10 Best Restaurants on Kauai for Fresh Seafood
By Jade Eckardt
Big Island, Honolulu, and Kauai Local Expert
Kauai is surrounded by crystal clear blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and since fishing is part of local culture there's an abundance of locals who fish and sell fresh seafood to restaurants. Seafood restaurants can be found from the North Shore island wide to the West Side, so wherever visitors start to crave the sea's bounty, they can find it. The selection is so varied those in search of seafood can find local dishes, top notch sushi, and even Maine lobsters.
Out on the North Shore, the Hanalei Dolphin offers three great places to get seafood. Their fish market offers filets to cook at home, their adjacent sushi bar offers exquisite rolls and sashimi, and the restaurants is an upscale local style eatery with seafood prepared beautifully.
Down the road a while in Wailua is Restaurant Kintaro. This restaurant, open only for dinner, serves the best sushi and Japanese style seafood dishes on the island. They'll cook some dishes at your table with others prepared in the open kitchen.
Wherever you are our list of the ten best seafood eateries on Kauai has you covered. You can find what you want, when you want it, wherever you are.
10 Fish Hut
Great, great fish burgers can be found here! You have the option of mahi mahi, ahi, or ono. The burgers are the star here and come with fries. They're cooked perfectly, fresh, tasty and pretty affordable. You'll also find fish tacos that are really good. This is a very casual and quick place to get to go meals. It's truly a hut, and is located in the Coconut Marketplace in Kapa'a, it's pretty convenient especially if you're passing through the east side on the way to or from the North Shore. There's a multitude of shops around it to browse through while waiting for your meal. ((808) 821-0033)
9 The Shrimp Station
To peel or not to peel, that is the question at the Shrimp Station. Some dishes come with peeled shrimp, while others, like the coconut shrimp come peeled. Either way, all of the food is great and worth getting your hands a little messy for. Very casual, road side spot with meals enjoyed as take out or at picnic tables under a tent roof. The portions are huge, so you won't leave here hungry. This is a great option for lunch on the west side in Waimea, or last stop before heading out to Polihale Beach or inland to Waimea Canyon. ((808) 338-1242)
8 Kilauea Fish Market
There's a whole lot more than fish in store is the market's motto, and they're right! In addition to fresh local fish, they have an ahi fajita burrito, fish tacos, salads, plate lunches and great specials, along with grass fed beef. Seating is outdoor picnic table style, and you'll find a mix of locals and visitors enjoying fish. Price can vary depending on market price, but you can get a great meal for a generally affordable price. A very casual spot and ideal for lunch or to pick up a fresh slab of fish to cook back at the condo. (1 808.828.6244)
7 Koloa Fish Market
This is a local style spot that serves up fresh fish and seafood to take home and cook as well as eat there and take out dishes. Very local and Hawaiian food like lau lau, kalua pig, and other local favorites that can be pretty darn good. There's a good chance you'll be the only visitors in line here, but there's nothing wrong with that. You know the the quality of the seafood is good for locals, it must be good. A great place for a plate lunch to eat on site or take home a slab of fish if you have a kitchenette at the hotel. (808.742.6199)
6 Red Hot Mamas
Red Hot Mama's is literally a hole-in-the-wall in a tiny strip of shops near the end of the road past Hanalei. You order at the small counter, wait (and many signs say don't inquire about your food while waiting) and then enjoy your take out food. Mama's serves up Mexican food, but with a wonderful local twist. The owner uses the freshest fish caught by locals, offers tofu options, and lots of avocado in wraps, burritos, and tacos. It's the last chance for a meal out that way but that's not the only reason to go here. Portions are very generous. Make sure to grab a meal from Mama's while on Kauai. ((808) 826-7266)
5 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. As one of Kauai's more upscale eatery, Gaylord's is perfect for a date night or nice family dinner. (808-245-9593)
4 Bouchon's Hanalei
Spacious and relaxed nestled in gorgeous Hanalei, this hip spot boasts an industrial feel, thanks to aged brick, exposed duct work, and copper accents. It also features expansive windows, which fill the place with light and island views. Sushi and sashimi capitalize on fresh seafood, and the variety of rolls ranges from traditional to experimental. Entrees include pastas, stir-fries, and just-caught fish, along with rib-eyes, coconut shrimp, sweet-and-sour baby back ribs, and grilled chicken. Most dishes come with vegetables and miso soup. In addition, live bands play several nights a week, offering everything from blues to reggae, rock to island-flavored tunes. (808-826-9701)
3 JJ's Broiler
Kalapaki Bay makes a stunning backdrop for this lively restaurant, which is popular with visitors to eastern Kauai. The outdoor deck offers terrific ambience, 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. Centrally located in Lihue, JJ's Broiler is convenient for those staying in the nearby resorts. (808-246-4422)
2 Restaurant Kintaro
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. Located in Wailua on the east side, this restaurant is only open for dinner. Reservations are high recommended and it's a good place to dress up a bit. (808-822-3341)
1 Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant and Fish Market
With a fish market next door, it's no surprise that impeccably fresh seafood is the house specialty. Diners indulge in their favorite preparations along the shores of the adjacent river, savoring baked shrimp, ceviche, crab, and incredible fish cooked to perfection by the skilled kitchen. A selection of steaks and chicken dishes will also satisfy. While you wait for entrees (which can be pricey but are well-portioned), nibble on an order of stuffed mushrooms. Nautical themed. Outdoor seating along the Hanalei River surrounded by lush greenery offers a tropical feel while dining. Reservations are a must for dinner, while walk ins for lunch usually work. (808-826-6113)
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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