Small and sleepy Hanapepe Town was surprisingly once the economic center of Kauai, a busy town with two movie theaters, tons of shops, and surprisingly, three skating rinks. Today, the town has a focus on art, as over thirty galleries line the main street selling locally crafted jewelry, household goods, paintings and other art. Its rich history is evident, even with a quick stroll as most of the buildings have plaques sharing the dates and history of each structure. A sense of time gone by is evident with the simple building structures and lack of modern advances.
Hanapepe Town — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Walking tours are popular in Hanapepe, where visitors can explore and learn about the town's many buildings, over forty of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and swinging bridge. You can pick up the Historic Hanapepe Walking Tour Map for free in just about any of the shops or galleries, but here are the highlights of the tour.
Hanapepe's Swinging Bridge may be the town's most famous site. Reaching over Hanapepe River, the wooden plank footbridge bounces and shakes and offers a wonderful view down the river and into the valley. Originally built to run a water line across the river and into town, it's easily accessible from the middle of town.
The bridge is a great place to start, and then it's off to explore the rest of the town. At Talk Story Bookstore & Cafe, you'll learn it was started by the Shimonishi family who had a feed store and developed a thriving orchid farm in back. They still own this property and the adjoining property to the west. Mr. Shimonishi created the largest outdoor roller skating rink before transforming from auto sales and service to an orchid and feed store, a roller skating rink, antique shop, upholstery shop, hotel and art gallery.
Next, drop into Hanapepe Cafe & Espresso Bar in the old Igawa Drug Store. In classic style, the cafe originally had a '50s soda fountain before it was transformed into a fine-dining venue with candles and white linen on the tables. Today it boasts mostly gourmet dishes, pastries and coffee.
Fun and functional arts and crafts decorate the Banana Patch Studio which also has a little museum displaying old photographs of Kauai. Making a home in the restored Chang Building from 1926, which was once a bakery and then a pool hall, it's an ideal place to view the journey Hanapepe has had.
Hanapepe's swinging bridge — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
Right down the street is Kaua`i Fine Arts. The plaque on the front of the small building declares that it was once Seto’s Meat Market & Vidinha Feed Store. According to the plaque, "Built in the late 1800s by the Seto family, this building originally housed a meat market. Children coming home from school down the cliff trail often purchased a cut of beef for 25 cents for the family evening meal."
The sugar cane train, which hauled cane out of the valley, ran next to the building down Ko Road. As it would pass by, children in the area had fun grabbing loose pieces of cane from the train cars.
At what is now Sheldon Gate Jewelry Design, you can experience what was once the Serikawa Hotel which was opened in 1921 and provided lodging and meals for only $3 per night. Hot water for a shared bath was heated over an open fire in the evening. The family lived on the bottom floor and operated a restaurant, general store and sweet shop.
There's plenty more to explore, and remember that you can always begin your walking tour on a Friday night before Hanapepe Art Night begins. Offering food and music, it's a great way to get your weekend started.