We Tried It: Our Family Guide to Kahuku Farms Café in Hawaiʻi
The tours are on hold for now, but kids (and parents) can still have outdoor fun at this tasty stop for vegetarian food on the North Shore.
I’m fortunate to have a back yard. But after five months of staying home as much as possible, we are itching to get beyond even those four, albeit outdoor, walls, our overgrown grass and our often neglected garden.
To escape, we recently took a drive out to the country to support one of HONOLULU Family’s favorite local businesses. Kahuku Farms stopped running its tours in March and launched online ordering for takeout at its café in May. When COVID-19 cases started rising again in late July, the farm closed its outdoor café seating, but it is still a great place for a family adventure.
Right now, the café opens at 11 a.m. on the weekends. We spent the morning playing at an almost deserted beach nearby (this was before beaches were closed in mid-August). While the kids toweled off, I ordered our food online to be ready about an hour later so we would have time to explore.
Kahuku Farms is helmed by Kylie Matsuda, the great granddaughter of Shinichi and Torie Matsuda who started farming in Kahuku in the 1940s. Many kids have gone on the tractor tours to see the crops with their classes for field trips. But I was surprised to find out most of my parent friends never experienced the café, which Kylie opened, which features a menu of vegetarian dishes made with produce harvested from their fields.
The food is just part of the experience. When you pull into the parking lot, you’re greeted by a cheery yellow building housing the café. Go to place your order or, if you already did by phone or the website, head left toward planter boxes filled with bright flowers, tomatoes and fragrant herbs. The Saturday we visited, we found a few families already seated on the wide, well-manicured lawn. But with so much space to roam, it was easy to keep a more-than-comfortable distance. My favorite part of visiting is just past there, where small groves of trees and plants beckon visitors to come closer.
Well-planned rows of trees are marked with signs. We stopped to wonder over a star apple and search for cacao pods high up in the branches of a cacao tree. I have to admit, while I continued to pause to examine a curry tree’s leaves and the bark of the cinnamon tree, my girls were more absorbed in their search for the biggest branch they could find on the ground. Using those as walking sticks, we went on to study towering kalo leaves, spiky dragon fruit plants and our first ever look at açaí trees.
See also: 🌳 Farm Friday: Locally Grown Açaí at Kahuku Farms
Kahuku Farms may be the only place in Hawaiʻi growing açaí berries for its açaí bowls. That means you can only buy it at the café when the berries are in season. After 30 minutes in the garden, we were ready to eat.
By then, a small crowd of visitors and locals was hanging around the café’s order and pickup windows. It seemed most were getting their food to go so the picnic area was still comfortably open. We snagged a rare shady spot under an ʻulu tree.
I’m a vegetable fan so I wanted one of everything on the menu. We settled on four items. The grilled veggie panini features slabs of eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and tomato with mozzarella, basil and balsamic herb mayo between two thick slices of focaccia. The flavorful farm pizza is a tasty tomato-eggplant bruschetta with basil mac nut pesto on that same thick focaccia. It comes with a side salad drizzled with Kahuku Farms amazing lilikoʻi balsamic dressing. My 9-year-old quickly polished off the açaí bowl which is topped with apple bananas, berries, haupia, granola, lilikoʻi butter and a dusting of graham-mac nut crumble. My meat-loving 4-year-old dug into a grilled PBJ banana sandwich, with pineapple papaya jam slathered on the grilled bread. My husband and I were more than happy to finish off whatever was left over.
And of course, we couldn’t make the trip without getting smoothies, a highlight for many kids on the Kahuku Farm Tour. You can add kale to any of the five non-dairy options, which I did to sneak extra veggies into my preschooler. She happily and rapidly finished her papaya, apple banana, pineapple juice, haupia and agave Papaya Power drink without questioning the suspiciously green hue. The haupia pineapple and Tropi-Kale smoothies were equally tasty.
My favorite thing on the menu is usually the housemade grilled banana bread with the farm’s vanilla caramel and vanilla haupia sauce. Always add ice cream, I’m just saying. After lunch, however, none of us could find room for dessert. We walked it off with another quick lap around the planter boxes before packing into the van for the scenic drive home. We’ll be heading back soon.
Our 6 Tips
- Order ahead. A line started forming to order around 11:30 a.m. We skipped right past that to the pickup window. We did have to wait a bit as workers finished making our smoothies, but it wasn’t longer than about five minutes.
- If you arrive early, check the produce sale. Across from the pickup window are two shelves for affordably priced fresh fruit and vegetables. Next to that you can shop bottles of tangy lilikoʻi balsamic dressing, lilikoʻi butter, honey and even Kahuku Farms honey mango bath and body products.
- Bring a blanket and watch for shade. With the eating area closed, there are few shady areas for picnickers. If one is available, grab it and save your walk through the gardens for after lunch. Sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat are also good ideas.
- Share your dishes. We ordered two entrées, one kids meal and an açaí bowl. It might have been because of the smoothies or because our kids were too distracted by the scenery to focus on food, but we ended up taking about half of our lunch home.
- Save room for dessert. The grilled banana bread is delicious. A friend also chastised me for returning without an order of the lilikoʻi butter mochi.
- Go before you go. The café has a large, well-kept bathroom trailer.
Open now from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. 56-800 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, (808) 628-0639, kahukufarms.com