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Local Insights

Concierge supervisor Shantel Thornton brings her knowledge and expertise to offer insider advice on where to dine, shop and play this fall on the Garden Isle.

By Jenna Conant

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From left to right: Tomomi Nekomoto, Minda Hada, Stephen Devin, Jodi Wijas, Michelle Rozon, Shantel Thornton

Shantel Thornton, concierge supervisor at The St. Regis Princeville Resort, takes the guesswork out of where to eat fresh cuisine, buy local gifts and visit historic sites. Here, she recommends her top places this season that guests won’t want to miss.

Local Eats

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Hukilau Lanai boasts fresh island cuisine.

Whether indulging at one of the local restaurants or perusing the local markets, the island boasts an array of palate-pleasing options.

POSTCARDS CAFÉ, a seafood and vegetarian restaurant located at the entrance to the town of Hanalei, is in a small plantation-style home that gives a warm, comfortable feeling, Thornton says. With an inviting and professional staff and phenomenal food, any selection is dependable. “They support the farmers of Kauai by buying locally grown produce,” Thornton adds. “My favorite entree is the wasabi-crusted ahi because it is very flavorful.” (808-826-1191; postcardscafe.com)

Another fresh-ingredient stop is KILAUEA FISH MARKET. “This little hole-in-the-wall offers great lunch and early dinner,” Thornton says. “They use fresh, organic ingredients for their food, and their oriental dressing is to die for. They serve wraps and a variety of plate lunches, and the portions are perfect. I tend to bounce between their teriyaki chicken plate and their ahi wrap.” (808-828-6244)

HUKILAU LANAI in Kapaa is another spot that uses “fresh island fruits and vegetables to create Pacific Rim cuisine,” says Thornton, whose favorite appetizer is the lobster and goat cheese wonton with a guava-plum sauce. “They have friendly staff that provides outstanding service.” (808-822-0600; hukilaukauai.com)

History Havens

The island of Kauai is geologically the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and is a host to many interesting sites and places. Thornton offers several suggestions that are sure to quench any curiosity about the island’s history, adding that guests can find the most historical sites at the North Shore of the island.

WAI’OLI HUI’IA CHURCH, in Hanalei, offers a unique history that makes for good afternoon stories. The church features two buildings, the Wai’oli Hui’ia Church Sanctuary and Wai’oli Mission Hall, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Furthermore, the Wai’oli Mission Hall is the oldest surviving church building on the island of Kauai. (808-826-6253; hanaleichurch.org)

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Wai’oli Hui’ia Church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Also in Hanalei, the HARAGUCHI RICE MILL, the only remaining rice mill in Hawaii, is another historic site. Dating back to the 1800s, the mill was originally built by the Chinese and purchased by the Haraguchi family in 1924, where they continue farm taro on the adjacent lands that once supported rice. Guided tours of this significant structure are available every Wednesday at 10 a.m. (808-651-3399; haraguchiricemill.org)

Additionally, the KAUAI MUSEUM on Rice Street in Lihue gives guests a look into Kauai’s storied past through compelling exhibits. “Guided tours of the museum are available for those that want to take a walk down the history of Kauai and learn of the multiple cultures on the island,” Thornton says. The guided tour is free with admission and all proceeds go toward the preservation of the museum. (808-245-6931; kauaimuseum.org)

Specialty Shops

Visitors to Kauai are able to not only commemorate their travels with photographs of breathtaking historical sites but also with the purchase of local goods. Thornton recommends a few specialty shops where guests can discover everything Kauai-made, from chocolate to coffee. “[They are] someone’s dream coming to life,” Thornton says about the island’s local shops.

For coffee aficionados, Thornton recommends Kauai Coffee Co., which is sold all over the island and has a shop located in Hanapepe. In fact, the company is Hawaii’s largest coffee grower, as well as the largest grower in the United States, with more than 4 million coffee trees grown on 3,100 acres. Try one of its 100 percent Kauai-grown coffees, such as the chocolate macadamia, or one of its specialty coffees, such as the Poipu Estate Peaberry. (808-335-0813; kauaicoffee.com)

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Kauai Coffee Co.

Kauai Nut Roasters, another favorite of Thornton’s, has a store in Hanalei and is completely family owned and operated. The company distributes its homemade nuts and mixes to stores throughout Hawaii and the island of Kauai. (808-826-7415; kauainutroasters.com)

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Kauai Nut Roasters offers tasty treats to take home.

Finally, chocolate connoisseurs won’t want to miss Kauai Chocolate Co. in Eleele, a family-owned business for more than 10 years. Aside from all forms of chocolate imaginable, it offers other decadent sweets, from toffee to cocoa mix and even nuts. Guests also need not worry about chocolate melting in their carry-ons; Kauai Chocolate Co. carefully ships all its goods to ensure each and every truffle remains intact. (808-335-0448; kauaichocolate.us) B