The noise of a hundred voices raised in good cheer, the flurry of activity, an array of colors and an overarching smell of grilling meats float in sharp contrast to the bright green mountains rising behind the stalls. A distinctive whack of machete on wood leads us to the place where a grinning man knocks the tops off coconuts and inserts a biodegradable non-plastic straw. “Bring it back when you’re done,” he says, “and I’ll open up the meat for you.”

This Saturday farmers market in Hanalei Town is a ritual not to be missed if you’re staying on the north side of Kauai. Take the main road through town and you can’t miss it, tents of white and sometimes blue set on the grounds of the community center and a steady stream of people walking back from the iconic green Waioli Huiia Church parking lot. Get there early for the best selection of goods or risk going home empty handed.

We go because this is the best place to buy fruit that’s picked ripe and so fresh the ends still drip with sap. These farmers aren’t always full-time tenders of the land, but what they offer is as unique as the season.

“Try one.” This stand features lychee nuts in their crusty brown shells. They’re nothing to look at but take a knife to split one open and you find white translucent fruit with its signature small black nut. Saving that for an art project seems to keep kids as happy as eating the slightly sweet berry.

“Fresh, ready to eat,” confirmed the woman as my hand hovered over a stack of papayas. This is the fruit I miss the most on the mainland, cut in half and scooped of its peppery seeds, a rich dark orange pulp made to pair with a squeeze of fresh lime. Which she also has, by the way.

We return to our little condo kitchen with enough fruit to last us until midweek, when we’ll travel to other farmers markets. Pineapple, mangoes, apple bananas – whatever’s in season. Each morning we relish our daily fruit salad, giddy in the knowledge that we bought from the source and saved money to boot. Dragon fruit (the fuzzy pink one) makes a wonderful dessert or snack, spooning out the sweet goodness of something akin to ice cream in texture but lacking the cloying sweetness that leaves your teeth aching.

Other goodies await you, like non-tchotchke souvenirs. Check out the fabric products, including table runners and purses. Art is a given, often featuring the surrounding mountains, ocean waves, and plant and animal life. Custom jewelry, hats and clothes fill other stalls to overflowing.

When you plan your next Kauai North Shore adventure, arrive on Friday and make a commitment to visit the farmers market in Hanalei. Try at least one thing you’ve never eaten before and bring home your own stash of fruit. Warning – leaving that tropical goodness behind brings about separation anxiety!

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