Art Hemingway Cafe (Kauai)

One of the most surprising finds of our recent visit to Kauai was a spot we probably should have checked out on the very first day after the facade’s bright aqua color caught our eye.  (After partaking in the vibe, my guess is that we would have returned every morning thereafter.)  Housed in a historic building in the mostly utilitarian town of Kapa’a, the Art Hemingway Cafe is relatively new to the scene.  A labor of love for European expats Jana and Markus Bömer, the cafe offers locals, and those visiting, a chic, modern environment where strong coffee, art and conversation go hand-in-hand.  And did we mention their insane pastries and food delectables?  (You may want to try the Almond torte or a slice of the daily quiche.)

Numerous bulletin boards decorate the walls of the cafe’s first floor and stairwell.  They tell the intriguing story of Jana and Markus who, after many years operating the successful Lecia Gallery in Prague, immigrated to Hawaii with their two teenage children.  (Who can blame them really?  While rubbing shoulders with the likes of Anton Corbijn and Wim Wenders sounds decadent enough, it’s hard to compete with the beauty of Kauai.)  The couple’s love for art, and background in the cultured circles of Europe, certainly shine through at Art Hemingway - from the quirky branding graphics of “ole’ Papa” himself right on down to the curated feel of handmade baby clothing and knit dollies.  There’s even a gallery upstairs, showcasing a revolving collection of painting and photography handpicked by Jana and Markus.  While we visited, an exhibit of John Wehrheim’s startling black-and-white images from the 70s told the story of “Taylor Camp,” a commune of mainlander hippies who transplanted to Kauai in protest of the Vietnam War.  Trust us, these kiddoes were living “off the grid” well before the term became de rigueur.

Expect some lines at Art Hemingway.  Coloring their renovated two-story edifice in bright blue was a smart idea for the Bömers.  Giving the locals and tourists alike something Kauai desperately needed, we imagine the spot is raking in the dough.  Art Hemingway is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM and Sunday from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM (closed Mondays).  Check their website for special events before planning your visit! 

Art Hemingway Cafe -    4-1495 Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a, HI  96746, (808) 822-2250

Tahiti Nui (Kauai)

If you have been reading any of our other articles describing locations from around the globe, you know by now that we are hot for anything vintage tiki!  And that’s precisely why, after four days into our 2012 Kauai, we were growing more and more disappointed with the lack of any legitimate tiki "Hawaiiana."  While the historic Coco Palms seemed to deliver this in spades (see "sights"), the property was virtually derelict, and in its rotting state, hardly the spot to enjoy a nice, cool Mai Tai!

Enter Tahiti Nui, the Hanalei watering hole that provided just what we were looking for... 

Though residing nearby in Princeville during our week-long stay, we saved our visit to hippy-dippy Hanalei to coincide with a pre-scheduled catamaran tour of the Na’pali Coast.  Arriving in town early to check out a few of the local shops ‘n such (see many of these in “goodies”), we were thrilled when we spotted a gaggle of local oddballs stagger out from a bar no later than 11:00 AM!  “This is our kinda place,” we surmised as we passed by the cool retro sign promoting Tahiti Nui.   

Upon entering, we were instantly pleased by beautiful hand-carved tiki totem bar stools and the cool retro glass lights that recall fish weights.  Combined with original “Polynesian-style” matting as wall-covering, and a few other keen pieces of Hawaiian iconography, we could tell this place was the real thing, an original surfers’ “tiki hut.”  But it’s not just the decor that’ll knock you out.  Tahiti Nui’s drink list packs a punch, with a reputation of having one of the best Mai Tai’s around.  George Clooney probably downed at least a few; his star turn in The Descendants was partly filmed here.

Though mixed reviews suggest dinner from Tahiti Nui’s kitchen might not be your best bet, the establishment does offer live music to go with it on some nights.  And if the business at 11:30 in the morning was any indication, this place packs ‘em at all hours of the day!  Set of Drifters tip:  Tahiti Nui celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2013.  Check their website for updates on their intended month-long celebration.  We’ll bet the local regulars are gonna raise the grass roof on this one! 

Tahiti Nui - 5-5134 Kuhio Highway, Hanalei, HI  96754, (808) 826-6277

We also recommend:

La Mariana Sailing Club (Oahu) - 50 Sand Island Access Road, Honolulu, HI  96819, (808) 848-2800,

The Coffee Shack (Big Island) - 83-5799 Hawaii Belt Road/ Māmalahoa Highway, Hōnaunau, HI  96726, (808) 328-9555,

Rays on the Bay at the Sheraton Kona
(Big Island) - 78-128 Ehukai Street, Kailua-Kona, HI  96740, (808) 930-4949,

Mask-querade Bar
(Big Island)- 75-5660 Kopiko Street, C5, Kailua-Kona, HI  96740, (808) 329-8558,

Beach Tree Bar and Lounge at the Four Seasons Hualalai
(Big Island) - 72-100 Ka`upulehu Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI  96740, (808) 325-8000,

The Rim inside the Volcano House Hotel
(Big Island) - 1 Crater Rim Drive, Hawaii National Park, HI  96718, (808) 756-9625,