Kapaa (pronounced ka pah ah) is on the east side of the island of Kauai. In 1777 (Captain Cook’s time) the town was not populated, according to the book Rainbows Over Kapaa by Bill Fernandez. There is no mention of Kapaa, which means the solid”, in early Kauai history. In 1877, 13,400 acres were leased from the government by Makee Sugar Company. The venture failed because the operators had little knowledge about growing and processing sugar and the town was doomed to become “a backwater habitat of isolated squatter shanties of expatriate Chinese laborers.” Nevertheless, Kapaa turned its fortune around with a unique identity of mixed cultures and cheap land.
Emanating the American Dream, Kapaa’s early settlers created a thriving town. Visit Kapaa town today and you’ll see a large city (for Kauai) bustling with cars, stores, award-winning restaurants, hotels, resorts, shopping centers, and tourist attractions.
Where to Eat
For breakfast, I recommend the Kauai Benedict at Country Kitchen, which is made with lomilomi salmon and Kalua Pork atop thick Molokai sweetbread. Alternatively, you can try their Mediterranean omelet. I’ve had both dishes there, and the omelet is packed with veggies, essentially making it a veggie omelet. Be prepared for a potential wait; although there isn’t much of a view, it’s worth it and a great way to start your morning. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning the Olympic Cafe, also a great spot for breakfast. They serve some of the best Macadamia nut pancakes I’ve ever eaten, with generous portions and a pleasant view. You can also visit this place for brunch or lunch.
Let me introduce you to Kenji Burgers for lunch. Their burgers are truly exceptional, and this place isn’t just your typical burger joint; it adds a delightful Japanese twist to these delectable creations. But that’s not all; Kenji Burgers also serves up some incredible burritos. Their burrito options are nothing short of amazing. You absolutely must try their Japanese Sushi burrito, which features a tantalizing combination of Spicy tuna, Shrimp tempura, Crab meat, and a crispy wonton shell, making it a delightful and fun culinary experience.
One of my favorite restaurants for dinner is Sam’s Oceanview in the heart of Kapaa. The food is delicious. The couple of times I’ve eaten here, I’ve had fresh fish; this last time, the Parmesan-Encrusted fresh Mahi Mahi was exceptional. The views are amazing here, so make sure you visit before the sunset. If you’re in the mood for takeout that’s not too fancy, I have to recommend Chicken in a Barrel in Kapaa; it’s excellent. They specialize in smoked BBQ, but I particularly adore their ribs. They’re incredibly juicy, and the meat practically falls off the bone. You can pair them with their chili for an unbeatable combo.
Kappa Outdoor Fun
Kapaa also has three beautiful beaches, which are accessible year-round for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. Rent a bike and ride beside the ocean on the 2.5-mile paved Ke Ala Hele Makalae or “the path that goes by the coast.” The path takes you along, stretching from Lydgate Beach Park to the picturesque Donkey’s Beach. Kapaa has five streams, Hoopi Falls, and five parks. Nounou or “Sleeping Giant,” provides day hikes with ocean views. You can enjoy a self-guided tour of the beautiful 300-acre Hindu monastery, take a chocolate tour at Lydgate Farms, kayak along the Wailua River, or play golf.
Kapaa: Local Shopping and events
Make sure you take the time to savor the Royal Coconut Coast, part of old Kapaa Town and offer an excellent way to support the local community through shopping. One of the most enjoyable ways to explore Kapaa is at a leisurely pace on foot. Old Town Kapaa is brimming with quirky clothing stores, diverse ethnic restaurants, handcrafted Hawaiian goods, musical vibes, fruit stalls, cozy coffee shops, yoga studios, captivating art galleries, Kauai hotels, seaside watering spots, and surf shops. There’s always something happening here every week, including the First Saturday Art Walk, which features music, delectable cuisine, and local galleries showcasing their artistry. The area is adorned with extensive ancient coconut groves, steeped in history and culture. Check out the Orchid Alley which has 2000 SF of orchids and Hybrids the owners have cultivated themselves! There are also weekly Farmers markets in the area three times a week.