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Historic Places

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Historic Places of Kauai

Kauai 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 Koloa, take the time to explore Kauai’s rich history.

Heritage Sites

Kauai has two Heritage Sites of Hawaii — 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 Kauai’s west side and offers breathtaking canyon panoramas and great hiking trails. 

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

Small Towns

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

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 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 insight into the history of Kauai and its multicultural population.


The island 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 the 1830s. North of Waimea Canyon is the Kokee Natural Museum in Kokee 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 Lihue interprets how a sugar plantation worked in the 1860s. The Kauai Museum, also in Lihue, is the island’s most important museum for preserving native Hawaiian artifacts and historical photos and showcasing the artists of Kauai.

Legendary Places

The people of Kauai have passed down early stories that live on in places you can still visit today. Near Lihue, visit Alekoko Fishpond and learn about the Menehune, Hawaii’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 Kauai. On the Napali 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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