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Since Kauai is the oldest of islands in this Pacific chain, it’s no surprise that it offers such a breadth and depth of cultural and environmental experiences -- a magnitude unparalleled even by its sister islands. Archaeologists speculate that the first "tourists" to Hawaii landed on Kauai perhaps as early as 500 A.D. The gentle Pacific Ocean trade winds that brought settlers from Marquesas, Tahiti, Samoa, and other South Pacific islands were the same that eventually led Captain James Cook to make his first landing in Hawaii on the shores near the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon, in 1778. Hanalei is one of the largest rivers in Hawaii and nurtured agricultural crops like taro in ancient times. Today, the Hanalei area provides more taro than anywhere else in Hawaii. Koloa, on Kauai’s southern shores, was a major whaling port as well as home to the state's first sugar mill built in the 1830s. The sugar industry brought an influx of immigrants from Asia and Europe who have shaped much of Kauai’s history and contributed to its cultural diversity. Today, the old town’s spirit lives on. In fact, some of the stores established by immigrant families are still in operation. You’ll find clothing stores, surf shops, ice cream parlors, and restaurants. If you want to learn more about Koloa town’s history, stop at the Koloa History Center and look at old photographs and artifacts.
Soaking up Kauai’s culture is as easy as soaking up its sun. Discover ancient sacred sites on the banks of rivers, near fishponds, in parks, or set among the cliffs. Kauai beaches are also filled with history and drama. Kaha Lani has a fabulous oceanfront walking path all the way to Lydgate Park, a family favorite. The coconut grove here once served as a place of refuge for the ancient Hawaiians. Those who it made here were spared punishment for breaking the law. With so much for the kids to explore, including a great jungle gym, they, too, may escape punishment. Make a stop at Alakukui Point for a magnificent view of the surrounding area. It’s also home to the Hawaiian temple, Kukui Heiau, which is on the registry of Hawaii and National Historic Places.
If you’re looking for educational displays of artifacts and contemporary crafts of the Native Hawaiians, head to the Kauai Museum. Lovers of culture will be intrigued by the legends, practices, crafts, and dances of Native Hawaiians. (Kauai luaus are always a good place to experience the culture.) You’ll begin to appreciate the contributions these diverse cultures have made and are still making, to Kauai's history. They can be found so many places -- botanical and cultural gardens, the Kokee Natural History Museum, the Waioli Mission, and charming historical towns like Hanalei, Hanapepe, and Lihue. Then again, you’ll feel Kauai’s rich history by simply being there. Just as it was a favorite dwelling place for kings and high chiefs and those seeking refuge, so shall it be for you.