Friends, if there is one place I could spend every second of the rest of my life, it is Kauai, Hawaii. The warmth, the floral smell, the palm trees, the flowers and luscious greenery, the laid-back people, the clear blue ocean, the FOOD…it’s my dream world. I’m still trying to convince my husband it’s feasible for us to move there. But until then, it will stay my favorite place to travel to.
The hubs and I hadn’t taken a vacation just the two of us since our honeymoon 6 years ago. I had been to Kauai back when I was just 13 years old but Michael had never been. I was afraid I built it up too much when describing it to him and it wouldn’t meet his expectations, but who am I kidding! It exceeded every expectation and he’d agree it was the best week of our lives.
It was pretty cute how many times we were asked if we were on our honeymoon. Either we got married really young or people thought we looked too young to have been married for 6 years. We met one gentleman who happened to live just 30 minutes from where we grew up in Oregon and now works in Kauai. He seemed baffled when we told him we were just vacationing and it wasn’t our honeymoon. He asked us what our secret to such a happy marriage was and I was honestly speechless. Secret? I don’t know that there is one. But if there is one piece of advice I could give, it would be to want similar things. It has made it much easier for us to always be on the same page about BIG things. Now if only Michael wanted to move to Kauai as badly as I do!
The one thing Kauai isn’t really known for is their food, but I made it my mission to try as many places as possible. Now that we’re home and can reflect on our vacation, I would do things a little differently…less expensive resort food and more food trucks and local favorite dive restaurants. Also, little did I know how thrown off our bodies would be by the 3 hour time difference! Kauai is 3 hours behind us here in the Pacific NW. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop my internal clock from waking me up at 2:30am the first couple mornings. Then after that I managed to sleep until 4ish.
The long days called for lots of snacks which we supplied ourselves in the form of nuts and RxBars, but also led to more ice cream and smoothie stops. I’m not complaining, but if you have ever been to Hawaii you know just how expensive everything is! Regardless, we ate some pretty amazing dishes and stuffed our face with as much fresh fruit, fish and chocolate as humanely possible.
Our first night out was at Rum Fire, a beautiful restaurant located on Poipu beach at the Sheraton resort. It was just a 5 minute walk which was convenient and made for a beautiful stroll along the water front to and from the restaurant.
Being our 1st night in Hawaii, I was reserved with what I ordered because I knew there would come a point where my irritable bowel would wreak havoc on the rest of the trip, which it did. Boo! So I stuck to the safe option, Kauai Island Salad with papaya seed dressing and additional grilled chicken. Plus, a glass of rose, because I’m basic and I like it. Michael on the other hand got the fresh catch of the day which consisted of Monchong fish, sticky rice and fresh vegetables. He shared a bite of his dish and I have to say, it may have been my favorite dish of the whole trip! Oh, and not to forget dessert! We ordered the Flourless dark chocolate torte which was paired with lilikoi sorbet and topped with macadamia nuts.
Tide Pools is located at the Grand Hyatt resort, which is the most beautiful resort I have ever been to. Think swanky jewelry stores and art galleries, and live birds chirping in the palm trees located right there in the lobby. The restaurant is literally on top of tide pools. We were given a table overlooking the water where we could see tons of fish swimming, plus a view of the bridges and walk-way lit up with tiki torches. The ambiance was perfect so we were prepared to drop a shiny penny at this restaurant, but let me just say I’m glad we were only paying for 2 of us! Just 1 glass of wine, a salad and an entree for each of us costed $200 after the tip. Yes, two hundred macaroons! But it was the one fancy night we had planned out and we were on vacation. Apparently vacation from paying the bills, too! Ha!
I really wanted to branch out with this meal and try something completely new, so I ordered the Grilled ahi and Michael ordered the Local snapper. I paired mine with a Pinot Grigio and it was delicious! It took a little getting used to the rare cooked fish. That’s a texture I’ve never experienced before, but the flavors were on point! When we go back to Kauai, I could definitely eat here again, but I might just stick to an entree, no extra salad, and water. 🙂
Smith’s Tropical Luau
We spent our Friday night meandering around the tropical gardens at Smith’s Tropical Paradise. They provided a BIG and delicious buffet with all you can drink Mai Tai’s. All of the food was spectacular except for the Poi, a traditional Hawaiian dish made from taro root. It was a beautiful purple color, but was cold and bland (purposely). They encouraged us to dip other foods in it but no matter what I tried, I DID NOT like the poi.
We had our pick of delicious Adobo chicken, Kalua pork (made traditionally in the ground right there on the grounds), macaroni salad, fried rice, purple sweet potatoes, salmon ceviche, green salad with “lava” dressing (the Chef’s secret recipe), mixed vegetables, fresh baked pineapple bread, fresh fruit, and dessert which consisted of coconut rice pudding, coconut jello and coconut cake. It’s a good thing I love coconut. 🙂 And yes, I ate everything on my plate there, except for the poi located in the plastic cup.
Federico’s Fresh Mex Cuisine and Aloha Juice Bar
We had a long day of hiking the Kalalau trail along the Na Pali coastline and then swimming in the ocean, so we stopped in Hanalei for refreshing and delicious smoothies and fish tacos. Fish tacos was on my food bucket list for Kauai and these tacos did not disappoint! Not only was the fish fresh, but the sauce they added on top was AMAZING. We both got the coconut, banana & pineapple smoothie from the Aloha Juice Bar but I added kale to mine. We also bought a fresh papaya and starfruit from the fruit stand they had there. Both of these food stops I will definitely do again when we re-visit Kauai.
I think it’s safe to say, Java Kai was one of our very favorite places to eat, if not our favorite. It had everything I love in one place: coffee, breakfast food, fresh ingredients and pineapple decor. PLUS, I now have a new found love for avocado toast which I didn’t before. I know, shocking! Our first morning here I got the Kalalau Avo which was avocado toast, egg, bacon and sprouts. I had it on the gluten-free toast which was SO. GOOD. Crumbly but that’s to be expected with most gluten-free bread.
Michael got the Surfer Sandwich which was egg, bacon, pesto aioli on an everything bagel and a side salad. The second day I got the Surfer Girl sandwich which was scrambled egg, spinach, bacon, tomato, and pesto aioli on gluten-free bread and a side salad. Michael got the same thing as the day before (it was that good), plus we split a Morning Glory muffin, which was divine. Both days we drank 100% kauai coffee. I absolutely loved this place. Couldn’t help but bring back our memories in the form of Java Kai mugs, plus a hydroflask not pictured here. As they say at Java Kai, “drink coffee or die!”
Another quick jaunt from our resort was Keoki’s Paradise which was recommended to us for their drinks served in a pineapple and the Hula Pie, both of which did not disappoint! We started off with drinks, which consisted of my favorite cocktail of the whole trip, a pineapple mojito. They then provided MUFFINS and salted cinnamon butter as the appetizer. Yes, muffins! I had never eaten at a restaurant that served muffins as the appetizer but these were BOMB.
Then, thanks to our tipsiness, we ordered cilantro shrimp as another appetizer and shared a coconut pineapple cocktail served in a pineapple. This was another item checked off our bucket list! I had never liked shrimp but that all changed when I ate the shrimp in Kauai. It still isn’t my favorite, but in Kauai it was pretty good!
We both ordered the catch of the day which consisted of both Monchong and Oni fish, and coconut cream rice. Then to polish everything off, we got the Macadamia Nut Hula Pie. At this point, my stomach didn’t know what the heck I was trying to do to it, but given how often we go on vacation, we didn’t want to miss out on this delicious beauty. No regrets.
Kauai Food Truck
Okay, never have I ever…eaten from a food truck. At least not that I can remember! When looking for the “top rated” places to eat in Kauai, the Kauai Food Truck came up every time, and lucky for us it was parked about 5 minutes from our resort. Had I discovered earlier how amazing their food was, I would have eaten here more than once.
Like everything else in Kauai, the food is fresh. It was hard to choose between the fish tacos and burgers, but I went with burger. This was arguably the best burger I’ve ever had, and Michael agrees! (If you know my husband, you know he likes his burgers). I got the Aloha Burger but I left off the teriyaki sauce so basically it was a cheeseburger with fresh pineapple on top. Now you may be one of those people that hates Hawaiian pizza and doesn’t believe that pineapple has a place on a pizza…or a burger for that matter, but I am not one of those people. The pineapple was the PERFECT addition to this cheeseburger, and brought just enough sweetness to balance out the saltiness of the burger patty. It was exactly what I hoped for and then some.
For our last night we ate at Holoholo Grill which was located at our resort, Koloa Landing. We also ordered breakfast from here twice, which consisted of avocado toast both times. Like I said, Kauai really turned me on to avocado toast! Their avocado toast consisted of avocado (duh), cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, salt and red pepper flakes. This is a winning combination! We’ve been making it at home non-stop ever since we got back. For our dinner at Holoholo, I got the Mahi Lau Lau. Isn’t it cool looking? Presentation in Kauai is everything. Not to mention we ate next to the pool and waterfalls, underneath the stars, in 75 degree weather *happy sigh*.
Tropical Dreams Gourmet Ice Cream
Like my father, I take my ice cream very seriously. After a long day of kayaking the Wailua River and hiking to Secret Falls, the ice cream cravings were REAL. Luckily, a short drive into Kapaa brought us to Tropical Dreams Gourmet Ice Cream shop, which brought me to the hardest decision I would have to make the whole trip…which flavor to get.
After trying about 10 different flavors, I decided on an old favorite and a “Hawaiian” flavor, dark cherry chocolate chip and coconut gelato. In a waffle cone, of course. Michael got the Kona mocha brownie, and cookies and cream. Utterly delicious and satisfying. *see what I did there with “utterly?” Get it…it’s ice cream…and it’s “utterly” delicious? Yeah, okay, almost done now.
A Couple Favorites from Kauai
We definitely ate our share of dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts and chocolate covered dried pineapple (not pictured here because it was gone too fast). It’s just a given rule that when in Hawaii, you eat chocolate covered macadamia nuts.
We stopped at the Kauai Store to pick up some souvenirs and this store had an excellent selection of items that are grown in Kauai or made by small local vendors. For instance, the Kaua’i Chocolate dark chocolate bar. This chocolate bar is made from cacao beans grown in Kauai and is worth all $11! The texture is more course and the flavor is intense. Everything you would want from dark chocolate.
We also bought fancy smancy Peruvian coffee. Obviously this isn’t made in Kauai, it says right on the front it is grown in Peru, but the creator, Laird Hamilton is a big-time surfer that resides in Kauai and makes over the top coffee products. These coffee beans are grown at high-altitudes and slowly roasted to perfection. The associate at the Kauai Store is a very big fan of Laird’s products and proceeded to give Michael and I a lesson in nutrition (not very accurate) and how best to preserve minerals in our food and body. Case in point, don’t drink coffee at every meal of the day unless you don’t want to absorb the minerals from your food. He didn’t know I was a dietitian though, so you can’t blame him too much for trying.
We also bought a couple Tiny Isle truffles from this store. They were delicious and didn’t last long. Kauai knows how to grow some mighty fine cacao beans! And last but not least, the multiple RxBars that got us through our long days of kayak adventures, tubing through old sugar cane plantations, and hikes. They may not be Kauai grown, but they are my go-to snack when in a pinch and starving!
There you have it, our favorite eats from Kauai! All I’ve learned from vacationing here is that I need to go back ASAP because there is so much more to explore and EAT. Until then, I think I’ll take an alcohol and chocolate hiatus, and enjoy reminiscing over the arguably best week of our lives.
Not pictured is the small jar of Kauai grown pineapple jam and coconut peanut butter that was confiscated from by bag by the TSA on our way home. Hope you enjoyed it…she said sarcastically.