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If you’re like me, eating is a big part of any vacation but instead of stumbling blindly into a restaurant and hoping it’s good, I like to do a little research before hand to make sure I’m hitting the best spots. I’ve done a LOT of research, tried a lot of places, and asked plenty of others their favorites, so here are my picks for the best restaurants on Kauai:

South Shore

RumFire: For a great dinner on the south side, try RumFire at the Sheraton. You’ll have a great dinner and an even better view of the sunset. It’s right on a gorgeous beach and it’s a lovely spot. Reservations recommended.

Where to eat on Kauai

Tidepools: This is your spot for a fancy schmancy romantic dinner. Located at the Grand Hyatt, the ambiance here is pretty special (and you’ll also have a fantastic meal with stellar service). Reservations recommended.

Beach House: This spot right on the beach is a tourist and local’s favorite spot for a nice dinner. It’s a real treat, but you’ll pay less than at other fancy places in the resorts down here. Reservations recommended.

Eating House 1849: This new concept by Hawaii’s famous chef Roy Yamaguchi is located in the Kukui’ula Village Shopping Center in Poipu. Its upstairs location means great sunset views and the menu focuses on fresh local ingredients in a farm to table like atmosphere. I really enjoyed this place (go with the pork and shrimp wonton appetizer!).

Where to eat on Kauai

Merriman’s Gourmet Burgers and Pizza: For a laid-back lunch or dinner, I really like this spot. Chef Peter Merriman has several restaurants throughout the island, but I tend to prefer his more casual spots (this place and Monkeypod on Maui and Oahu) to his fancy ones. All of his restaurants have an inventive drink menu and the pizza here was fantastic. It’s located in the Kukui’ula Village Shopping Center.

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Pizzeta: Located in historic Koloa town, this place was an unexpected hit for me. I’ll never turn down Italian, but I didn’t expect this place to be soooo good! Their drink menu was fantastic (I loved the lilikoi cosmo) and they have great lunch specials. Everything I had was fantastic. This place does Italian with an island spin.

Kalaheo Café & Coffee Company: I’m always looking for a great breakfast spot and this is a nice place to stop if you’re staying on the south side or passing through on your way to Waimea Canyon.

Grindz: Located in Port Allen, I had breakfast here on the way to Waimea Canyon. They have local specials as well as a pretty hearty breakfast sandwich. And everything in their dessert/bakery case looked super yummy. You can also get coffee and pastries to go.

East Side

Hukilau Lanai: This is a great dinner spot (closed on Mondays) serving up fresh fish and other locally sourced favorites, poolside at the Kauai Coast Resort. They do a fun happy hour from 3-5 everyday.

Where to eat on Kauai

Lava Lava Beach Club: This beachfront restaurant serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner with amazing views! It’s located at the Kauai Shores (a great budget hotel if you’re looking for one!) and often has live music in the evenings. The bar and interior of the restaurant is covered with tables, couches, and fire pits spreading out onto the beach.

Art Café Hemingway: This Hemingway inspired café in Kapa’a is a big hit for breakfast but also does dinner with a reservation. The food has a French flair (think crepes, croissants, and quiche), but you’ll find plenty of classics with a fun spin.

Mermaids Café: This little hole in the wall in Kapa’a is the go to spot for fresh, healthy food. You’ll find wraps, tacos, and salads made with fresh ingredients, homemade sauces. They have seafood specialties but also have quite a few vegetarian options.

Bubba’s Burgers: Bubba’s is a little burger stand that makes one of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever had! They also have excellent fries and onion rings as well as yummy milk shakes. Bubba’s is a local chain and you’ll find them all over the island, not just the east side.

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Duane’s Ono-Char Burger: This legendary burger spot in Anahola (between Kapa’a and Kilauea) is just a little roadside stand yet visitors and locals alike flock here to stand in line for a burger. Unless you’re stopping by at an off time, be prepared to wait in line.

Where to eat on Kauai

Wailua Shave Ice: There are plenty of shave ice places on Kauai but this one wins in my book as being the most unique. They use fresh fruit in their combinations so they’re more limited than most places but soooo delicious. I got one with fresh guava (I’m a sucker for guava) with pineapple juice. They even put fresh pieces of pineapple on the top. FYI, this place doesn’t have ice cream but they’re all about the fresh fruit.

North Shore

Bar Acuda: This tapas restaurant in Hanalei is a favorite spot on the north shore and serves up both traditional small plates and unique combinations inspired by the island. Reservations are recommended.

Where to eat on Kauai

Tahiti Nui: This iconic tiki bar is a Hanalei institution. It claims to be the oldest tiki bar in Hawaii and its mai tais are legendary. Stop by during the day for drinks (it’s always 5 ‘o’ clock in Hawaii) or grab a pizza (they’re really good).

Banandi: This is one of my favorite breakfast spots in Hanalei. They have sweet and savory crepes as well as waffles. The waffles weren’t my favorite but the crepes are amazing. Everything is made to order so it’s a little slow but well worth it.

The Dolphin: This low-key spot not only serves up fresh fish dishes but also has some of the island’s best sushi. This Hanalei restaurant is a favorite with visitors and locals alike.

Hanalei Gourmet: Hanalei Gourmet is a great local lunch and dinner spot. Fresh and tasty grub in a laid back atmosphere is the name of the game here.

Hanalei Bread and Coffee: This yummy coffee shop has the best homemade breads, bagels, and pastries. They also have some breakfast options and sandwiches. They open at 7 so if you’re catching a 7:30 Napali Coast boat tour out of Hanalei at 7:30, this is the perfect place to swing by for a quick morning snack.

Aloha Juice Bar: Stop by this little food truck/stand in Hanalei for an amazing acai bowl or smoothie.

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