Cruisin' the Coconut Coast of Kaua‘i
Stretching from Wailua Golf Course up north to Keālia Beach, and inward to Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, Kaua‘i’s eastside is often referred to as the “Coconut Coast” because of the acres of coconut trees. It was once open only to Hawaiian royalty, and includes the towns of Wailua, Waipouli, Kapa‘a and Keālia.
What is there to see and do along the Coconut Coast? Glad you asked! We put together a handy guide with some suggestions for places to Eat, Play and Shop along this stretch of the Garden Isle.
Palm trees along Kaua‘i's scenic Coconut Coast [Photo HTA / Heather Goodman]
EAT: Fresh, delicious and generous at reasonable prices are an automatic draw to any popular eatery, and Coconut’s Fish Cafe clicks all the buttons.
“My wife Carol and I have visited Hawai‘i, in general, for over 20 years, but have always loved Kaua‘i, the best of all the islands,” declares owner LaMont Fisher. “We wanted to open a place on Kaua‘i that most could afford.” It was also their dream to live on the Garden Isle. Who can blame them?
Coconut’s has garnered 4.5-plus star ratings on Yelp and TripAdvisor along with many other prestigious awards. Fisher says their Fish Taco (one of their most popular items) was recently rated the #17 taco throughout the nation by BigSevenTravel.com. It’s made with 17 ingredients consisting of seven layers and textures, and a mixture of grilled mahi mahi and ono. Pressed for his favorite dish, Fisher tells us it’s the Blackened Mahi Mahi.
More than anything, he guarantees a quality meal in a great setting served by the most friendly staff!
PLAY: This area is home to family-friendly Lydgate Beach Park and a portion of the Ke Ala Hele Makalae, a paved coastal path. Popular Nounou (“Sleeping Giant”) Kuamo‘o Trail is a moderate, five-mile (total) trek that takes hikers across ‘Ōpaeka‘a Stream, through a forest and has views of Kālepa Ridge and Wailua Homestead. Also nearby are ‘Ōpaeka‘a Falls and Wailua River.
SHOP: What woman doesn’t want to look “bodacious”? For almost 25 years that’s exactly what Coconut Marketplace boutique owner Mary Lou Mendes has helped women do. “I never worked in retail prior to opening Bodacious,” says the Santa Monica, California native. “The closest I got was managing Coconut Marketplace. But people would always ask me where I got my clothes. I got laid off after Hurricane Iniki wiped out the island in ’92. My husband said I should open up a store. It was a crazy idea, but I did it anyway.”
We ask Mary Lou how she chooses the fashions in her store. “We created our own Bodacious line,” she says. “We have the highest quality resort wear—separates and dresses—made with a ‘batik’ method on the best quality rayon.”
Mendes, who makes sure she carries her fashions in all sizes, owns three stores in Coconut Marketplace and another, Nokoa Beach Company, nearby. As she approaches her 25th business anniversary, we ask her what she is most proud of. “My employees,” she says without hesitation. “They value every guest like ‘ohana (family). I wouldn’t still be here if not for them.”
Say hello to Mary Lou at Bodacious’ recently expanded location across from Island Country Market.
It’s always fascinating to learn the backstory of how someone ended up in Hawai‘i, or how they started their business. Todd Crawford of Kaua‘i’s The Shell Factory is no exception.
Some of the handmade jewelry that's available at The Shell Factory
“My parents started The Shell Factory as a retirement business in 1982,” says Crawford. “They had a jewelry store business in San Jose and vacationed regularly on Kaua‘i. They loved it so much they started thinking about retiring here. That was the start of our business.”
The Shell Factory is a great place to hunt for souvenirs partially because it offers such a wide price range. “We pride ourselves on being able to satisfy every visitor who walks in our store,” says Crawford. “We have shells that cost 50 cents, and Kaua‘i handmade jewelry that sells for anywhere from $30 to $1,000. We truly have keepsakes for everyone.”
Crawford makes much of the jewelry himself. He uses local koa wood and beach glass to craft necklaces, bracelets and earrings with pink and blue coral. “We’re one of the only places where you can find Kaua‘i-made artisan products, with something in every price range. That’s why we have regular customers who come back year after year.”
Enter the vintage world of Tim and Betsy Hand, who own Kauai Vintage in Kapa‘a. This quaint shop located inside Orchid Alley is a mixture of love of fashion and Hawai‘i for the couple, as well as sustainable. We’ve never thought about it that way.
“Fast fashion or cheap and trendy clothing that doesn’t last is one of the world’s largest polluters,” says Betsy. “Kauai Vintage attempts to offset this footprint by preserving and appreciating clothing from a time past.” Best of all, she adds, are the stories behind the vintage pieces.
You’ll also find laser-made products courtesy of Tim—wood key chains, coasters, Christmas ornaments and more that make perfect Kaua‘i souvenirs!
Hula costumes, Hawaiian shirts, prom gowns, cheerleading outfits, wedding gowns, whatever needed sewing, Vicky Masuoka sewed it out of her home for nearly 10 years before opening Vicky’s Fabrics in July 1982 in Old Kapa‘a Town. “She also did clothing alterations, cushion covers and curtains,” says Maile Bloxsom, one of Masuoka’s daughters, who now owns and runs the shop. “If you could sew it, mom probably made it.”
Vicky’s Fabrics is a full-service fabric shop for sewing, quilting and crafts. Find a wide variety of fabrics, a large collection of quilting cottons, as well as clothing and quilting patterns, notions, ready-made quilts or kits to make on your own, plus locally made gift items and products designed in Hawai‘i for sale. Quilting and sewing lessons are also open to all skill levels.
[A version of this article appears in print in the January-March 2020 issues of This Week Kaua‘i]
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