Crave – food & drink

During my stay in Kauai, we embarked on a quest to find the area’s best fish tacos. We didn’t have time to sample them all but we gave it our best shot, stopping at several destinations from Poipu Beach to Port Allen.

The biggest difference between Baja-style and Hawaiian-style fish tacos is that Baja tacos feature a mild white fish (e.g. pollock) fried in beer batter, while most Hawaiian tacos use a fresh local fish (e.g. ahi, hebi) that’s grilled.

  • Kauai Island Brewery & Grill, Port Allen – We tried a daily special of 3 ahi tacos with fries for $14.95. The ahi had a fishier, saltier flavor than the mild fish generally used in Baja-style tacos. The fish was served in hard corn tortilla shells, which is a departure from the soft tortillas used in most fish tacos. It was topped with fresh cabbage, chopped tomatoes, grated cheddar and Jack cheeses, and a delicious spicy crema. The fresh flavor of the ahi and the spicy crema were the standouts in these tacos. They were served with a side of shredded cabbage and flavorful fries that were toasted golden brown on the outside and warm & soft inside. Condiments included small bowls of ketchup, mild red salsa, and sour cream. We also sampled several house beers that paired well with the tacos.
Kauai Island Brewery & Grill fish tacos

Kauai Island Brewery & Grill fish tacos

  • Chalupa’s food truck, Koloa – We ordered 2 fish tacos for $10.50 and dined outside. The tacos featured grilled local fish, served on a soft corn tortilla with shredded cabbage, guacamole, crema, tomato and cilantro. It was the guacamole that made these tacos “especial.” Tortilla chips were served on the side.

    Chapula's fish tacos

    Chapula’s fish tacos

  • Merriman’s Fish House (downstairs bar), The Shops at Kukui’ula, Poipu – We tried the happy hour special of 1 fish taco for $7. This was the priciest taco we sampled but it was also the most “gourmet.” It had chunks of grilled fresh local fish, served on two soft corn tortillas that were lightly fried. The fish was topped with toasted cabbage, avocado-lime crema, and fire roasted tomatoes. It was garnished with a lime wedge and cilantro sprig. The toasted cabbage was a unique and tasty touch, and the avocado-lime crema was flavorful.

    Merriman's Fish House fish tacos

    Merriman’s Fish House fish taco

  • Kalapaki Joe’s, Poipu – We sampled the happy hour special: a fish taco for $3. The taco featured grilled hebi in a soft flour tortilla, with shredded green and purple cabbage, crema, salsa, and chopped green onion. It was garnished with 2 lime wedges. The fish was mild and the taco was tasty. As a Baja taco fan, I would’ve preferred it in a soft corn tortilla. But for $3 (cheap by island standards), you can’t beat the price.
Kalapaki Joe's fish taco

Kalapaki Joe’s fish taco

  • Keoki’s Paradise, Poipu Shopping Village, Poipu Beach – We ordered the fish tacos entree for $13.95. This dish had 2 beer-battered mahi mahi tacos. Each taco was served in a grilled flour tortilla with shredded cabbage, roasted tomatillo sauce, and avocado salsa, alongside tortilla chips and habanero salsa. In a twist on the Baja style, this taco was garnished with a lemon wedge rather than lime. Again, I would have preferred a corn tortilla, which is less chewy than a flour tortilla.

All in all, there was not a bad taco in the bunch. The fresh locally caught fish was the star of the Hawaiian tacos. Whether you’re looking for a gourmet taco, a sit-down meal or a happy hour a-la-carte special, Kauai fish tacos have something for everyone.