Kauai, the oldest Hawaiian island, has a colorful historical and cultural background. This is evident from the presence of numerous heritage sites, where pieces of political, cultural, environmental and social history have been preserved due to their heritage value.
These are not World Heritage Sites, but popular historic and natural spots you must visit if you’re keen on uncovering the roots that formed the island we see today. Some of these sites are also included in the National Register of Historic Places in Hawaii.
In this blog post, we intend to acquaint yourself with five such historical and geologically prominent sites in Kauai. So, get ready to begin your journey through time.
1. Kilohana Plantation
Kilohana Plantation is the place to visit if you want to walk through orchards and blend history with some exquisite dining in one of Kauai’s finest restaurants.
The plantation in its ancient days was mainly used for cattle farming and sugar production. With changing times and owners, the estate transformed into the Kilohana Plantation that we see today.
The grand mansion at the heart of the property, was both a homestead and a place for exuberant social gatherings for the Wilcox family. The original wooden furniture and art decors inside the mansion can be found even today.
Once inside the Kilohana Plantation, you can hop on the plantation railway, take a tour of the entire property, taste genuine island made rum and shop to your heart’s content.
The highlight of your visit will be the evening theatrical luau show, luau Kalamaku, which will blow your senses and taste buds with some amazing performances and a Hawaiian style buffet dinner.
Location: Lihue (Eastern Side)
2. Old Koloa Sugar Mill
This is designated as a National Historic Landmark for a reason. Old Koloa Town marked the beginning of Hawaii’s largest industry back then – The Sugar Industry. After its inception in the 1830s, due to changing political scenario and growing competition, the mill unfortunately closed in 1996. The stone pillar and chimney from its early days can still be seen today
Back in its heyday, people from different ethnic groups thrived here and shaped the island’s diverse culture that we see today. As a tribute to these communities and the locals who welcomed them, a 9 day festival called Koloa Plantation Days is celebrated in July every year. Music, dance and mouth watering food form the highlights of the festival.
You can see the see the Old Koloa Sugar Mill by taking a 10 mile walk or bike ride along the Koloa Heritage Trail, which traverses through Kauai’s prominent historic and archaeological sites.
Location: Koloa (South Shore)
3. Kilauea Lighthouse
Named after U.S senator Daniel K Inouye, this monument recently celebrated its centennial anniversary. The lighthouse stands on a rocky peninsula, 180ft above the Pacific ocean. It was originally built as a light beacon to aid ships carrying commercial cargo in and out of Kauai.
Built with Classic Revival Style architecture, people of Kauai derive immense pride from this monument as it was built with ingenious plans and extraordinary effort owing to its location.
In the late 1970s, Kilauea lighthouse was converted to a visitor center and was later added to the list of National Register of Historic Places in Hawaii. In 1985, the Kiluaea Point National Wildlife Refuge was started, by expanding and developing the area to serve as a natural habitat for endangered bird species.
Location: Kilauea (North Shore)
4. Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail
Kauai is a car island. But the satisfaction derived from a soothing nature walk along the shore is beyond comparison. The 4 mile long Mahaulepu Heritage trail offers a similar experience as you’ll be coursing through pristine beaches over sand dunes and limestone rocks formed over 300,000 years ago.
The trail starts at the Grand Hyatt’s seaview terrace, and subsequently leads you through worthy pitstops like the Heiau Hoouluia (where people used to pray for a good catch of fish), the Makauwahi Cave (an archeological wonder), and ends with an uphill hike to Kawaiola Bay.
The entire trail rests on a higher elevation compared to sea level and will give you ample vantage points to spot humpback whales during the whale watching season.
Location: Poipu (South Shore)
5. Wailua River State Park
The quaint little town of Wailua has carved for itself a significant spot in Kauai’s history. This was where the first migratory Tahitians arrived on the island and settled down.
Wailua State Park is home to Wailua River, which is Kauai’s largest and only navigable river. The Wailua Complex of Heiau (ancient places of worship) that we see today was only accessible to the Royal families in the region. Today, this site is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Along with Heiaus, you will also come across places of refuge and birthstones, where the queens used to give birth to royal heirs.
Wailua River State Park is not only rich in history but is also blessed in terms of natural beauty. The location has been a popular filming location on the island- all thanks to the lush foliage and the two-tiered Wailua falls, which was featured in the opening credits of hit TV series, Fantasy Island.
Location: Near Wailua (Eastern Side)
Summary and Infographic
These heritage sites not only help the locals derive a strong sense of appreciation for the land’s history and culture, but also serve as an educational resource for the current and future generations.
So, are you ready to take a refresher course on Kauai’s history and geology? Then grab your camera and get ready to travel back in time by visiting these amazing heritage sites. Do let us know about your experiences.