As the locals will affirm, Kauai’s best food is home-cooked. If the opportunity arises to join in on a local get-together, don’t pass it up. Anyone so lucky can expect platters of beautiful fresh fruit, poke (cubed raw fish or octopus), lomi-lomi salmon (fresh tomato and salmon salad) and poi (runny mashed taro). When it comes to dining, many of Kauai’s finest restaurants are in Kapaa. It doesn’t take long inside one to realise that fresh raw fish generally forms a component of most Hawaiian dishes. The best of such dishes Kapaa has to offer can be enjoyed at Hukilau Lanai and, for a cheaper, more casual alternative, Pono Market. The role of Mexico in Hawaii’s history can be seen through the abundance of Mexican restaurants on Kauai. With no less than 20 Mexican restaurants on the island, it’s safe to assume there’s one nearby at all times. Tacos Al Pastor and Verde Restaurant are the ones to look out for, both situated in Kapaa. Travellers on a budget should keep an eye out for one of Kauai’s popular food trucks, most of which serve up tasty treats at very reasonable prices.
Kauai isn’t all scenery and hiking. There’s also a vibrant and slightly infectious local culture waiting to be discovered; and there’s no better place to experience it than the Coconut Marketplace, a well-known open air shopping experience on the east coast. Find the perfect piece of locally crafted pearl jewellery, sample fresh Kauai seafood or pick up some handmade gifts for the family back home. If locally made products appeal, look out for the purple ‘Kauai Made’ logo for proof of authenticity. A great place to find these types of products on the North Shore is Hanalei, a peaceful seaside town home to irresistible art galleries, charming antique stores and arguably the best organic food store on the island, the Harvest Market. Amidst the shopping heaven, don’t forget to stop and soak up the amazing mountain scenery behind you. Visitors to the South Shore can enjoy a more modern and conventional shopping experience at Kukuiula, home to more than 20 stores ranging from surf shops to art galleries. Less than 10 minutes away is Poipu, a high-end resort town containing the popular Poipu Shopping Village. Visitors to the Village will find numerous boutique clothing stores, galleries, surf shops and more. Market addicts will be delighted to learn of the Sunshine Markets, a concoction of colourful stalls selling fresh local produce that literally travels throughout the island setting up shop one place at a time. Whatever day of the week it is, there’s a Sunshine Market going on somewhere on the island. Don’t miss out on tasting the island’s finest papayas here.