Popular for the Waimea Canyon and Paniolo history (cowboys), the little town of Waimea on the West side of Kauai is home to small businesses as well as budding Tech companies.
In the Hawaiian language, “Waimea” literally means “red water” – named after the dark color of the water in the bay. This is due to the sediment brought about from Waimea Canyon – a spectacular sight of nature that is unlike anything else in the island of Hawaii.
Once you find yourself in this calm, laid back town of Kauai, here are 3 places you can visit that will amplify your Waimea experience:
1. Russian Fort Elizabeth Historical Park
Russian Fort Elizabeth, located at the site of former Fort Elizabeth, is the last remaining Russian fort on the Hawaiian islands. This star shaped fort was built in the early 19th century by the American- Russian company in alliance with the High Chief Kuamuali, the last independent Ali’i nui (supreme ruler of the island) of Kauai and Niihau.
Russian fort Elizabeth is a National Historic Landmark, located on the Kuamuali Highway, to the south east of Waimea, now administered as Russian fort Elizabeth state historical park.
Lying in a setting with a stark contrast of bright red soil and lush greenery, this fort is surrounded by massive stone stacked walls which impart a unique geometry to it. The irony is that we do not get to see the complete fort, for the main reason that it was never completed!
After the construction of the fort started in 1816, due to sudden circumstances, it was stopped a year later, leaving the fort half built. The fort was later dismantled in the 1860s and only little remains of it today.
Though there isn’t much left of the fort to see, this is a must visit if you’re a history buff. Also the natural setting in which the fort is located, is worth checking out. You can walk to the view point of the beach below to see the river joining the Pacific ocean, spend some time there and enjoy the delightful view.
Plan this as a quick 30 minute stop when you’re in Waimea. Don’t miss this if you’re a history buff.
2. Waimea Canyon Drive
One of the main reasons tourists head towards Waimea is to witness the ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ and to explore the Kokee State Park.
The best way to explore the scenic lookouts in Waimea and Kokee State Park is by taking a drive. Drive along highway 550 and stop at the lookouts- Waimea canyon lookout, Puu Hina Hina lookout, Pu’u O Kila lookout and the Kalalau lookout – to witness the massive Waimea Canyon and Kalalau Valley like never before.
If you’re interested in getting your feet dirty, there are many short trails along the way. We recommend that you hike the canyon trail all the way to Waipoo Falls, as it is a simple yet scenic trail. This trail originates from the Pu’u Hinahina lookout. If you’re a seasoned hiker, there are a dozen more hiking trails in the Waimea- Kokee state parks to satisfy your appetite.
Tourists who come to Kauai only for the beaches are often surprised when they explore the state parks in Waimea. Hiking, camping, long nature walks, witnessing the local fauna, and visiting the NASA station here are some of the other amazing things you can do on this adventure filled part of Waimea.
3. West Kauai Tech and Visitors Center
The West Kauai Tech and Visitors Center is located at the corner of Waimea Canyon Drive (Highway 550) and the Kaumualii Highway (Highway 50). You can head to the visitors center before you start your Waimea Canyon Expedition.
Visiting the West Kauai Tech and Visitors Center is similar to savoring every bit of Waimea – but in one place! The displays here include vintage photos and artefacts on Waimea’s natural and cultural history. You will be introduced to Waimeas local practices like salt making and herbal medicine, learn about Captain Cook’s arrival and the Cook landing site, the sugar plantation era, local Cowboy culture and many more interesting facts.
With prior reservations, you can take part in the Guided Walking tour of Waimea conducted every Monday. The tour is led by the natives of Waimea and will take you through all significant locations in Waimea like the Cook landing site and the Waimea pier. During this tour, you will experience the transformation that Waimea has gone through over the course of history.
Summary and Infographic
Although a small town, Waimea is full of charm, which you will immediately discover after you stroll down the street and catch a local resident smiling at you. In today’s technology driven world, this is a an off beat and relaxing place to be in.
As you head to the Waimea Canyon, explore this culturally rich town in its entirety and recharge yourself for the big adventure that is waiting to unfold.