Kauai is an island of rugged adventure and an incredible place to experience fine dining. A handful of high-end restaurants are dotted around the island, each with its particular appeal.
The distribution isn’t even; South Kauai has multiple options that easily compare to what you’d find on Oahu or Maui. West Kauai, consisting primarily of Waimea Canyon and various nature preserves, has virtually no restaurants. Fear not - it’s the smallest Hawaiian Island, so you’re never too far from fine dining.
A region-by-region guide follows the best fine dining options on Kauai.
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If you want to encounter modern Hawaiian cuisine in a highly scenic setting, Tidepools Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Koloa is one of the best options on the island.
As their Instagram will attest, diners are seated beneath thatched bungalows called hale pili. The bungalows themselves are sitting on a platform above a koi pond. If that wasn’t enough, there is also a waterfall.
In addition to the beautiful setting, the menu is an excellent mix of traditional Hawaiian and fresh new. The service is also frequently given high praise. This makes Tidepools one of the highest-rated restaurants on Kauai and an absolute go-to for anyone wanting to experience fine dining.
Eating House 1849
Roy Yamaguchi is one of Hawaiian history's most famous and respected chefs. Born in Tokyo to a Hawaiian father and a Japanese mother, Yamaguchi grew up with a rich blend of culinary influences that shaped his distinctive cuisine brand today.
Eating House 1849 in Koloa is one of Roy’s finest creations, showcasing much of what makes him so well-known as a chef in its menu and atmosphere. The dining area is a fantastic blend of rustic and upscale - paying homage to the plantation-era history that inspired much of the menu while maintaining a sense that the sophisticated dishes served are not out of place.
Roy's Hawaiian-Asian hybrid cooking style is on full display, from Bubu Arare salmon to hot pot rice bowls to burgers, steaks, and ribs. These tasty options are locally sourced from nearby ranches, farms, and fisheries.
Red Salt at Ko’a Kea
Plausibly claimed by many (including Honolulu Magazine) to be the best restaurant in Kauai, Red Salt at the Ko’a Kea Resort at Poipu Beach is as good as fine dining gets on the Garden Island.
The head chef at this award-winning restaurant is Noelani Planas. Planas is a Kauai native, and the produce and seafood on her menu are all locally sourced. There is a Red Salt burger of high acclaim. There are ultimate examples of modern cuisine like Ahi Tartare and Vanilla Bean-Seared Mahi. There are also delectable breakfast options served at breakfast hours, including lemon-pineapple soufflé pancakes.
The oceanfront setting is also a massive part of this restaurant's specialty. It is scenic, but more so, it is simply beautiful in design.
Famous for being a tapas and wine place, many might find Bar Acuda on the map and think it isn’t a place to get dinner - thereby overlooking one of the best fine dining experiences anywhere on Kauai and, indeed, on its North Shore.
The beautiful location and drool-inducing smells from the kitchen create an atmosphere visitors often rave about. Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine says, “As soon as you enter Bar Acuda, you know it’s going to be fun.” Honolulu Magazine also likened the restaurant's cuisine and general feel to the “casual, country feel of Europe’s Mediterranean regions.”
Indeed, the cuisine is Mediterranean, with heavy Pacific Rim inspiration and using locally sourced Hawaiian ingredients. Chef Jim Moffat appeared in Food & Wine Magazine in 1996 as one of the top 10 new chefs in the US. Today his restaurant Bar Acuda has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Travel + Leisure, and numerous other publications.
On the island’s opposite end, the high-end cuisine that stands out above the rest is Bar Acuda.
Kauai’s east side is where you’ll find some of the best Asian fusion on the island. JO2 is where they like to sear things: seared scallops, seared rack of lamb, seared ono shrimp risotto, and seared rainbow runner. All of it is outrageously good and presented beautifully - you can’t find a dish on the menu that isn’t dazzlingly colorful and assembled with what is elite care.
This is especially impressive given that the menu is seasonal and changes (though only partially) based on the availability of locally sourced ingredients. The menu fuses Asian, Hawaiian, and French influences, meaning you want everything on it.
JO2’s Instagram is a kaleidoscope in the form of different dishes, all beautiful, all different, and yet all encapsulated in a distinct brand of worldly fusion cuisine. The culinary skill on display here is on the level of any fine dining experience you can have in Hawaii - and it’s found in one of the most gorgeous locations in the entire state: Kauai’s Royal Coconut Coast.
Kokee Lodge Cafe & Bar
When it comes to Kauai’s west side, everything changes. Nature reaches an almost Amazonian level of self-expression here. Canyons, waterfalls, state parks, jungles - lots to love, but fine dining is hard to find.
Luckily, it can be found - especially if you decide to read the content on our website. Although it is a notably different atmosphere from Bar Acuda or JO2, Kokee Lodge & Cafe is in the absolute heart of Western Kauai. The farm-to-table dinners you can enjoy here are remarkable.
You’ll need to book a weekend soirée to enjoy the dinners, courtesy of Chef Samson Arzamendi.
Even on the archipelago’s smallest island, visitors can find many fine dining options to nourish the soul, satisfy the appetite, and make unforgettable memories with loved ones.
We hope you find this helpful guide to fine dining on Kauai. As always, mahalo, and best wishes for your Kauai visit!