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Historic Places

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Historic Places of Kauaʻi

Kauaʻi is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, giving its people a strong appreciation for local history and culture. From Captain Cook’s arrival in Waimea to the first sugar plantation in Kōloa, take the time to explore Kauaʻi’s rich history.

Heritage Sites

Kauaʻi has two Heritage Sites of Hawaiʻi — special places located throughout the islands that provide significant historical, cultural and environmental contributions to the understanding and enjoyment of the state. Waimea Canyon State Park, appropriately nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” stretches for 14 miles within Kauaʻi’s west side and offers breathtaking canyon panoramas and great hiking trails. 

Meanwhile, the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Lighthouse at Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge rewards visitors with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and the Kauaʻi’s rugged north coast. 

Small Towns

Kauaʻi also has many small towns with historical significance. In 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook landed in Hawaiʻi for the first time in Waimea Town. He named the paradise the “Sandwich Isles” after the Earl of Sandwich and introduced Hawaiʻi to the world. A statue of Cook now stands in Waimea Town to honor his discovery. 

Just east of Waimea is Hanapēpē Town. Once a thriving community in the mid-1900s, it’s now Kauaʻi’s art capital. Even further west on the South Shore is Old Kōloa Town. Home to Kauaʻi’s first sugar mill in 1835, an exploration of the Kōloa Heritage Trail will give you insight into the history of Kauaʻi and its multicultural population.

Museums

The island has many museums that allow you to see the Kauaʻi of the past. In Hanalei Town, the Waiʻoli Mission House and Waiʻoli Huiʻia Church give you a glimpse of missionary life in the 1830s. North of Waimea Canyon is the Kōkeʻe Natural Museum in Kōkeʻe State Park, which offers an overview of the 4,345 acre park and the history of Waimea Canyon. 

The 100-acre Grove Farm Homestead Museum in Līhuʻe interprets how a sugar plantation worked in the 1860s. The Kauaʻi Museum, also in Līhuʻe, is the island’s most important museum for preserving native Hawaiian artifacts and historical photos and showcasing the artists of Kauaʻi.

Legendary Places

The people of Kauaʻi have passed down early stories that live on in places you can still visit today. Near Līhuʻe, visit ʻAlekoko Fishpond and learn about the Menehune, Hawaiʻi’s “little people” who, according to the story, built this 1000-year-old pond in one night. 

Legends also say that the hula began on the shores of Kauaʻi. On the Nāpali Coast, the Ka ‘Ulu o Laka heiau (temple) is a sacred spot where dancers still come to perform in honor of their strong hula traditions. Note: 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 the sites (including stones) and treat them with great reverence and respect.

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