Historic Places of Kauai
Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, giving its people a strong appreciation for its history and culture. From Captain Cook’s arrival in Waimea to the first sugar plantation in Koloa, take the time to explore Kauai’s rich history.
The people of Kauai have passed down early stories that live on in places you can still visit today. Near Lihue, visit Alekoko, Menehune Fishpond and learn about the Menehune, Hawaii’s mythical little people who, according to the legend, built this 1000-year old pond in one night. Legends also say that the hula began on the shores of Kauai. On the Napali Coast, the Ka Ulu o Laka heiau (temple) is a sacred place, where dancers still come to perform in honour of their strong hula traditions.
Note that heiau are sacred to the Hawaiian people and can be fragile and easily damaged. Do not climb over the rock walls, do not take anything from these sites (including stones) and treat these areas with great reverence and respect.
Kauai also has many small towns with big historical significance. In 1778, Waimea Town on the West Side was where Captain James Cook landed for the first time in Hawaii. A statue of Cook stands in the town in his honour. Waimea Town was honoured by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2006. Visit the West Kauai Technology and Visitor Center to learn more about this area.
Just east of Waimea is Hanapepe Town. Once a thriving community in the mid-1900s, it’s now Kauai’s art capital. Even further west just north of Poipu on the South Shore is Old Koloa Town. Home to Kauai’s first sugar mill in 1835, an exploration of the Koloa Heritage Trail will give you better insight into the history of Kauai and its multicultural population today.
Kauai has many museums that allow you to see the Kauai of the past. In Hanalei Town, the Waioli Mission House and Waioli Huiia Church give you a glimpse of missionary life in 1837. North of Waimea Canyon is the Kokee Natural Museum in Kokee State Park, which gives you an overview of this 1,758-hectare park and the history of Waimea Canyon. The 40-hectare Grove Farm Homestead Museum in Lihue also gives you an understanding of how a sugar plantation worked in 1864. The Kauai Museum, also in Lihue, is the island’s most important museum for preserving Native Hawaiian artifacts, displaying historical photos and showcasing the artists of Kauai.