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The Saturday Kaumualii Street People’s Open Market in Kalihi can pack thousands of customers into its brief but glorious 75-minute run.
This is the largest of the POMs, with 40 or more vendors on any given day. If you’re looking for fruits, veggies, fish or seafood, it’s all here.
There’s a variety found nowhere else on Oahu (coupled with the frequent lack of labeling, this is one market where you may have to ask, not just where it came from, but what it is). We encountered at least five varieties of banana, immense and creamy-fleshed avocados, birch flowers, fresh bamboo shoots, purple-stemmed taro leaves and fiddlehead ferns gathered wild in Waim-analo. Even familiar favorites had a new twist: the Blossoming Hope booth offered hard-to-find, delicious black Japanese eggplants. There were also—equally rare here—good local tomatoes selling for about $1.50 a pound.
Kaumualii is the best market on the island for fresh seafood, which can include live Kahuku shrimp, live blue crabs, just-caught octopus, all kinds of fresh fish and Maui seaweed. Although the market gets crowded, the vibe is never frantic.
It’s hot. It’s packed. You can circle the vast parking lot for 10 minutes before scoring a space. Why go to the original HFBF farmers’ market?
A third of KCC’s clientele are tourists who have heard about the market in places like Travel & Leisure. It can get hectic—wait times for a North Shore Cattle Co. burger can reach 45 minutes—and prices can occasionally raise an eyebrow.
There’s no question that the sprawling Hilo Farmers’ Market, located near the Big Island’s fertile H-am-akua Coast, is one of the finest farmers’ markets in the state. The produce is renowned for its variety and quality: not just lychees, but Kaimana lychees. If it’s a new commercial crop (a recent example: mangosteens, Southeast Asia’s “queen of fruit”), it will often appear at this market first. If it can be gathered wild, fished or farmed on the Big Island, it will eventually show up here—and there’s a huge selection of organic and locally made food products. Officially, they’re there “every Wednesday and Saturday from dawn till it’s gone,” but, in practice, a few booths stay open every day of the week.
For more information, visit www.hilofarmersmarket.com.
The vendor restrictions for county-run Kauai Sunshine Markets are the strictest in the state: You’ll find only unprocessed produce and fish, farmed and harvested on Kauai, period—which means no processed food (read: lunch) or crafts, and nothing from off-island. What you will get is the most intensely local, straight-from-the-soil experience of any farmers’ market in Hawaii; on the Garden Isle, that can be a rush all its own. This market moves to a different location each day from Monday through Saturday. For details, check http://www.kauai.gov.
Last but not least, toward Hanalei and Kauai’s agricultural North Shore, the independently run Kilauea Quality Farmers’ Association Market specializes in locally grown, organic produce. Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. behind the Kilauea Post Office.