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Go local and try some ono (delicious) Hawaiian food while on the Garden Island



Hawaiians know how to eat. From the celebratory luau dinner to a heaping plate lunch, Hawaiians sure do enjoy a good meal. From a quick appetizer of fresh poke, to a slow cooked underground oven called an imu where whole pigs are cooked, there's an abundance of Hawaiian food to try on Kaua`i. And you know the old cliche, when in Rome... The same goes for when on Kaua`i, try some Hawaiian food!

It's not hard to find. Each side of the island has somewhere you can find local style food. You have probably heard of a luau dinner. This is where family and friends gather to eat A LOT of food. There's usually a buffet style set up where multiple tables have loads of different dishes. Plate lunches usually come out of small shops or lunch wagons and often consist of a scoop of rice, some macaroni salad, and some meat and/or fish. Poke is a local classic. It's an appetizer made of fresh ahi with various seasonings like soy sauce and fresh onion, among others.

Purple sweet potato is another Hawaiian staple. You'll usually find it steamed in chunks or simmered in coconut milk. Taro of course is another famous part of a Hawaiian meal. A starchy staple that sustained the culture for generations, taro can be served in chunk or as poi, a pudding like dish. Kalua pig is a whole pig cooked underground and very flavorful. While in Hawaii you'll hear the term ono very often. It's a Hawaiian term for delicious, and there's no shortage of ono Hawaiian food on Kauai.


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Surf to Sunset Oceanfront Luau


Partaking of a luau is de rigueur for first-time Hawaii visitors, and this oceanfront extravaganza on Poipu Beach is an ideal introduction to traditional Polynesian food and culture. As guests arrive, they're presented a lei and invited to view artisans at work. Then, the blowing of a conch shell marks the beginning of the festivities, and a royal processional kicks off the spectacle and the entertainment. Of course, the highlight is the food: kalua pig, poi, pineapple, poke and all the other authentic dishes. Plenty of song, dance, and exotic demonstrations also conspire to make the evening an unforgettable event.

Local Expert tip: Don't be afraid to join in the dancing!

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Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau


The beautiful gardens surrounding this luau make for a magical setting, and one that you'll want to explore before the night kicks in. When the conch is blown and the roasted pig set out, the feast begins. The buffet ensures that you won't go hungry and includes lomi salmon, mahimahi, chicken, beef, macaroni salad, and plenty of vegetables and desserts. A full bar is available throughout. The dramatic production that follows features a wealth of color, music, dance, and spectacle that represents the whole of the Pacific world. A wonderful environment.

Local Expert tip: Don't eat shortly before going.

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Pa'ina o Hanalei


From their position along the shores of Hanalei Bay, visitors give themselves over to the charm of this delightful luau. Festivities begin with the call of the conch, at which point the kalua pig is premiered in ceremonial style. It headlines the buffet, which also features grilled fish and chicken, fresh salads, local vegetables and fruits, and great desserts like pineapple cake and coconut pudding. The Polynesian review that succeeds it includes fire dancing, along with music and spectacle based on a variety of Hawaiian traditions.

Local Expert tip: Make sure to try poi, it's quite a unique dish.

Read more about Pa'ina o Hanalei →


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Grand Hyatt Kaua'i Luau


This hotel-sponsored luau provides a healthy dose of spectacle, music, and authentic Hawaiian foods. The evening show, Havaiki Nui, begins with a torch-lighting ceremony on the edge of the ocean, heralded by the call of the conch shell. As it progresses, the luau showcases native crafts and costume, along with music and dance performances from cultures throughout the Pacific. The menu includes traditional fare like kalua pig, fresh fish, lomi salmon, and haupia (coconut pudding).

Local Expert tip: Just go, and don't forget the camera.

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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.

Local Expert tip: Try the kalua pig, it's really good and always a great idea to try truly local dishes.

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Kilauea Fish Market
Photo courtesy of facebook


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. Very casual and ideal for lunch or to pick up a fresh slab of fish to cook back at the condo.

Recommended for Hawaiian because: Located in lush Kilauea, the fish market serves fresh local fish in a number of healthy ways.

Local Expert tip: Try the ahi wrap.

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Lemongrass Grill and Seafood & Sushi Bar


Delectable cuisine, mingling the flavors of Thailand and Hawaii, awaits at this charming establishment, sheltered in an old homestead. Fresh ingredients figure prominently on the menu, and fish and seafood are especially appealing, whether in sushi rolls, in saut├ęs, or simply cooked to perfection. If you're in the mood for meat, you'll find that pork, chicken, and lamb are also skillfully prepared. A relaxed, tropical ambiance colors the place, providing an appropriate cap to a day of fun and leisure.

Local Expert tip: The sushi is a must.

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Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant and Fish Market
Photo courtesy of restaurant


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.

Recommended for Hawaiian because: Hanalei Dolphin is renowned as the best seafood on Kauai, much of it made with a local twist.

Local Expert tip: Choose an outdoor table to enjoy the magical views of Hanalei.

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Dani's Restaurant


Simple, utilitarian decor greets diners at this casual cafe and local hangout. However, the lack of material style only serves to highlight the place's yummy fare. At lunch, a menu of American foods (pork chops or beef stew, for instance) takes care of hearty eaters. Most folks, though, clamor for the tasty Hawaiian dishes. Traditional favorites include kalua pig, lomi salmon, and lau lau (a pork and fish combination steamed in a ti leaf). At breakfast, you'll find omelets, French toast, and an array of pancakes. Open early and often crowded.

Local Expert tip: Make sure to try the lomi salmon!

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The awesome presence of the ocean is a constant at this lovely restaurant, which features a multi-level dining room with doors thrown open to the vista and the breezes. The menu boasts a contemporary island flair, thanks to a focus on local seafood and an Asian culinary sensibility. Kiawe-grilled entrees include fire-roasted ahi, lamb marinated in mint and coriander, and Cajun-spiced ono. Crab-stuffed pork medallions are succulent, as are Chinese-style roasted duck and delicate sea scallops. Local Boy Paella, tinged with saffron and savory Chinese sausage, is a perennial favorite, and Molten Chocolate Desire is a foray into gooey decadence that can't be side-stepped.

Local Expert tip: Make sure to catch the sunset here.

Read more about Beach House Restaurant →


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Meet 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...  More About Jade

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