From upscale and oceanfront seafood restaurants to food trucks parked in the middle of nowhere, the Hawaiian Islands are home to countless incredible restaurants. And while you will find a high density of mouthwatering restaurants in Honolulu — and Hawaii’s largest towns — the eateries you find in our small towns are worth discovering. From Kauai’s north shore to the inland of Hawaii Island, here are 9 amazing towns in Hawaii with absolutely incredible restaurants. Trust us, you’ll want to visit these towns — and focus your itinerary around your meals — before they get too popular.
1. Hawi, Hawaii Island
Often described as one of Hawaii Island’s best-kept secrets, Hawi is perched along the northern coastline of the Kohala coast, and is home to some a pretty charming vibe, and several incredible restaurants. Two decades ago, a new generation of entrepreneurs and artists flocked to the former plantation village and, with the help of longtime residents, moved bookstores, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants into the town’s decaying storefronts. Our favorite spots to eat include Sushi Rock for, you guessed it, sushi, Kohala Coffee Mill for coffee and sandwiches, and Bamboo for authentic Hawaiian fare.
2. Hanalei, Kauai
With a population of little more than 470, Hanalei has got it all: a charming small town vibe, pristine white sand beaches, magnificent, lush surroundings, and a plethora of restaurant options, including hole-in-the-wall food trucks like Fresh Bite Kauai and Trucking Delicious, as well as sit-down establishments like Bar Acuda, an amazing tapas bar, and The Hanalei Gourmet, a deli and cafe with amazing desserts.
3. Paia, Maui
Just four miles from Kahalui on Maui’s famous Road to Hana is Paia, a small beach town big on charm. The town is not only known for its epic surfing and windsurfing waves, but is the epicenter of Maui’s north shore, and is full of artsy, bohemian vibes AND awesome restaurants. Mama’s Fish House is easily the most famous restaurant in town, but there are several other fantastic options including the Paia Fish Market, Flatbread Company, and Island Fresh Cafe.
4. Haleiwa, Oahu
Voted as the state’s favorite small town by HAWAII Magazine, Haleiwa seems like a world away from bustling Waikiki. This sleepy surfer town on Oahu’s north shore has a laid-back vibe and charming aesthetic, but also plenty of mouthwatering restaurants. You will find everything from mouthwatering shrimp at Giovanni’s and Dat Cajun Guy to upscale seafood dishes at Haleiwa Joe’s and the Haleiwa Beach House. You’ll also find some of the best shave ice and ice cream on the island. What more could you ask for?
5. Captain Cook, Hawaii Island
Located just 12 miles south of the famous Kailua-Kona is a lovely Hawaiian town that is — unfortunately — all too often overlooked for more resort-saturated spots along Hawaii Island’s Kona Coast. Captain Cook, a small town with a population of just 3,400 individuals, is full of Hawaiian history, plenty of charm, and some of the best restaurants on the island. Kaaloa’s Super Js is well-known for their mouthwatering Hawaiian favorites, and The Coffee Shack serves up delicious coffee drinks,as well as scrumptious breakfast and lunch options. Captain Cook is also home to the Manago Hotel Restaurant, Hawaii’s oldest restaurant in continuous operation.
6. Koloa, Kauai
Home to Hawaii’s first ever commercially successful sugarcane plantation, Koloa is a relic of days gone by. Home to less than 2,200 residents and shops that now occupy the plantation-style buildings, Koloa is located along Kauai’s southern shores. The restaurants you’ll find here are some of the most gorgeous you’ll find on the island, and include Keoki’s Paradise and Rumfire Poipu Beach. If you aren’t into upscale restaurants, we suggest Makai Sushi or Koloa Fish Market for seafood, and Da Crack for Mexican fare.
7. Makawao, Maui
Located in upcountry Maui on the rural northwest slopes of Mount Haleakala is a charming little town worthy of a visit — and a little recognition. With a population of approximately 7,100, Makawao is one of Hawaii’s biggest little towns and is home to some mouthwatering restaurants and cafes. The most famous eatery in Makawao is the Hali’imaile General Store, an Asian fusion eatery that serves up might tasty — and creative — dishes. For lunch, head to Makawao Garden Cafe for soups, salads, and sandwiches.
8. Kailua, Oahu
Located on Oahu’s windward shore is the breathtaking — and award-winning — Kailua Beach and historic Kailua Town. The beach is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, and the town is home to several awesome restaurants. My personal favorites are Kalapawai Cafe & Deli, Uahi Island Grill, and Willow Tree Korean Restaurant. You also absolutely must stop by Cinnamon’s for an order of their guava chiffon pancakes… yum!
9. Volcano, Hawaii Island
Tucked away near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village is home to 2,500 residents, and little else, except countless art galleries and mouthwatering restaurants catering to tourists and locals alike. For Italian food, check out Ohelo Cafe, and for breakfast or brunch, head to Eagles Lighthouse Cafe. There’s also Tuk Tuk Thai Food Wagon, and Cafe Ono, which serves up mouthwatering vegetarian fare in a serene garden setting.