This West Kauai hamlet is becoming a haven for artists, but finding them requires some vigilance. The center of town is off Hwy. 50; turn right on Hanapepe Road just after Eleele if you're driving from Lihue. First, you'll smell the chips of Taro Ko Chips Factory, located in an old green plantation house at 3940 Hanapepe Rd., Hanapepe (tel. 808/335-5586). Cooked in a tiny, modest kitchen at the east end of town, these famous taro chips are handmade by the farmers who grow the taro in a nearby valley. Despite their breakable nature, these chips make great gifts to go. To really impress them back home, get the authentic Hawaiian li hing mui-flavored chips.
Our very favorite Hanapepe store is the Banana Patch Studio, 3865 Hanapepe Rd. (tel. 808/335-5944; www.bananapatchstudio.com). For the best prices on the island for tropical plates and cups, hand-painted tiles, artwork, handmade soaps, pillows with tropical designs, and jewelry, this is the place. Plus, they will pack and ship for you anywhere. Farther on, Hanapepe Road is lined with gift shops and galleries, including the James Hoyle Gallery (tel. 808/280-9146) whose bright contemporary impressionistic oils capture the joy of the islands (call to confirm he's there). The Island Arts Gallery (tel. 808/335-0591) represents Angela Headley with her paintings and prints of local scenes, as well as Jennifer Hill's delicate ceramics and Donna Lee Crockett's stunning silver and gold woven bracelets, while its sister gallery carries more local artists' works. Nearby, Kauai Fine Arts (tel. 808/335-3778) offers an odd mix that works -- antique maps and prints of Hawaii, authentic Polynesian tapa, rare wiliwili-seed leis, old Matson liner menus, and a few pieces of contemporary Island art. Down the street, Amy-Lauren's Gallery (tel. 808/634-8660) hangs Camile Fontaine's colorful primitives, Martin Wessler's oils and other plein-air, impressionist and contemporary artists (call to confirm she's open). Taking a cue from Maui's Lahaina, where every Friday night is Art Night, Hanapepe's gallery owners and artists recently instituted the Friday Night Art Walk every Friday from 6 to 9pm. Gallery owners take turns hosting this informal event along Hanapepe Road.
A great treat to take home is Kauai Kookies (tel. 800/361-1126 or 808/335-5003; www.kauaikookie.com), with the factory outlet at 1-3529 Hwy. 50 in Hanapepe. Choose from eight delicious kinds of cookies (Kona coffee mac-nut, chocolate-chip mac-nut, peanut butter, guava mac-nut, and so on) to ship home, or carry a few around in your car.
Neighboring Waimea is filled with more edibles than art. Kauai's favorite native supermarket, Big Save (tel. 808/338-1621), serves as the one-stop shop for area residents and passersby heading for the uplands of Kokee State Park, some 4,000 feet above this sea-level village. For more hard-to-find delicious gourmet items, try the Ishihara Market (tel. 808/338-1751), where they have marinated meats, freshly made poke, and a range of prepared picnic items. A cheerful distraction for lovers of Hawaiian collectibles is Collectibles and Fine Junque (tel. 808/338-9855), on Hwy. 50, next to the fire station on the way to Waimea Canyon. This is where you'll discover what it's like to be the proverbial bull in a china shop. (Even a knapsack makes it hard to get through the aisles.) Heaps of vintage linens, choice aloha shirts and muumuus, rare glassware (and junque, too), books, ceramics, authentic 1950s cotton chenille bedspreads, and a back room full of bargain-priced secondhand goodies always capture our attention. You never know what you'll find in this tiny corner of Waimea.
Up in Kokee State Park, the gift shop of the Kokee Natural History Museum (tel. 808/335-9975) is the stop for botanical, geographical, historical, and nature-related books and gifts, not only on Kauai, but on all the islands. Audubon bird books, hiking maps, and practically every book on Kauai ever written line the shelves.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.