I don't know Kauai very well, but I get to fly in and out every so often and try to check out new (or newish) eats that aren't tourist traps. I was actually blown away at how outrageously expensive some "recommended" spots were, especially since they were kind of junk!
Monkeypod Jam is thankfully not one of those places. In fact, it's not in a busy area and for me, a little off the beaten path — but it's definitely worth a look.
Townies may know owner Aletha Thomas as she has a booth at all the Made in Hawaii expos at the Blaisdell Arena. She also comes to Oahu for occasional samplings and sales at Williams Sonoma. Her jams, jellies, chutneys and curds are all exquisite, and you can tell she uses local ingredients because of the delicate flavors. They're made fresh and seasonally, so they have a shorter shelf life than the mass-produced supermarket brands. (Thomas works with 25 local farmers to produce 55 seasonal preserves.)
It was just a matter of time before Thomas eventually grew her Kauai facility and expanded operations into a cafe, so she could showcase her products and her other cooking talents. You can find her place in Lawai, which I can only describe as between Hanapepe and Koloa. It's easy to find since there's not many roads there!
Some of the items on display at Monkeypod Jam Cafe. Thomas recently started selling pickled fruits and vegetables.
It's a super cute cafe, with an uncomplicated menu that makes you feel a little like you're in a country home on the mainland ... except you're surrounded by locally sourced Kauai products. It's definitely got a different vibe from the touristy parts of the Garden Isle, which I love.
If I get back to Kauai, I hope I can time it with one of Monkeypod Jam's cooking classes, where Thomas teaches everything from making poke to making your own jam. Follow her on Facebook to get more information on those! I know I will.
3687 Kaumualii Hwy.
Lawai, HI 96765
Open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.