From shave ice to Mai Tais, here’s the top 10 places to eat & drink while visiting Kauai with kids.
My husband and I started traveling to Kauai nearly 20 years ago when we were footloose and kid-free, we came to the Garden Isle for the beauty, the hiking, and the beaches… not the food. Since then, this island has gained considerable steam as visitors who have “been there, done that” on Oahu and Maui seek out new adventures on an island that’s not yet so developed. That combined with a new wave of transplants has resulted in a budding culinary scene for an island that hasn’t traditionally been known for its food.
Check out my picks for the Top 10 Eats on Kauai where kids are always welcomed.
Photo courtesy: Waikomo Shave Ice
1/Kauai Beer Company
4265 Rice St., Lihue
Opening in 2013, Kauai Beer Company on historic Rice Street has become a local favorite. The beer choices are plentiful, and the food is delicious. From the poutine to the burgers to the salads, everything is spot on. There’s also a great kids’ menu here. But my boy’s favorite part about this brewery? The bookshelf full of board games. We played Battleship and Connect Four as we waited for dinner to be served. It was such a great way to spend time together sans electronics.
Photo courtesy: Kauai Beer Company
2/ Keoki’s Paradise
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., Koloa
Keoki’s Paradise is a wonderful place for the entire family to enjoy the spirit of aloha and the feeling of ohana (which means “family” in Hawaiian). This restaurant is designed to be a little garden paradise with flowers, plants, thick bamboo trees, and a man-made waterfall with a fish pond.
The keiki (kids’) menu is plentiful. My kids loved the fresh fish and chips and the burgers. As for the grown-ups, we enjoyed Mai Tais with fresh, locally-produced juice and the fish of the day, which is literally fresh off the boat that morning.
Not only does Keoki’s Paradise make you feel like you’re inside a tropical oasis, the staff makes you feel like family. You’ll leave with your hearts and your bellies full.
Photo courtesy: Keoki’s Paradise
3610 Rice St., Lihue
Duke’s Kauai is located next door to the Marriott Resort right on Kalapaki Bay. This is the sister restaurant to Keoki’s Paradise. The menu is a bit different, but the spirit of aloha and ohana is the same. Duke’s main level is a barefoot beachfront bar with live music where kids are welcome. We dined upstairs is the main dining room. We had a table that overlooked the bay, and we were able to experience one of Kauai’s famous sunsets while the adults sipped island cocktails and the kids enjoyed fresh pineapple smoothies. The food is fresh and delicious, and the vibe is friendly and tropical.
Don’t forget to order the house dessert speciality: the Hula Pie. It’s worth every calorie!
Photo courtesy: Duke’s Kauai
4/Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company
2-2560 Kaumualii Hwy., Kalaheo
My husband and I discovered this cafe while honeymooning on Kauai. At the time, it was a simple coffee shop with a few breakfast items and delicious baked goods. Over the years, the menu has expanded, and we make sure to stop here for breakfast every time we visit the island.
Just 15 minutes from Poipu, Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company is now a hip breakfast spot favored by locals. Folks can’t seem to get enough of the housemade cinnamon French toast, massive breakfast wraps, and homemade baked goods, as well as a wide variety of coffee from nearby coffee plantations.
Photo courtesy: Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr., Koloa
At Puka Dog, the staff bakes their own version of a classic Hawaiian sweet bread with a cutout to fit a Polish sausage or veggie dog inside. Then they add a lemon sauce (ranging from spicy sweet to lava hot) and top it with a tropical fruit relish. You want mango on your hot dog? You got it. Maybe banana? It’s a fan favorite. Get creative and try all different kinds of exotic flavors.
This open-air hot dog stand sells their own homemade lemonade, as well.
Photo courtesy: Puka Dog
6/Waikomo Shave Ice
2827 Poipu Rd., Koloa
There are numerous shave ice stands all over the island of Kauai, and people have strong feelings about which one is the best. I’m going to put my two cents into this discussion and say that Waikomo Shave Ice is the best, hands down. You’ll find Waikomo Shave Ice tucked in the back of a parking lot inside a small food truck.
The dessert begins with the ice. At Waikomo, the ice is so soft and smooth that you’d swear you’re eating ice cream. Then the staff tops it with homemade, all-natural ingredients. They don’t use any artificial flavors or coloring. The natural fruit syrups are made with organic cane sugar; this makes the fruit flavors pop. The strawberry flavoring tastes like a real strawberry, as does the raspberry and the pineapple and the coconut and the lime. How do I know? My family and I tried all of them on numerous visits.
It doesn’t stop with the ice and the fruit syrups. Each shave ice is then topped with delicious homemade coconut cream sauce and local honey. I don’t know how I went so many years without realizing honey on shave ice is amazing!
Waikomo serves all its shave ice in compostable cups with compostable straws and spoons. For a few dollars more, you can get your shave ice in a souvenir coconut cup. My boys, of course, chose that option.
Photo courtesy: Waikomo Shave Ice
7/Little Fish Coffee
2294 Poipu Rd., Koloa or 3900 Iona Rd., Hanapepe
This coffee and breakfast stand is a must. Little Fish Coffee has two locations on the island. The original location is in Hanapepe Town. We were staying at the Grand Hyatt Kauai during this latest stay, and the Poipu location is a short walk from the resort. From the coffee to the smoothies to the breakfast sandwiches and homemade baked goods, everything was insanely delicious. The lines are long, and it takes awhile to get your food and drink, but it's worth the wait.
KidTripster Tip: Order online. Your food will be ready when you arrive.
Photo courtesy: Little Fish Coffee
3540 Koloa Rd., Kalaheo
Food trucks are becoming more and more popular on Kauai. One that you need to try is Kickshaws. This food truck’s menu was created by self-taught chef and biologist Seth Peterson. He says that his food is “science forward.” I say that it’s delicious. We tried the 100% Awesome Burger; 80% ground chuck steak and 20% ground bacon make up the patty on this burger. Our guides from Backcountry Kauai recommended Kickshaws and told us to ask for the tater tot bun. It’s not on the menu, and locals usually only know about this secret, but Seth accommodated our request and switched out the ciabatta bun for ground-up tater tots. My 11-year-old devoured the entire thing.
Kickshaws is located in the parking lot of Warehouse 3540, a community marketplace with some innovative local products. It’s worth a peek inside while you’re waiting for your food. You may find some unique souvenirs, as we did.
Photo courtesy: Kickshaws
9/Dondero’s Italian Restaurant
1571 Poipu Rd., Koloa (inside Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort)
If you want to experience delicious northern Italian food in a truly breathtaking location, look no farther than Dondero’s. This restaurant, located inside the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort, is a bit more upscale but still incredibly kid-friendly. It has a wonderful keiki menu. My kids loved the homemade pizza. Many ingredients at Dondero’s come from the gardens on the resort property. All the veggies on my dinner salad had been harvested that day. My husband and I each tried pasta dishes with fresh local seafood, and we weren’t disappointed.
KidTripster Tip: Make a reservation and ask for a table on the patio for unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean.
Photo courtesy: Dondero’s Italian Restaurant
4-356 Kuhio Hwy., Kapaa
If you only dine out once while visiting Kauai, head to Avalon Gastropub. Opened in 2018, Kauai’s first gastropub is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Ali and Gabe Avalon. The food is out of this world. I started with the scotch egg that Ali recommended, and to this day, I’m still dreaming about it. I’m a sucker for good poutine, and they nail that, too, at Avalon. Even though there isn’t an official keiki menu here, the staff is wonderful and willing to work with each family to figure out a great meal for the kids. Our boys tried the mac and cheese bites (so did we, because they’re amazing!) and cheeseburgers. All the desserts are lovingly homemade by Ali. The house sticky toffee pudding and the bread pudding were incredible.
Avalon also is elevating the cocktail game on Kauai. The craft cocktails were innovative and delicious. You won’t find another cocktail lounge of this caliber anywhere on the island. I’ve eaten at restaurants all over Hawaii, and Avalon is one of the best.
Journalist Gemma Gaudette is married and mom to two boys. When she isn’t busy running the kids around and working at her day job, she’s dreaming of travel and what foods to try at each destination.
This writer received some complimentary meals for the purpose of this review. However, all opinions expressed are solely her own.