Located on the northern shore of Kauai is a small town called Hanalei. Home to the amazing Hanalei Bay and its accompanying beach, several films have used the scenery to depict a tropical paradise. These include several scenes in the film version of the musical “South Pacific” and, more recently, in the George Clooney film “The Descendants.”
I don’t know what’s your idea of a tropical paradise, but Hanalei isn’t a tourist haven like Waikiki. Instead, the town is served by a single two-lane road which can be reached by going over this one-lane bridge from Princeville.
Once you’re there, there isn’t much there. Most shops and restaurants are located on a small stretch of road in the center of town.
Hanalei Bread Company
On our first morning, I followed the advice of our Kauai Revealed guidebook and found the Hanalei Bread Company.
While it doesn’t look like much from the outside, it’s a legit place to stop for breakfast. The line stretching out of the door is a sign of the quality breakfasts they dish out (and also of the unfortunately slow food delivery).
I ordered a breakfast burrito and a Kona coffee.
Sharon ordered the Avocado Toast and a sunrise blend with a side of almond cookies.
She enjoyed the coffee from Hanalei Coffee Roasters so much that we purchased some to bring home. While prices at Hanalei Bread Company are high and the service was a tad slow, the food is high quality and worth the price and the wait.
That evening we looked for a place for dinner, but many locations were fully committed unless you had a reservation, which we found with most places in Hanalei and Princeville. We walked around a bit and ended up at Tahiti Nui, which is best described as a Tiki bar with food or a high-quality dive bar with music that also hosts a luau on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Whatever you call it, I love when a place still refers to itself as a cocktail lounge.
To start, we ordered some drinks. I got the signature Mai Tai and Sharon ordered a beer. I won that round as the Mai Tai was the best one we had anywhere during our trip.
For dinner, Sharon ordered the Rib Eye Poke Bowl.
I ordered the zesty coconut-crusted fresh catch.
While I liked my fish dish, Sharon won the entree choice competition.
We drove back into town the following day, hoping to return to Hanalei Bread Company. However, this was Saturday morning and the line was even longer than the day before. I was hungry (Note from Sharon: No he wasn’t. He was flippin’ hangry!) and didn’t want to wait for a burrito and coffee. I saw a place across the street and walked over to check it out while Sharon kept our place in line. There was only a 10-minute wait, so I texted Sharon to join me.
The restaurant serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. We sat on the front patio and started the meal with coffees, a mimosa and bloody Mary. And no, the background isn’t photoshopped.
We felt a bit decadent, so we hit the brunch menu hard. I ordered the Mahi Mahi Benedict.
Sharon ordered the Mac-Nut Banana Foster Pancakes.
While I’ve seen mediocre reviews of this restaurant, we really enjoyed our brunch.
This meal filled us up for the rest of the day of hiking around the area before heading to the beach for the sunset. We headed back to town and went back to a place we had found the night before. Once again, they were still fully booked, but the staff allowed us to wait for a table if one became available, which took about 45 minutes.
Ama serves ramen and is very popular with visitors to Hanalei. We didn’t get seated until close to the last seating time and by then we were hungry (Note from Sharon: But not hangry, thank goodness). I started by ordering an order of the Nuoc Cham Brussel Sprouts, which in retrospect, was way too much food for a starter.
The service was prompt, as our main dishes came out not long after the starter. I’m chalking this up to getting a table close to closing time.
I ordered the Chashu Ramen, which came with several seared pork belly slices.
Sharon ordered the Oyakodon Bowl with grilled chicken and bok choy.
We each enjoyed our meals, even if they left us amazingly thirsty for the rest of the evening. We said our farewells to Hanalei as we headed back over the one-lane bridge to our Airbnb in Princeville to pack for our flight to Honolulu the next morning.
I need to mention that all of these places are within a five-minute walk. While parking can be challenging to find in Hanalei, any legal spot is not far from any location in town. Hanalei Bay is also only a 10-minute walk from the main street.
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Great review. Been to all those places and then some. My brother-in-law lives in Kīlauea and that’s where we are fortunate enough to stay when going to Hawaii. Hanalei is great!