As the oldest island in Hawaii, Kaua`i has a depth of history ranging from the time of the first settlers, to the coming of Captain Cook, to the days of the sugar plantations that shaped Hawaii. Each side of the island has significant cultural elements that are a can't miss for visitors who love history. While the west side stakes claim to the first place that Captain Cook set foot, the south side's claim to fame is home to the state's first sugar mill, the east side boasts a collection of sites that were sacred to ancient Hawaiians, and the North Shore holds a history of taro cultivation. History lovers will have plenty to explore on the Garden Island.
For history and culture on the west side check out:
-Russian Fort Elizabeth.
-Captain Cook monuments at Lucy Wright Beach Park and in front of the shops in town.
-Faye Museum at the Waimea Plantation Cottages.
-Historic town walking tour offered for free by a volunteer. For more information call the West Hawaii Technology Center, which also has an array of historical presentations and information.
Waimea's Captain Cook statue — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
For history and culture on the south side check out:
-Koloa History Center offering photos, books, and a wealth of information on the area.
-The sugar mill memorial at the end of Maluhia Road. Here a plaque remembers the immigrant workers who helped shaped the area's history, and a collection of sugar cane allows visitors to see sugar in its pure form.
-Prince Kuhio Park is located along the coast in Poipu. A sacred heiau can be found here, along with a stature and plaque dedicated to Prince Jonah Kuhio, the "people's prince."
For history and culture on the east side check out:
-The Kaua`i Museum on Rice Street. For a smaller museum it has an abundance of information, wonderful presentation both changing and permanent, and a gift shop with books and crafts.
-The Kilohana Plantation is a sprawling estate with manicured lawns, fruit, flowers, a train, and the former mansion of Gaylord Wilcox. Exploring the antique mansion, still decorated with original furnishings, jewelry, and other elegant artifacts is like a trip back in time. Spend time in the courtyard, explore the rooms and roam free. Around the time that Gaylord Wilcox moved the business offices of Grove Farm from the homestead site, he had the 16,000 square foot Kilohana plantation house built in 1936. After decades of family use, the building was renovated in 1986 and turned into shops that sell arts and crafts.
-Kamokila means stronghold, and Kamokila Hawaiian Village is Kaua’i’s only re-created Hawaiian village. Located on Kuamo`o Road, it has been formed on the site of an ancient royal village, the first of seven ancient villages in this valley. Resting on four acres, the location was once home to the last reigning king of Kaua’i, King Kaumuali’i. Village sites include the canoe house, the Outbreak movie set, a birth house, taro patches, wood carving house, village lagoon, petroglyphs, medicinal plants, and a lot more. When fruit is in season visitors are welcome to help themselves to it, and several huts have been reconstructed with traditional methods. In the courtyard traditional Hawaiian games are featured such as spear throwing and Hawaiian bowling. Kamokila has been resurrected to give visitors a glimpse of what island life was for ancient Hawaiians. It opened in 1981 and was almost destroyed by Hurricane Iwa in 1982 only to be damaged again in 1992 by hurricane Iniki. The village also offers outrigger canoe rides, hiking and swimming, access to Secret Falls, weddings, and a lu’au.