The cultural attractions of Kauai are among the most unique of the Hawaiian islands, despite the fact that most of the Hawaiians islands already have a unique culture all on their own. The Garden Isle is a land with a rich and varied culture, as seen in its local theater performers, songs, dance, music, language, food, and native arts.
Kauai’s unique culture pervades the whole island with the ready and happy smiles of its locals who were born with and live in the spirit of aloha. In this post, we’ll take you through the best Kauai towns to visit if you’re looking to take a dip into the island’s rich arts and culture scene. Beyond the island’s luxurious resorts and amazing scenery awaits a fun-filled cultural adventure.
Located on the south shore west of Koloa is Kauai’s art capital, Hanapepe. Hanapepe Town once flourished as one of Kauai’s largest and busiest communities, with soldiers and sailors stationed there for training during World War I.
Today, “Kauai’s biggest little town” hasn’t changed much over the last century at first look. However, plantation-style buildings from the 1950s are now home to charming shops, local eateries and more art galleries than any other spot on Kauai. It’s truly the definitive Kauai town to jot down on your list if you’re keen to immerse yourself in the island’s arts and culture scene.
Friday nights are the best times to wander through the town of Hanapepe. Every Friday, all of the town’s galleries open and shops and restaurants go bustling for Hanapepe Art Night. The outdoor scene filled with artists, musicians, and vendors of all types makes for a wonderful night out.
Fridays at Hanapepe also opens up a whole new world of flavors for visitors wanting to expand their palate. For quick and cheap eats, food trucks offer a wide variety of grub including some well-loved Hawaiian snacks. You know what they say – food is one of the best ways to appreciate a new culture.
Koloa is a small town with a big character on Kauai’s South Shore. Being one of the older towns on the island, it is a symbolic reminder of Kauai’s plantation days. The main street looks as though it were out of an old western movie, with a wood facade and boardwalks stretching around the front of the shops.
Missing out on Koloa would mean skipping some fantastic small-town character and charm – especially within the doors of the eclectic shops where you will find goods that can’t be found anywhere else on the island. The best time to visit would be during Koloa Plantation Days, a 10-day festive gathering showcasing a number of activities that allow travelers to witness and experience the island’s rich cultural diversity.
Today, Koloa Plantation Days features over 30 activities that span across Koloa and Poipu. Being a commemorative celebration of all the immigrants who have contributed to the rich melting pot that is Hawaii, the event highlight is definitely getting to experience a taste of various countries from the culinary demonstrations, film nights, craft fairs, and cultural performances that take place.
Waimea (Our home town)
The historic town of Waimea on the west side of Kauai is important to more than just Kauai locals. The town is home to various historical landmarks as it was James Cook’s first point of contact to the Hawaiian Islands. Visitors interested in Kauai’s arts and culture scene will have tons of places to explore
One cultural festival that visitors shouldn’t miss on a trip to Waimea is the Waimea Town Celebration that happens every February. This is Kauai’s oldest and largest annual festival that runs for 9 fun-filled days.
Waimea Town Celebration kicks in every year with a spirit to unite communities and bring several non-profits together for fundraising opportunities. The festival hosts a grand finale at the old mill site for continuous live and free entertainment, ono loco food, beer garden, and fun rides. Keep your schedule free for the Friday night party with live Hawaiian music as it’s a great way to get lost in the vibrant arts and culture scene on the island.
Waimea is also the home to perhaps the most famous natural wonder in Kauai, Waimea Canyon. Called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this steep, 3500′ canyon can be reached either from Waimea or the next town over of Kekaha.
You can also take part in the Guided Walking tour of Waimea conducted every Monday. The tour will take you through all significant locations in Waimea, including the Waimea pier and the Cook landing site.
A trip to Lihue cannot be complete without understanding its rich heritage. The art and cultural activities in Lihue will give you an insight into the city’s history, traditions, and artwork. While visiting the cultural attractions in Lihue would prove to be informative, attending its artsy events will leave you entertained.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the ever-brilliant Kauai Museum, a two-building museum complex that can take you through the progression of Kauai’s geography, natural history, and ethnological history over the years.
The museum building originally served as a library that was built to honor the late businessman who brought people from all over the world to Kauai with the several sugar plantations he developed.
Today, the Kauai Museum continuously supports local artists by providing them opportunities to hold exhibits. The museum has major shows on Kauai’s cultural heritage each year and has permanent collections dating back to the island’s Plantation Days, early Missionary influence, and the Orient influence on Kauai.
Plan a Kauai Arts and Culture Journey
When you take a walking tour of Hawaiian culture on Kauai, you’ll feel the spirit of aloha in the air. Hawaii’s Island of Discovery is proud of being the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain and a sense of pride is infused in Kauai’s history. We hope this guide has been helpful in planning a meaningful trip to the island, colored by an exploration to its enduring cultural scene.