This section provides reviews and recommendations for places to eat on Kauai (south and north shore) and the Big Island, near Volcano and Kona. You can also read the full itinerary for more information about places to stay and things to do.
Reviews and Recommendations of Places on Kauai
After snorkeling and swimming, you can always have lunch at Brennecke’s, which is a Kauai tradition. They have great tropical drinks and burgers. It is a grill with all sorts of fish options and great sandwiches, burgers and fries. Kids tend to love the food here. The seats on the second floor all have a great view of the beach and are breezy and fun. If you aren’t staying near-by and walk there from the beach, you can drive and park in the free parking for the Poipu Public Beach. Brennecke’s even has a beach cam so you can see how things look on a particular day.
Lapperts Ice Cream – We have been coming to Kauai for 30 years and Lapperts was always in Old Koloa Town in the old buildings. They have moved into the new set of trendy and fun shops by the new round-about by the turn for Spouting Horn. But, the ice cream is still the best on the island. The flavors are great and varied and the servings are large. They are also offering gelato now. There are also baked goods for sale, including cookies and various bars. It is open until 10 pm some nights. In this set of shops, The Shops at Kukui‘ula, there is also a nice organic style market with a juice bar, a few restaurants, as well as trendy and up-scale clothing shops.
Hanapepe Café – One of our favorite things to do while on Kauai is to visit Hanapepe on a Friday night for gallery night. From 5 or 5:30 until 8 or 8:30 pm all of the shops in the town are open with artwork for sale. There are food trucks and music lining the main street and the atmosphere is festive. The best food in town is at the Hanapepe Café. It had been closed due to health issues of the owner, but it is newly reopened since Fall 2015 in half the space. The other half of the old space is now a bakery. As soon as you arrive in town, drop by and put name on list with your cell phone number. When they have a spot, they will call you. Their menu is a small selection of great food including sushi. The night we went, we waited only 20 minutes for a table for five around 6 pm. Their mushroom soup was one of the best I’ve ever had (The other was at Café Gandolfi’s in Glasgow, Scotland around 1990!).
Papalani Gelato – The best gelato on the island was at Papalani. We each tried different flavors and found them to be full of flavor and very dense. They were very satisfying. The gelato is made locally and served by the family. It was a relief to find a local family run place when other places on the island are becoming more chain based. It is too bad this is a hidden gem. I hope more people will find it, tucked in back of the Poipu Shopping Center.
One year, we stopped at the St Regis Princeville Resort and had afternoon tea. It was very fancy and quite fun for my daughter when she was young. I am not sure if they are still offering this. But, if they are it can be a fun option. The view from the restaurant is the best of the Hanalei Bay.
The Dolphin, Hanalei – We visited the Dolphin for lunch while in Hanalei. It is on the very edge of town with indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating is under cover, which is lucky because it started to rain while we were there. The outdoor seating is along the river and it is fun to watch the paddle boarders and swimmers float by. We loved our lunch. I enjoyed my poke and sushi. They offered many different kinds of fish poke in various sauces and I chose the salmon in sesame. I don’t care for spicy sushi, so I tried their fresh crab California Roll, which was great. My kids all had fruit drinks and loved them. The fish dishes were fresh and good. Dolphin was recommended to us as a great place for dinner also. They also have a fish market around back, so you can purchase fish to take home and prepare yourself. We purchased some souvenirs at that shop.
Verde for dinner in Kapaa – On our drive from Hanalei back to Poipu Beach, we stopped for dinner in the recommended Verde. It’s a popular place and we had to wait for 10 – 15 minutes for a table. They move the people through quickly, though and it didn’t seem too long. The food is innovative and fresh. All of us enjoyed our meals. I ordered their salsa verde to have with the homemade chips and it was great if you like more spicy salsa. The kids liked their kids burrito and quesadilla. They were offering the house margarita for $3 and they were tasty. There was also a house green tea which our kids got and enjoyed. I wanted something light and my only disappointment was the tostada. It looked fantastic – a huge mound of lettuce with many sauces. I got it with pork and the flavors were overwhelming. I had about a quarter of it and found it too much of contrasting flavors. Everything made up for it, however.
Pink – We were disappointed in Pink. We had a recommendation of Pink as the best ice cream in Hanalei and it probably is, but it is not the best ice cream on Kauai. We had been driving all around the island. We love that Pink is owned by a couple and their brother is helping there. It is nice that it is locally owned. But, they only make one or two of their flavors. The others are made elsewhere. We found that their top seller is flavorful and the others were more average. We preferred Lapperts in Poipu.
Plantation Gardens – This wonderful restaurant is part of the registration building on the western side of Kiahuna Plantation. We have been staying at the Kiahuna for almost 20 years and we eat at the Plantation Gardens at least one night of our stay every year. Part of why we love it is the walk there. We wind our way there through the pathways of the property, ending up at the ponds to the east or towards the beach before we check-in. We have taken many family photos at the outside ponds down the back steps of the restaurant. I also love the open, expansive feeling of the building as we walk through it to our table. We always make an early reservation to sit on the veranda around 6 pm to enjoy the sunset outside during our dinner. The menu is not large, there is always a fish option, a rice option steamed in a big leaf and a stir-fry. I typically get the fish option. I like their tropical drinks. They have pasta dishes for kids. Their desserts are not inspired, but I like the atmosphere and environment for the meal.
Gaylords Luau – I believe this is the best Luau on the island at the Kilohana Plantation. Gaylords is the restaurant and on the grounds they host a luau twice a week and you can book it in advance on the website. We book the dinner and luau option. You arrive around 5 pm, get a lei, walk around with drinks and visit vendors and see demos. If you come with kids, you can get a family photo and take a train ride around the property. My family and I always come early and visit the Clayworks on the property and decorate a clay tile, which they ship back to us. It’s an annual tradition. There are other shops on the property you can visit before the dinner is served around 6:30 pm. The dinner is buffet style and includes a roast pig along with noodle and rice dishes and other Hawaiian favorites and fruit. There is dessert. The luau is a series of traditional story dances for a half hour to hour until about 8:30 to 9 pm. The parking entrance and exit is very efficient. All ages are welcome and the whole event is run very well.
Reviews and Recommendations of Places on the Big Island with Kids
Kilauea Lodge in Volcano – Our first night in Volcano, we went to this historic lodge for dinner. It is a beautiful, rustic setting. We loved the entry and the tables set in the entry lobby. Unfortunately, the service and the food were not as good. Our server brought one thing at a time and each stage of our ordering and meal was slow. I ordered the eggplant parmesan and it mysteriously contained many other vegetables such as green and red pepper, but very little eggplant. I ordered it with spaghetti and it first arrived with rice. Small glitches such as that occurred throughout the meal. We enjoyed the setting and had to be content with a leisurely pace to dinner. The food was just ok on our visit.
Lighthouse Café for lunch sandwiches – Our host recommended we stop at the Lighthouse Café for pre-made sandwiches to take with us for hiking in the Volcanoes National Park since there is no food available in the park. This was a good suggestion since there was not any food available, however, the sandwiches were as basic as possible. They consisted of two pieces of bread, two pieces of luncheon meat, one slice of cheese and a slice of tomato and a piece of lettuce on the side. They were the most plain and simple sandwiches and most without-flavor sandwiches I have had in recent memory. I also ordered a slice of spinach quiche hoping for something with a bit of flavor, but none of us could eat it; it had been made with Velveeta cheese! Looking at their website, however, as I add their link, perhaps they have improved since our visit…
Ohelo for dinner – This was our favorite place for dinner in the Volcano area. They serve brick oven pizzas, delicious drinks and fresh good food. We shared three pizzas between five people and our kids got the kids’ pasta with butter and parmesan. The starter salads (we tried one of each) were all good. I tried a blood orange margarita which was tangy and good. The “white” pizza was very strong in its garlic taste. The sausage, mushroom and garlic pizza with a standard base was more flavorful and balanced.
Punalu’u Bakery – As we drove from Volcano to Kona, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we arrived at a town which had this bakery for lunch. It is large and offers homemade sandwiches and ice cream. We ordered sandwiches and then unfortunately, an entire tour bus also arrived. Just at the time, they decided to close their second register and the line was a mile long when we wanted to get ice cream. Other than that, it was fun to find a place for lunch along a lonely stretch of road. Their ice cream was not very flavorful, except for the Kona Coffee flavor. I also bought their Kona Cookies, which we enjoyed on the road.
Quinns Almost by the Sea, Kona – Quinns did not live up to any positive hype. We visited on a recent Saturday night at the recommendation of our host. We waited for everything. The hostess took ages to even come to the hostess stand to seat us. We did get a table for five of us, which was nice, but then everything took a long time. Our waitress took a long time at each step: to bring waters, to take our order and our food took 45 minutes for fish and chips, which was not on the dinner side of the menu. We didn’t order any salads or starters in hopes that it would come more quickly. We ended up having to box our dinners and leave with them because we were so late. Our server was sullen and unpleasant. If our food had been wonderful, we might have been forgiving, but only the fried shrimp was flavorful. The fried fish was dry and uneventful. Quinn’s was a disappointment.