Docking in Kauai is the moment when beautiful beaches, majestic cliffs, waterfalls and delicious restaurants all become reality. Cruise ships dock in Lihue at Nawiliwili Harbor, the main port of the island where barges, sail boats and tours all rest when coming to Kauai. Travelers arriving to the island by cruise ship for the day will be delighted to find a number of wonderful restaurants, many of which are just minutes from the harbor.
Just down the street from Nawiliwili Harbor on Kalapaki Beach is Duke's Canoe Club. With locations on several Hawaiian Islands, Duke's is a favorite of both locals and visitors alike. Named after the Hawaiian hero and Olympic swimmer and surfer, Duke's serves tropical cocktails, steaks, salads, and fresh seafood dishes - all with a Pacific Rim twist.
Just a couple miles inland from the harbor is the newly reopened and revamped Gaylord's at Kilohana. Making a home on a 53-acre former sugar plantation, Gaylord's has a menu that serves locally sourced produce and proteins, much of which is produced on site. Dance under the stars in the courtyard if you go for dinner.
For those in search of fresh sushi, the best on the island can be found at Restaurant Kintaro. Amid serene Asian decor, folks dive into sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki, tempura, yakitori, and hot pot dishes.
While exploring Kauai by land, experience the best restaurants close to the port. Good food is the best accent to any visit.
Papaya's Natural Food Market
Known for its selection of organic, vegetarian, and health-food fare, this market and gourmet deli is as good for eating as it is for shopping. Dining is available inside, but the best tables are outdoors, shaded by market umbrellas. Salads and soups are crafted from fresh ingredients and make terrific light snacks. A variety of daily specials ups the ante, offering chicken, fish, pastas, garden burgers, pizza, and an array of ethnic dishes. Smoothies and desserts also make yummy treats. Papaya's is one of the best places in Kapa`a for grab and go lunch to take to a nearby beach or attraction. (808-823-0191)
Healthy is the goal here with unique meals such as fish or tofu wraps, tacos, salads, satays and sandwiches. You'll find lots of veggies mixed in with the vegetarian options or the fresh local fish. They also make really great unique drinks such as hibiscus lemonade, as well as a regular and really good lemonade. It's pretty simple, order at the counter and take out or enjoy at one of the few sidewalk tables or tiny bar in the back. Great, healthy food that is quite different than anywhere else. Mermaid's is an easy place to stop and grab lunch to go or enjoy it at their few tables along the sidewalk. ((808) 821-2026)
Brick Oven Pizza
Travelers and locals alike lift up Brick Oven's as the best pizza on the island, and you will too once you sample the fragrant, hearth-baked pies. The family-owned establishment has honed its craft well over the past decades, and crisp crusts (white or whole-wheat), succulent sauces, and authentic toppings conspire to test your resolve. Local seafood, real cheeses, fresh vegetables, and even homemade sausage number among the options – and that's just to start! The menu also offers salads and sandwiches made with fresh-baked breads. They offer a good selection of local beer to accompany pizza or other classic Italian dishes. (808-332-8561)
One of Kauai's most celebrated Asian establishments, Kintaro has built its reputation on sublime cuisine and unobtrusive service. Amid serene Asian decor, folks dive into sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki, tempura, yakitori, and hot pot dishes. Chefs are eminently capable, crafting incredible fare from the freshest fish, vegetables, seafood, and meats. Tatami and table seating are both available, and dinners come with miso soup, pickled vegetables, rice, and tea. The sushi bar makes for a fun hangout, too. Dinner reservations are must at Kintaro, as it's the most sought after sushi restaurant on the island. Go casual or dress up for fun. It's a wonderful place for fun group dinners. (808-822-3341)
The name says it all, the full bar and restaurant is truly a beach side Oasis. Breathtaking ocean views can be enjoyed, and both outdoor and indoor seating are available. A unique and positive aspect at Oasis is that they serve a menu that features 85 percent locally produced food.
Sea food is all prepared wonderfully with a Pacific twist, meats are served in unique forms such as lamb pot pie and ox tail bao bun. For dessert, don't miss the white chocolate chiffon cake or the haupia, a classic local coconut dessert. Ideal for a date night or a family dinner. (8088229332)
Italian favorites served at reasonable prices make this caterer-run restaurant an enticing choice. Friendly servers start you off with delicious homemade garlic bread; after that, select from generously-sized pastas with rustic sauces, classics like chicken parmesan, and even fresh shrimp, given a smoky allure on the grill. The ambiance is sleek and modern, but not over the top. Take-home fare is a great convenience, and whether you dine in or out, don't neglect the chocolate cr�me br�l�e � a just-right indulgence. Kauai Pasta has two locations on the east side of the island, in both Kapa'a and Lihue. You can go casual or dress up for fun. (808-822-7447)
Gaylord's at Kilohana
The flavor of old Hawaii runs strong at this circa-1930 Tudor estate, which was once the home of a sugar plantation executive. These days, the mansion and its surrounding 35 acres have been opened to the public as a series of quaint shops and this delightful restaurant. The dining room affords wonderful views and also allows diners to indulge in such fare as fresh seafood, steaks, lamb, and kalua pork. Lunch adds in lighter dishes, including sandwiches and salads, and the courtyard makes an ideal place to relax with a cool drink and good company. Dinner reservations are highly recommended. (808-245-9593)
Kukui's Poolside Restaurant and Bar
A relaxed, poolside setting characterizes this hotel restaurant, favored by guests and frequented by other diners, too. Located at the Marriott in Lihue, the comfortable place features a menu whose inspiration is culled from Polynesian and Asian culinary traditions, with a few other sparks as well. Breakfast and dinner maintain the theme of delicious food and attentive service. Just a few short minutes from the cruise port, Kukui's is easily accessible for those spending the day on land, and taking a break from the cruise ship. Enjoy the sun and ocean while sipping on a cocktail and explore the luxurious grounds of the hotel. (808-246-5171)
Kalapaki Bay makes a stunning backdrop for this lively restaurant, which is popular with visitors to eastern Kauai. The outdoor deck offers terrific ambiance, although the maritime-themed interior is inviting on its own. Ocean-fresh seafood is a delicious standard and includes ahi and crab napoleon, baked lobster tail, sauteed scallops, and coconut shrimp. Pastas also find a ready audience, as does the signature slavonic steak, thinly sliced and dressed with a sauce of wine, butter, and garlic. Other possibilities include lamb chops, beef medallions, pork ribs, and cold-smoked Cornish hen. JJ's has a pure chart house feeling with sailboats hanging from the ceiling and fish everywhere. (808-246-4422)
Duke's Canoe Club
In tribute to Duke Kahanamoku, Hawaii's renowned swimmer, surfer, and Olympic athlete, this casual restaurant offers patrons a bit of island culture. An indoor waterfall, live Hawaiian music, and fresh local seafood are among the attractions that have folks returning again and again. Lunchtime brings quesadillas, burgers, pizza, and sandwiches, while dinner offers steaks and an abundance of just-caught fish, prepared to your specifications. An incredible salad bar also pulls in patrons, and the hula pie, a house special, is not-to-be-missed. Lunch here is amazing, but if you're looking for nightlife this is a great spot too, live music and dancing after dark. (808-246-9599, 808-246-5166)
About Jade Eckardt
Raised on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jade has traveled the world and doesn't intend to stop, yet the Hawaiian Islands are still her favorite place. She spent seven years living on Oahu and exploring the island. A regular visitor to Kauai, Jade recently authored a full-length Kauai guide book. She is a writer and photographer, whose work has been published in numerous regional and national magazines. When she's not writing, Jade enjoys a good beer, a good surf, and time in her garden with her son.
Read more about Jade Eckardt here.
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