By Kate Harris and Keith Tharp
Spending time every winter on Oahu where our family lives, means we get to take advantage of inter island flights. Sometimes island hopping for just an overnight, while packing in two full days of hiking and water time. However, being vegan and living our values as we travel brings a challenge even in a state with many like minds as it caters towards the typical tourist. Hawaii is a state with an incredibly rich culture, appreciation for the aina (land) and respect for others. The aloha spirit is one you will likely carry with you long after your visit.
Kauai is known as the “Garden Island” and offers loads of adventure, from hiking the Na Pali Coastline, to a helicopter tour, kayaking, sailing, and lots of eating! The island has become increasingly popular over the years, so be sure to check early if you need reservations (from Na Pali to restaurants to tours.)
Tourism can often come into conflict with the culture and strength of the community, as many resorts source employees from abroad, profits not staying on the islands, and traditions watered down with commercialism. Homelessness has been on the rise as a result of tourism, and beaches are being inundated with plastic pollution. Our mission when traveling is to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Here are some suggestions to help you do the same while celebrating your new marriage!
Our travel style is pretty casual. We prefer to immerse ourselves in a culture and support local, so veer away from resorts.
Air BnB is a tricky beast on Kauai. In 2019 a law was passed curtailing this type of rental. Homelessness has become an ever increasing problem as housing stock gets transitioned into temporary rentals and affordable long-term options dwindle. The law combats this by only allowing a certain number of people to get legal certificates to operate house sharing facilities. As this is implemented, many non legal listings are being shut down. So if you book on a home share site, ask to see their certificate so you don’t run the risk of showing up and having no place to stay. Other great options are condo rentals. These are rooms built specifically for tourism and often come with many additional amenities.
Hotel Coral Reef Resort is an oceanfront option in Kapa’a, one of our favorite towns. Since 1956, it offers proximity to a cute walkable town, a private lagoon pool and tropical waterfall, use of bicycles to enjoy the coastal bike path, and many luxury options from massages to complimentary tea, coffee and snacks. Newly renovated, we think it’s a perfect option for a honeymoon!
Looking for a more traditional, larger resort? Check out Kauai Beach Resort. All you need is on site, complete with poolside bites or elegant candlelit dinners (limited vegan options.) It’s just North of the airport, centrally located for both North Shore and Waimea Canyon activities. But, you might not want to leave for fear of missing a hula performance, or the water slide.
If you prefer to have a more home-like experience, complete with kitchen, try renting a privately owned condo at Kapa’a Shore Condos. You’ll enjoy some common amenities, like a pool and oceanfront, but with privacy and culinary independence. Google can help you locate one of the rentals.
Get close to the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast in a zodiak with Na Pali Exlorer or opt for a motor free experience with Captain Andy at Napali.com. Including sailing (sunset dinner options, vegan friendly with prior arrangements), snorkeling, and cave exploring. We also highly recommend Holo Holo Charters, a locally owned company with great sustainability ethics.
Loads of hikes on island will leave you feeling fulfilled and likely muddy. We recommend AllTrails to choose the perfect one for your abilities. But make sure you include one at Waimea Canyon (our favorite is Waipo’o Falls!) Another favorite in the Kapa’a area is Sleeping Giant.
Kayaking the only navigable Polynesian river in Wailua is a fun half day activity, and great option if you need a break from the ocean. We recommend signing up for a tour with a company such as Kayak Wailua. Employees are local, and paid fairly, so your money will be going into the community.
If you’re a coffee lover, touring a farm is a must. While not inexpensive, you will learn plenty, and get to sample the best! We recommend Blair Estate organic farm. Organize the tour ahead of times, and look forward to fresh fruit and home made bread in addition to Kona coffee.
Saving the best for last here! Vegan options were surprisingly not abundant in Kauai, and we were a bit disappointed. Breaking it down by location, here’s where we had some good luck!
Postcards Cafe a popular (ie get a reservation) dinner spot with many vegan or customizable options. Organic, island-grown food, with no refined sugar.
Nourish Hanalei a family run farm with a farm-stand offering fresh local fruit, produce, healthy island meals, smoothie bowls and sweets.
Fresh Bite Kauai is a funky food truck with healthy island v/gf options.
Hanalei Harvest Market is a health food store with a smoothie counter & salad bar.
Kilauea Fish Market don’t be fooled by the name! Many tofu & bean based options, such as burritos and bowls. Casual, affordable and quick.
Trilogy Coffee offers organic v/vg/gf/raw treats plus delicious family-owned coffee.
Healthy Hut Market & Cafe the healthy heart of the North Shore. Shoes are seemingly optional. Order from the counter or enjoy the rotating daily hot bar (pro tip: arrive early.) Great produce.
Moloaa Sunrise Fruit Stand a great stopoff right on the main road. Fuel up with an Acai Bowl, fresh juice, smoothie, coffee, Veggie Tacos, Smoked Tempeh BLT, or watch the roaming chickens with a garden vibe and mountain views.
Kalalea Juice Hale organic cold-pressed juices, smoothies, shave ice, coffee & acai bowls with mountain views, and (of course) roaming chickens.
Kapa’a (while technically N Shore, we found it needed its own section)
Papaya’s Natural Foods a wonderful store with attached cafe. Try the Vegan Reuben!
Java Kai the best! Pro tip: Locals go around back to the Kai Bar. Breakfast & lunch a few worthy vegan options from acai bowls & smoothies to sandwiches and amazing coffee.
Noka Beach Food Trucks: Anatta’s Thai Street Food authentic Thai options (read: spicy!) and Namaste Indian Food vegan/gf options. Dine on picnic benches by the ocean.
Potions is a fun stop for creative kombuchas on tap, hot tea blends and veg Indian fare.
Eat Healthy Kauai all vegan, with a nice garden setting, but sadly we wouldn’t recommend. Not accommodating (no subs allowed), small portions, over priced.
Sukhothai Cafe offers many vegan Thai dishes (may be closed post pandemic.)
Mermaid’s Cafe lunch & dinner offering plates with ample bean or tofu options and local ingredients.
Lihue to Waimea
Pineapples in Paradise frozen fruit whips with vegan options. Check to see where the truck will be!
Leahi Health farm to plate smoothies, tacos, bowls and homemade kombucha. Almost all vegan.
Anake’s Juice Bar locally owned mom & pop juice and smoothie bar.
Little Fish Coffee (2 locations) smoothies, acai bowls, PB&J bagel, lots o’ coffee all outside.
Kate & Keith are wedding and event photographers creating a work/life balance around sustainability and the outdoors. Both vegan, they are committed towards zero-waste initiatives and founded a non-profit (Sustainable Seacoast) in their home area to aid restaurants and events in eliminating single use plastics. Their passports show Southern Maine as home but are often found at family bases in New Jersey, Oahu, and Mount Desert Island, Maine. Loving to travel, they drive their Lobster Van (Promaster conversion) across the country for weddings, stashing their tiny Lagotto Romagnolo (dog) between camera bags and a Nutribullet, and using Happy Cow to explore vegan eateries along the way. They can easily be bribed with coconut milk cappuccinos. Read Kate and Keith’s articles