Kauai—the oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain—is nicknamed The Garden Isle, and for good reason. From the North Shore and the beautiful cliffs of the Napali Coast to the South Shore and the beaches around Poipu and everything between, the island is comprised of tropical rainforests and a large number of cascading waterfalls. More than just cinematic beauty—movies such as Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark were filmed on the island—Kauai is also home to a burgeoning vegan scene in small towns such as Hanalei, Koloa, and Hanapepe. Here are a few of our favorite spots on the island.
The Greenery Café
Located behind a house on Akahi Street, The Greenery Café offers a Hummus & Black-eyed pea Wrap (organic hummus, organic black-eyed peas, a blend of brown rice and quinoa, mixed greens, fresh basil, cucumber, shredded cabbage, lemon aioli, and homemade ginger citrus vinaigrette), a garden salad, an avocado-hummus sandwich, and a chocolate protein shake made with organic chocolate protein powder, organic chocolate syrup, rice milk, organic peanut butter, and cinnamon.
Fresh Bite Kauai
Family-owned food truck Fresh Bite Kauai serves local, farm-to-beach food such as the Gaucho Quinoa Bowl with a side of hand-cut Moloka’i potatoes and the Poi Bowl, which is similar to an açaí bowl but made from taro instead.
With locations in Kapaa and Lihue, Verde Restaurant is a casual café serving twists on Mexican fare. The stand-out dish is the vegan tacos, which are made with sautéed broccoli, sweet potato greens, green beans in chipotle, pico de gallo, and cilantro on corn tortillas. Another must-have is the vegetable-stuffed sopaipillas served with local salad greens, homemade chili-lime dressing, guacamole, pico de gallo, potatoes, and green chile sauce (order this meal without cheese).
Rainbow Living Foods
This casual café in Kapaa specializes in organic, vegan, and raw foods alongside fresh juices and local fresh coconut water. Start with the Rainbow Nori Roll (made with jicama and coconut meat) before trying the Sprouted Buckwheat Pizza (made with chia crust and a choice of marinara or pesto with cashew cheese and vegetables).
Nanea Restaurant and Bar
Located at The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas on Kauai’s northern coastline, Nanea Restaurant and Bar offers island-dining with themed nights such as Hawaiian Night Mondays and Winedown Wednesdays. Sit inside or on the open-air terrace, and enjoy dishes such as the Stuffed Tofu Salad with Japanese aburaage tofu stuffed with forbidden rice and edamame purée served on a bed of arugula with Hoisin vinaigrette dressing.
Red Salt Restaurant
Named after the celebrated Hawaiian ingredient, Red Salt Restaurant features a contemporary menu that blends fresh, local flavors with cuisine that is reflective of island life. Executive chef (and Kauai native) Noelani Planas embraces the region’s local ingredients with her Braised Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli and a tomato salad finished with basil oil. Other vegan options include the Roasted Beet Salad and the chocolate-sponge Red Salt Cake (white chocolate macadamia nut mousse, haupia custard, caramel glaze, and toasted coconut flakes).
Piazza is a modern Italian restaurant in the heart of Princeville. Using ingredients that are organic or natural, non-GMO, and as locally sourced as possible allows chefs to continually create new dishes. The restaurant’s wood-burning oven makes great vegan pizzas, too (using Miyoko’s Kitchen Vegan Mozzarella). Other vegan options worth ordering are the roasted vegetables, a beet salad, and polenta fries.
The Eating House 1849
Award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi blends modern haute cuisine with Hawaiian-inspired flavors at The Eating House 1849. Paying homage to Peter Fernandez, who opened one of Hawaii’s first restaurants, The Eating House in the mid-1800s, executive chef Clinton Nuyda brings pupu (island tapas), fresh salads, and main dishes to enjoy. Start your meal with the Crispy Fried Cauliflower & Brussel Sprouts or the fresh Kale Salad with roasted beets, radish, and sherry vinaigrette. Then, order the Kamameshi (hot pot rice bowl), which includes braised seasonal vegetables and seasoned rice.
Jarone Ashkenazi has been vegan since January 2013 and is a freelance writer who covers restaurants, bars, travel, sports, and other lifestyle topics.