Vegan Kauai: Restaurant and Snacking Tips

Khad and I recently celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

It's not an ugly place.

A photo posted by Heike Young (@youngheike) on

Kauai is another far-off destination where we've managed to find delicious vegan food, along with Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, and a Caribbean cruise ship. I did a lot of pre-trip Googling and HappyCow research to scout the best vegan options, which definitely helped.

But unlike LA, where all the new vegan spots in town are instantly documented on Instagram and HappyCow, Kauai's restaurant listings are sometimes outdated and new restaurants take a while to show up online. (No harm, no foul. Maybe people are out enjoying the beautiful island instead of scrolling through their phones.) 

With that in mind, plus the fact that one of the only other blog posts I've seen about vegan Kauai is a few years old, I'm here to update the internet with Kauai's latest and greatest vegan options.

We stayed on the south side of the island in Poipu and traveled to the west and east (but not north) sides of the island, so these vegan options have that bent. You might find different options if you stay north in Princeville.

Note that my site isn't becoming a vegan food blog or vegan review site. But because I happen to be vegan and my vegan food choices play a role in my health—which is a focus of the site—I figured I'd contribute my thoughts here.

Overall favorite vegan meal on Kauai: Gopal's Creperie. This all-vegetarian food truck sells savory and sweet crepes in creative combinations, from buffalo tofu to a chocolate and marshmallow slice of heaven (pictured). On an island where vegan options are not always a given nor clearly marked, Gopal's felt like home. The truck is always parked in the same spot (check the Facebook page) so you don't need to worry about chasing your crepes all over the island.

A photo posted by Heike Young (@youngheike) on

Best afternoon snack: Puka Dog! Get a veggie dog with all the delicious relishes, especially the lilikoi mustard. The pillowy, housemade buns surround the whole hot dog—ideal for when you're ignoring carb intake on vacation—and are dairy- and egg-free. Avoid the secret sauce (it has dairy) and get ready to pay $7-$8 for a hot dog. You're worth it.

Puka Dog is really close to the resorts in Poipu, so we came here a few times to snack on veggie dogs and buy adult beverages to take back to the Hyatt. There's a grocery store right by Puka Dog that sells beer and wine for about 30% of what you'll pay at the hotel bars. Just make sure to pour your drink in a plastic cup (leave glass containers in your room) if you're walking near the pool. Then you're ready to party!

Most vegan-friendly grocery store: Kukui'ula Local Market. The good news: They have Daiya, seitan, Amy's pizzas, and many other vegan foods from the mainland. The bad news: Everything is expensive. Hey, it's not cheap to ship food 5+ hours off the coast of California. But you probably don't want to spend your whole vacation heating up or cooking your own food, anyway.

Even so, it's fun to see which vegan foods make it to Kauai. We ended up getting tangerine juice for mimosas (as pictured), crackers, and a box of fruit Pop-Tarts. (Yes, non-frosted Pop-Tarts are accidentally vegan.) 

There's another grocery store nearby with vegan options; it's called Living Foods Market. We found that place to be even more expensive, and with a big focus on fresh meats/seafood, which doesn't help us. Additionally, Living Foods doesn't have an amazing acai bowl and smoothie place in the back . . . which leads us to the next item in the list.

Most fulfilling breakfast: Acai bowls at Aloha Aina Juice Bar. Nestled in the back of Kukui'ula Local Market, Aloha Aina serves acai bowls, smoothies, and freshly squeezed juice. Most everything is either vegan or can be made vegan by leaving out honey or yogurt.

Our favorite morning tradition was to walk from the Hyatt to Aloha Aina and share a chunky monkey acai bowl (pictured below), which featured peanut butter atop a huge portion of acai and fruit. The photo can't do it justice. So many layers of creamy acai are hiding underneath the fruit.

I recommend that you only order one and split it with someone else. The bowls are big! (But don't pay the extra dollar for another bowl. That's just silly.)

Best vegan options at the Grand Hyatt: I could write a whole second post on the vegan options at the Grand Hyatt, but suffice it to say that the Hyatt bars and restaurants cater toward a more omnivorous audience.

But it's not impossible to eat vegan at the resort. Here are the three best things we ordered:

  • Create your own salad at Ilima Terrace (the lemon-dijon dressing was vegan; add all the veggies you want for free)
  • Tofu hiryozu at Tidepools (check to see if the noodles they're using have egg; we got mixed messages on this, but they'll give you rice instead)
  • Kula baby greens salad at Tidepools (ask for no cheese)—the presentation is beautiful, as shown here.

And a word of warning on tropical drinks at the Hyatt: watch out for secret dairy. I've ordered tropical drinks (like lava flows and daiquiris) at Disney resorts and on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, and never encountered as many issues with hidden dairy as at the Hyatt Kauai. The bartenders love to mix dairy creamers into the fruity cocktails, so watch out and ask for them to omit.

Best surprise: Potions Kombucha Bar. Right off the main road that connects Poipu to Kapa'a, you'll find this gem of a new kombucha bar. The Potions owner brews his own kombucha and serves it on tap. The flavors were highly original (chocolate kombucha? I'm so down) and delicious. Don't miss it.

Freshest and healthiest: Rainbow Living Foods. This was the only all-vegan restaurant we visited on Kauai. It's mostly raw and extremely fresh and light. Just get a load of this veggie burger!

Unfortunately, Rainbow was sold out of their desserts when we visited. But there's a stand with freshly harvested papaya in the lawn right next to Rainbow—and it was probably the best papaya I've ever had. I recommend you do the same.

Most memorable veggie burrito: Tortilla Republic. Tortilla Republic has two locations in SoCal and one in Kauai. The restaurant (within a long walk or short driving distance of our hotel) plates the types of veggie burritos I'm spoiled by here in LA: big, generously filled with guac and fresh veggies, and flavorful.

The yummy burrito and happy hour specials beckoned us back for a second visit to Tortilla Republic. We might even check out the West Hollywood location now that we're home!

We had similar burritos at Island Taco and Da Crack that just didn't measure up to Tortilla Republic. I'm happy those places had vegan options, but I wasn't as impressed with the flavors or food quality.

In general, you'll find shaved ice, smoothies, fresh fruit, and fruity cocktails all over Kauai—so you won't go hungry. Of course, we were still happy to return to LA where vegan options are so plentiful, but we had some truly memorable meals on the island. Head to Khad's Instagram for the complete photographic evidence of what we ate.

If you're vegan and headed to Kauai, I hope this helps you. Feel free to leave a comment here or on Instagram (@youngheike) and I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about seeking sustenance.