With shows like The Great Food Truck Race and Food Truck Face Off, Kauai has quickly caught on to the nationwide food truck trend. What makes Kauai’s food trucks stand out among the rest? The availability of farm grown produce and fresh caught fish from the ocean varieties incorporated into many food truck’s menus and prepared using a local twist may have something to do with it.
We’ve rounded up the best food trucks from the north, south, east and west that you’ll definitely want to try when visiting Kauai.
Chalupa’s Mexican Food
Finding the authentic flavors of Mexico while vacationing on Kauai is like a fiesta for your taste buds. Chalupa’s Mexican Food truck serves up burritos, tacos, quesadillas and more that has been prepared in traditional Mexican styles and spices. Many of their juicy and succulent meats are braised for hours before being stuffed into a burrito with rice and beans, meaning your mouth will be bursting with flavor.
Kauai Food Truck
While most food trucks zero in on one type of cuisine, the Kauai Food Truck’s menu is as general as its name. Located in the heart of Koloa Town, they offer savory seafood plates, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and traditional island favorites such as roast pork with gravy and loco mocos (a mountain of white rice topped with hamburger, egg, and brown gravy). Their teriyaki butterfish tacos and garlic chili pepper shrimp tacos are so delicious that locals would describe it as “broke da mouth,” yet their prices are reasonable enough where they don’t break the bank. Just watch out for the local chickens clucking around. The minute you turn your back they will steal a bite of your food.
Located in the tiny rural town of Lawai, Kickshaws food truck is run by true food geniuses. Their gourmet meals are so delicious you will feel like you should pay more. What sets them apart from other food trucks is their style of cooking, which is described as science forward food, using sous vide cooking and other avant garde techniques. The Crazy Good Lamb Burger with a house ground leg of lamb that’s been flavored with spices and topped with a Greek yogurt sauce is just as they describe…it’s crazy good! The Titillating P.B.A.T. sandwich is another must try with sous-vide cooked pork belly and the works on a torta roll.
Yamato’s Ice Cream and Japanese Street Food
Remember the ice cream truck that used to circle your neighborhood and hand out average popsicles and ice cream sandwiches? This is not it. Yamato’s combines unique and quirky in-season flavors to create a dessert so savory you will have ice cream euphoria. Our favorite is the classic honey ginger, but seasonal flavors like the pickled mango sorbet or roasted pine nut are definitely worth the try. In addition, Yamato’s Japanese street food will take you back to the streets of Tokyo with its okonomiyaki (Japanbese pancake) and cha-shu pork belly plate. Yamato’s is usually located at the Home Depot in Lihue Monday through Friday and they also travel to different locations and events.
Kikuchi’s Steam Bun Sandwiches
Homemade steamed buns that are airy, light, and filled with smoked pulled pork or karaage chicken and sushi sandwiches…need we say more? Kikuchi’s Steam Bun Sandwiches can be found parked in a little lot in Nawiliwili, across the beautiful Kalapaki Bay. The best way to enjoy Kikuchi’s is by taking a walk to the seawall overlooking Kalapaki Bay and feeling the cool sea breezes on your face while you indulge in its deliciousness.
Little Greek Town
After you work up an appetite taking a bike ride on Kauai’s oceanfront bicycle path, stop for lunch at the Little Greek Town food truck in Kapaa. Seaside picnic tables allow you to enjoy the view while you feast on lamb and beef Gyro with tomato, onion and tzatziki or the falafel plate served with pita bread, rice and horiatiki salad. Save room for their light and flaky baklava dessert. It’s worth it.
Hanalei Taro & Juice Co.
When in Hawaii, trying Hawaiian food is a must on the to-do list. This little food is truck located in Hanalei Town and also at the Kauai Community College weekly farmer’s market , and is operated by a multi-generational family who has been farming taro in Hanalei Valley for many years. Once their taro is harvested from their fields, it is then incorporated into their menu. Poi, which is often labeled by visitors as pasty and tasteless, becomes a flavorable treat when topped with Kalua Pig (slow roasted) and salted lomi lomi salmon. The taro is also ground into a smoothie base and blended with tropical fruits. You will also want to try the taro macadamia nut mochi that has just the right amount of chewy sweetness.
Tucked away in Hanalei Town is a food truck that offers grilled sandwiches that are far from average. In fact, they are Trucking Delicious. Here’s the reason why this truck is a must stop on your trip to Kauai. The Lilis Cristo sandwich has turkey, swiss and chedder cheese dipped in lilikoi french toast batter and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Need we say more? Finish your meal off with coconut limeade mocktail and ube ice cream with waffle sandwich. Next stop is Hanalei Bay!
With no shortage of food trucks on Kauai, you can easily eat your way through Kauai with a stop at a food truck in every town. There is plenty of outdoor adventure -from surfing, kayaking or hiking – to keep you from feeling guilty about stopping at that one last truck to discover another tasty Kauai treat.
Kaua‘i is not known for mega malls or upscale stores, however many treasures can be had shopping in Kauai’s quaint and charming towns. Sometimes strolling through the small shops and boutiques can be the best rejuvenation after hours spent in the sun. Kauai is also fully equipped to cover all your needs while on island, with large stores such as Walmart and Costco and a number of grocery stores. From Poipu to Hanalei, we’ve highlighted the best places to shop on Kauai:
The Shops at Kukuiula
The Shops at Kukuiula embraces the island lifestyle in its open air shopping center filled with upscale shops and a variety of restaurants, from basic burgers to gourmet fine dining. Some of Hawaii’s best chefs have restaurants here, including Roy Yamaguchi and Peter Merriman. On Wednesdays, the Shops at Kukuiula transforms into the Kauai Culinary Market, with local farmers selling freshly grown produce and live entertainment.
Poipu Shopping Village
Shopping and dance don’t usually go hand-in-hand, unless you are talking about Poipu Shopping Village, which features a tahitian dance, fire knife and drumming show every Monday and Thursday at 4:30 p.m. The show takes place in the central courtyard, surrounded by shops and restaurants. Pick up a fun souvenir at the variety of themed shops, from local island art to children’s beach wear and a little bit of everything in between. Nearby Keoki’s Paradise is one of the premiere restaurants on the south side for fresh fish and musical entertainment in a tropical setting. Inside the shopping center, you will find american, thai, and mexican food restaurants.
Small shops, boutiques and eateries line the streets of charming Hanalei Town. The diverse shops and quaint atmosphere exude the feel of a small beach town. In the heart of the town, the old Hanalei school building was converted to house a restaurant, surf shops, and Hawaiian tropical attire. Across the street, the Ching Young Village, owned by a local Kauai family, has been in existence since the early 1900s and is home to Hanalei’s only grocery store, Big Save Market. While shopping in Hanalei, the view of Mount Namolokama, laced with waterfalls, is just the icing on the cake.
Up the road from Hanalei is the Princeville Center, an all-in-one shopping center with a post office, doctor’s offices, boutiques, real estate, a gas station and grocery store. Tiki Iniki, owned by musician Todd Rundgren, is one of Kauai’s only true tiki bar on Kauai with fun tiki cocktails, live music and food. The center also has a shave ice stand with organic syrup flavors, the perfect way to cool off.
Kong Lung Historic Market Center
The small rural town of Kilauea was primarily a plantation town. Today, mostly local residents make up this small town, which is home to Kong Lung Historic Market Center, Kilauea Lighthouse and the Kilauea Point National Refuge. Kong Lung Historic Market Center blends the old with the new, scattered around the center is the “Remembering the Past: Historic Photo Retrospective” phone display, while the fashion forward boutiques and local craft shops are a reminder of how life has evolved. A local favorite is the Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza. Their scones are “so ono!”
Old Kapaa Town
Old Kapaa Town is filled with shops, including a music store, fine jewelry, workout clothing, hawaiian fabric and home decor. Most shops line the main highway going through the town. It is easy to spend an entire day exploring Kapaa Towns shops, eating in the restaurants or sampling from the many food trucks, savoring dessert at shave ice stands, and getting freshly made juice or coffee in its various shops. Bike rentals are available in the town to ride on Ke Ala Hele Makalae, a multi-use path that runs directly through the town.
The Coconut Marketplace is currently undergoing a huge makeover, that is expected to be completed this year. While fun and quirky souvenir shops are the main attraction, the marketplace also has hula shows and a weekly farmers market. For a real treat, go see Uncle Larry Rivera, who appeared on Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley, perform on Fridays at 5 p.m.
Kukui Grove Shopping Center
Considered the only mall on Kauai, the outdoor Kukui Grove Shopping Center is the only shopping center with larger chain stores, such as Macy’s, Famous Footwear, Gamestop, Foot Locker and Ross Dress For Less. There are banks, postal service, hair and nail salons, as well as a food court with a variety of cuisines. Times Supermarket covers all of your grocery needs. Kmart, Costco, and Home Depot are just a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Once the only port of call for ships to deliver goods and arrival of newcomers, Hanapepe was once the economic hub of Kauai. In the 1990’s, damage from Hurricane Iniki ravaged the town, causing it to completely shut down. Fast forward to the present, and Hanapepe Town has once again been revitalized by its numerous art galleries and local artisan shops that line the street. The town maintains its plantation charm, with original buildings that have been maintained. Every Friday from 6-9 p.m., the town comes alive with street vendors, food trucks, and kanikapila, or live music.
Amid so many things to do, most may not think of shopping as a must do activity when visiting Kauai. The variety and uniqueness of special Kauai Made products are the perfect souvenir to remind you of that time you went on the best vacation of your life and experienced paradise. And will leave you longing to return.
Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian Island chain, has long been called “The Garden Island.” 4,000 feet above sea level, away from the beaches and resort districts is Kokee State Park. Spread over 4,345 acres, there are 45 miles of hiking trails, camping and picnic areas, scenic lookouts, cabins for lodging, the Kokee Natural History Museum, and Kokee Lodge restaurant.
The best way to experience and appreciate Kokee’s beauty is to get off the beaten path and do some old fashioned hiking. When it comes to hiking in Kokee, the unofficial rule of thumb is the harder the hike, the better the payoff at the end.
We’ve rounded up a list of noteworthy hiking trails in Kokee, for the novice hiker to expert and everything in between.
Easy Hikes – Hikiwale
Puu Ka Ohelo Trail – 2.2 miles
Commonly referred to as the Berry Flat Loop, this 2.2 mile loop trail winds through a dense tropical forest with a mix of native and introduced foliage, including California redwood and eucalyptus trees, sugi pines. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for native birds playing about the forest.
Kaluapuhi Trail – 2.5 miles
With only 120 feet of elevation gain, and 2.5 miles Kaluapuhi Trail provides enough distance for an easy hiking workout. During your stroll, you will breathe in the aromatic Hawaiian ginger that grows wild throughout Kokee’s forests. Seasonal fruits such as blackberries, strawberry guava and Kokee Plums can sometimes be found for a light snack on the trail.
Cliff Trail – 0.2 miles
Starting at Halemanu trail head, directly off Kokee Road, this short and easy trail leads to a scenic lookout overlooking Waimea Canyon. You may be able to spot wild goats standing on ledges as you peer down into the canyon.
Moderate Hikes- Akahele
Waimea Canyon to Cliff Trail – 3.6 miles
There’s a reason this is one of the most visited hiking trails in Kokee. Waimea Canyon, made up of cliffs covered in reddish brown and orange colored crumbling dirt that sparkle in the sunlight, is often referred to as ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” This trail can be easily accessed by parking on Kokee Road near mile marker14 and taking a short walk down Halemanu Road to the trailhead. To extend your hike, park instead at Puu Hinahina Lookout and enter through the Canyon trailhead. From there you can continue on go to the Cliff Trail lookout or continue to the stream crossing, which is actually the top of an 800 foot waterfall.
Pihea Trail – 2.1 miles
This trail can be as long or as short as you make it. The first mile, starting at the Puu Hina Hina lookout, offers expansive views from the ridge looking down into the lush oasis of Kalalau Valley and ends at the Pihea Overlook, which is the highest rim point of Kalalau Valley. While many choose to stop there, the more adventurous can continue on the Ala Kai Swamp Trail to the Kilohana Lookout. This additional hiking adds up to an 8-mile roundtrip trek.
For the experienced Hiker- Hana nui
Alakai Swamp Trail – 3.5 mi
If sloshing through mud and grabbing on to branches while ascending and descending through ravines sounds like your idea of a good time, the Ala Kai Swamp trail is the trail for you. Fortunately, the State has built a boardwalk system that allows you to walk above most of the swamp area pretty effortlessly. The trail ends at Kilohana Overlook, which is as close to the north shore of Kauai that you can get to from Kokee and when clear from cloud coverage, offers views all the way to Hanalei.
Nualolo Trail – 3.8 mi
There is no other word to describe this trail besides spectacular. After traversing through a dense forest filled with Hawaiian koa trees and fragrant Hawaiian ginger, you find yourself standing on a bluff in the middle of the 3,000 foot Napali Coast. Prepare to be awestruck as the views take your breathe away. The return portion of the hike is the most strenuous, as you make a high elevation climb in a short distance.
Awaawapuhi Trail – 3.1 miles
This trail promises to awe even the most experienced hiker. While not relatively hard except for the high elevation ascent on the return, this trail leads through a cool misty forest to a desert-like climate overlooking both Nualolo Valley and Awaawapuhi Valley. Na Pali’s evergreen spores point directly toward the heavens while seabirds float gracefully in the sky below.
Kukui Trail – 2.5 miles
This difficult trail will challenge you as you scale down the walls of Waimea Canyon on the path of wild goats. The trail takes you to the bottom of the canyon where you can rest at Wiliwili campsite or cool off in the refreshing stream water. Due to the 2,000 elevation drop and return climb, direct sun, crumbly red dirt and wide open exposure, heat can quickly become an issue and you should make sure to have plenty of water on hand.
Know before you go
Here are some things that anyone planning to hike Kokee State Park should remember:
- Stop by Kokee Lodge and the Natural History Museum to check on weather reports, trail conditions and get advice on which trail best suits your desires and fitness level before heading to the trail head
- Make sure to bring at least two liters of water (or more) and some simple snacks, such as fruit, granola bars, nuts and seeds, trails may take longer than expected
- Wear adequate footwear such as hiking or walking shoes and layered clothing for cool and hot weather
- Stay on the trail. Some trails have steep drop-offs and crumbly, slippery dirt. Staying on the marked trail will help keep you safe
- Don’t be afraid to turn around. Some of these hikes are steep and challenging. If at anytime you don’t feel comfortable, don’t push it
Lastly, have fun soaking in all the beauty Kokee State Park has to offer and don’t forget to bring a light rain jacket- there’s a reason why Kauai is the greenest of all the islands.
**Note: All trail distances are based on one way unless otherwise expressed.