lovely outdoor tables in a wrap-around porch surrounded by gardens. We really liked their lilikoi lemonade for a non-alcoholic beverage.

Best family-friendly and casual dining restaurants

  • Duke’s (Lihue) is an ocean front, open-air restaurant that serves good food. It’s located on the grounds of the Marriott Kauai. For dessert, we recommend sharing their delicious Hula Pie.
  • Brennecke’s on the Beach in Poipu serves lunch and dinner in a casual, open air atmosphere with great views of Poipu Beach. In addition to their sit-down restaurant service, they also have a deli that’s great to pick up an inexpensive meal to take to the beach for picnic. We like grabbing a sandwich from here for a sunset picnic.
  • Kalypso in Hanalei has a lively open-air setting, but no ocean views. This place tends to get mixed reviews, but we’ve had good experiences here.
  • Hanalei has many food trucks, which tend to be budget friendly.

Best restaurants for local grindz (food)

  • Kalapaki Beach Hut in Lihue has ocean views from the upstairs tables. We’ve gotten a great breakfast from there. We hear their burgers are excellent.
  • Ono Family Restaurant in Kapa’a serves great breakfasts. We love their pancakes. If there’s a wait when you arrive, sign in on their wait list clipboard.
  • Kountry Kitchen in Kapa’a serves great breakfasts with ginormous serving sizes. Plan to take a doggie bag away with you, if you can.
  • Chicken in a Barrel in Kapa’a is a unique barbecue place that’s popular with the locals. They literally cook/smoke their meat in a 50-gallon barrel. This restaurant will bring out your inner caveman. There are outdoor picnic tables at this food stand, however, why not take in the ocean views on the beach that’s less than a 100 yards from the food stand? Please note that if you are watching your waistline, this is not a good restaurant for you, unless you order off their kids menu.
  • Tahiti Nui in Hanalei offers tasty dinners in a very casual atmosphere, usually with evening entertainment. A scene in the movie The Descendants was filmed at Tahiti Nui.

The quirkiest restaurant with cheap eats (for Hawaii standards) would have to be the Puka Dog (Poipu). We like the puka dogs with mild garlic sauce, lilikoi mustard, but add relish on the side.

Best budget friendly-restaurants — we asked a couple of local residents to list their favorite places to dine in Kauai on the cheap. To this list, I would add some of the restaurants from the above list for local grindz — Kalapaki Beach Hut, Ono Family Restaurant, Kountry Kitchen.

Future Go Visit Hawaii picks?

We continue to keep this page updated with each visit to Kauai. In the meantime, we keep a running list of restaurants we’d like to try for next time. Here are Kauai restaurants that we’ve got our eye on.

  • RumFire at the Sheraton Kauai in Poipu is a relatively new comer to the Garden Island. The ocean front setting looks superb.
  • Merriman’s in Poipu is one of Peter Merriman’s restaurants, who is one of the founding fathers, so to speak, of Hawaii regional cuisine.
  • Wahooo Seafood in Kapaa is a local favorite for seafood fine-dining.
  • Ono Ono Shave Ice in Kapa’a is a place locals have recommended to us. We hear that the shave ice with ice cream a the bottom and sweetened condensed milk on top is a delightful sugar fest.
Kountry Kitchen in Kapa'a -- a popular breakfast spot for locals and tourists
Kountry Kitchen in Kapa’a — a popular breakfast spot for locals and tourists

2. Yelp &  TripAdvisor
When I first created this page, Yelp was hardly known. Now I think that Yelp is an excellent resource for finding restaurants anywhere we travel.  I have faith in the wisdom of the crowds and I think Yelp and TripAdvisor are example of that. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that every word of Yelp and TripAdvisor’s reviews are 100% accurate. From time to time, I suspect that there are some fictitious positive and negative reviews. That being said, I still feel like they are very useful resources.

For Yelp, a good starting point is with this link. From there you can sort to the type of food, prices and location you want to find.

As for TripAdvisor, I’ll save you some of the leg work and organize the Kauai TripAdvisor restaurant reviews by geography, which will help you find restaurants near your accommodations and sight-seeing plans. Here are the major towns as well as a few quaint areas of Kauai:

Plantation Gardens Restaurant
A peaceful table for two at Plantation Gardens Restaurant in Poipu

East Kauai Restaurants

North Kauai Restaurants

South Kauai Restaurants

West Kauai Restaurants

3. Guidebooks

I have always found the Ultimate/Revealed guides to be fairly trustworthy for restaurant recommendations. The Kauai version is called The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook.

I sincerely hope that this comprehensive list of Kauai restaurant resources will save you time and be a big help as you select your restaurants on your Kauai vacation.

We aim to keep this list updated as often as possible. We have most recently updated in October 2019.

Which Kauai restaurants are your favorites?

  1. Andy – I agree that the photo of Cafe Hanalei doesn’t do it justice. I’m not sure there is any camera that can truly capture what a great view it has. We should try to get there before it closes for renovations September. 🙂 (It will be close September 19, 2008 through around April, 2009)

  2. Wow! So much information. Sheila,thank you for that! Andy, that picture is gorgeous. If that doesn’t do it justice, then this is definitely a place I want to check out.

  3. I think your listing of TripAdvisor as #1 was a good one, sometimes it’s just good to get a list of names so you can do your own research. I think some areas Trip Advisor does a good job and other areas it’s a little spottier but you can always get a decent list. For the life of us we couldn’t find the Hamura Saimin Stand though… we ended up eating at Garden Island BBQ & Chinese Restaurant that night entirely by accident. Garden Island was craaaazy packed with people with coolers of beer, haha, it was quite a scene.

    We must have gone to Dukes four times in our two weeks at Hawaii. Once for lunch on our first day, twice for dinner (on Kuaui) and then once more on Oahu before we left. Even though it was a “chain,” it didn’t feel like a chain. And that Hula pie is ridiculously good. 🙂

    And add another vote to Roys, we hit up the original on Oahu and the one in Poipu too. They opened up one a year ago in Baltimore, which was the first one we’d gone to, so we had to visit Roys in Hawaii!

  4. @ HR – I’m glad you find this information to be useful, because that is what it was intended to be!

    @ Jim – I very much appreciate you sharing your list of restaurants that you liked on Kauai. The Garden Island BBQ place sounds like a fun experience! I agree with your comment about Dukes not feeling like a chain. And, oh yeah…hula pie is a must! 🙂

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