Farmers hurriedly set up their booths amongst a light, drizzly rain and distant thunder. Not wanting to keep the crowds waiting in the wet, market manager Niki Kunioka-Volz gives the go-ahead to vendors that they’re allowed to start selling as soon as they’re ready. As the hour goes by crowds of locals and tourists steadily filter through the gates to the Kapaa Sunshine Market. Umbrellas, jackets, masks, and market bags are the fashionable attire on this wintery day.
And yet the gray skies make the fruit and vegetables gleam living up to it’s market namesake—bright reds, whites, yellows, oranges, and greens bring a fresh, cheerfulness to the day. Is there anything better than a table filled with locally grown fruits, vegetables, and flowers? This markets specialty is whole foods grown and harvested for the island of Kauai.
“Farmers markets were originally [created] to make local produce available and affordable for local families.”Niki Kunioka-Volz
This Sunshine Market is nestled in the heart of busy Kapaa town. Located in a large soccer field newly dubbed Kapaa New Town Park, also known as Kapaa Beach Park, and sandwiched between Ke Ala Hele Makalae Bike Path and Hwy 56. The parking is limited so please drive carefully when in and around the area. There are many bikers, walkers, and cars about.
The vendors are generously spaced with ample room for shoppers to safely roam about and take in the wonderful scenery. Beachfront markets are few and far between on Kauai and with the bustle of the town traffic driving by paired with the movement from the bike path, the market becomes a serene oasis to stroll and shop comfortably.
One produce vendor shared, “I’ve been selling here for all my life. I was raised right up the road. My mom has always sold here too.” His table is full of pristine fruits and veggies showing off the prowess of his farming family. Another vendor has a small table filled with hoio (fiddlehead fern shoots) and a bucket of stunning tropical bouquets. Rambutan and eggplant, radishes and papaya — everything looks freshly washed and delicious. One vendor greets customers with the famous luau-style greeting, “Aloooohaaa!” and you can’t help but smile and walk up to his tables of stacked lettuces, lemongrass, young ginger root, bok choy, and avocados.
Despite the rain and rogue strikes of lightning the customers continue to steadily arrive without any lulls to attendance. It’s a swift in and out for most that’s probably due to the weather and helps keep the total amount of people at any given time at a safe number. One woman is known for coming to the market every week, still donning her kitchen apron, buying up heaps of produce and having to make 3 or 4 trips just to get it all to her vehicle. And she’s not the only one, more than a handful of people walk away with multiple bags of fruits and veggies.
Thankfully this market has been re-established after the county wide shutdown of sunshine markets occurred in March due to the pandemic. The location was moved from it’s original venue at Bryan J. Baptiste Park to the Kapaa Beach Park in May and since then has adapted to different times and days until finally settling in with the schedule they have now. Signs are posted at every vendor booth along with a big sign at the entrance of the market stating the safety guidelines for shopping. Of the 8 county Sunshine Markets, Kapaa and Hanapepe are the only 2 locations the Office of Economic Development chose to re-open so far. By choosing these particular sites it ensures almost every side of the island has a weekly market to access fresh, local food from.
The county welcomes residents and tourists to shop while also asking those who attend to adhere to the social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Also, please don’t touch the produce! Your farmer will be happy to handle and hand you what you need.
Check out all Kauai islands farmers markets on our directory.
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