Loving food and loving a farmer’s market goes hand-in-hand. We all like to lay claim to a favorite—although I can only narrow it down to three! There’s just something about an abundance of fresh, healthy food that feeds the foodie’s soul.
That’s a big part of why Kaua’i is a food lover’s paradise. There is a farmer’s market every day in Kaua’i. Whenever you make it there, you’ll have the opportunity to visit and enjoy some of the seasonal produce and locally made items we’ve featured in many of our stories.
They have various “levels” of markets in Kaua’i, and the local growers know which ones work for them. As we understand it, there are simply some loosely based coalitions, plus the Sunshine Markets, which are County controlled. Among the most popular are those run by the Farm Bureau, which, in our experience, offered live entertainment and a few extra attractions to help draw the crowds. They also require that at least 51 percent of all items sold originate in Kaua’i. Many of the markets offer free samples, incorporate food trucks, and have Hawaiian flowers, spices, and health items in addition to produce.
From what we saw, the one not to miss is the Saturday market in Lihu’e, held on the grounds of the Kaua’i Community College. It’s well organized and laid out, giving you a little bit of exposure to a lot of different things regardless of the aisle in which you start your journey.
It was here we got our first taste of the addictive Kaua’i Sugarloaf Pineapple—a white pineapple so sweet and tender you can eat the core. They offered toothpick samples alongside where they were selling a soft serve pineapple ice cream, and the combination was kind of life changing. We bought a pineapple, then spent the rest of our trip trying to find them again, only to hear time after time they were sold out. Word of advice: if you find them, buy them all.
It was also here that we bought fresh cilantro and added it to our bulgogi, and tried fried bananas made with the Hawaiian apple banana—smaller, sweeter, and less likely to turn brown than your traditional banana. We tasted our way through the market, checking out the wave beans (like green beans, but with wavy edges), the rambutan, the passion fruit, the starfruit, and the wellness stands where you could get tea, turmeric, and other functional ingredients.
Small aside: Two of our team had never tried bulgogi, which made the rest of us sad. As we discussed this in front of a Korean BBQ stand, the operator overheard one of us say, “You have to taste bulgogi. I don’t care if it’s not lunch time. I’m buying some.” As he dished out a healthy portion, he winked and pointed to first one, then the other, and said, “She is a very good friend.”
Yes, yes she is. Get a recipe for making homemade bulgogi here.
And therein lies part of the beauty of a farmers market: the ability to introduce yourself and others to new things. With samples, you can not only find out if you like something new, you can make sure it’s ripe, or find out what it goes with, and you can usually buy any amount you want—even one.
We started calling out the growth of farmer’s markets long ago, and first wrote about it in 2012. Since then, of course, we’ve all seen communities across the country step up their game, offering farmers and entrepreneurs equally a shot at reaching both a local and tourism clientele. So, if you don’t make it to Hawaii anytime soon, at least you can patronize your nearest farmers market—and any others when you travel.
When in Kaua’i, look for these names and locations to find a market that works for you:
- Koloa Knudsen Ball Park
- Lihue Kmart Parking Lot
- Kealia Farms (by Kealia Beach)
- Kalaheo Neighborhood Center
- Lihue Historic County Building
- Kapa’a Coconut Market Place
- Kapa’a Town Park
- Kaua’i Culinary Market, Kukuiula Shopping Center
- Kilauea Neighborhood Center
- Hanapepe Town
- Vidinha Stadium in Lihu’e
- Kealia Farms
- Hanalei Farmer’s Market
- Kaua’i Community College
- Kekaha Neighborhood Center
Photos: Paul K. Logsdon.