Vacation Rental in Princeville Kauai
and Kauai Travel Guide
Kauai East Side Sights
Kauai's east coast is where most of the island's people live. The two main towns
of Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a are here as well as populated and developed areas such as Wailua
and Anahola. The area is, however, by no means densely populated. Lihu‘e and Kapaa
each have a population of less than 10,000 inhabitants. Lihu‘e is the seat of county
government for Kauai County, which includes the islands of Kauai and Ni‘ihau. Kapaa
is just a few miles up the highway from Lihu‘e. Commuter traffic clogs the three-
Mauka (inland) of the east coast are Kilohana Crater behind Lîhu'e, and Kâlepa Ridge and Nounou Ridge (Sleeping Giant) behind Wailua. The land in the valleys that slice into the ridges is utilized principally for growing sugar cane. Small farms and acreages dot the landscape as well. Fine beaches and resorts line the east coast. Many visitors choose to stay here when visiting Kaua‘i because of its central location to the north and south shores as well as its proximity to the airport at Lîhu‘e.
Līhu‘e is the seat of government for the County of Kauai, the island's commercial
center and the arrival point of nearly all visitors. Lihu‘e Airport is located on
the coast, a mile east of the town center. It was opened in 1950 and has been modernized
and expanded several times since. With only a 6,500-
Along with being the county seat, Lihu‘e houses offices for the state and federal governments. The Kauai Community College is situated in nearby Puhi. Workers and students from all over the island converge on and then leave Lihu‘e each day.
Lihu‘e did not figure in the island's history until 1837 when Kauai Governor Kaiki‘oewa chose it as a site to plant sugar cane. He moved his capital there from Waimea and built a residence and church. The ancient name for this area was Kala‘iamea, which means, "calm reddish brown place." Kaiki‘oewa named his new home, Lihu‘e, which means "goose flesh," after his homeland on O‘ahu. The local sugar industry grew as the Lihu‘e Plantation was founded in 1849 and a mill was started in 1851.
Lihue harbor opened in 1930. That, with the opening of a modern airport in 1950 started the transformation of Lihu‘e from a plantation town to a commercial center. In the 1960s, Lihue Plantation began converting some of its cane land to commercial and residential developments. Office buildings and the Lihue Shopping Center were built near the town center. Residential subdivisions gave plantation workers their first opportunity for home ownership.
The downtown section, on Rice Street, has a few architecturally interesting buildings
that house government offices. Definitely worth visiting is the Kauai Museum—the
best Hawaiian museum outside of Oahu. The museum's collections are displayed in
two buildings. The museum entrance is in the Wilcox Building, which was built by
the missionary family's Emma Wilcox in 1924 as the first public library in Kauai.
The displays begin with murals and dioramas depicting Kauai's volcanic birth under
the ocean floor. Exhibits move on to cover the arrival of Polynesians, the landing
of Captain Cook, the missionary influence and the early days of the sugar cane industry.
Important artifacts from Hawaii's monarchy period and a beautiful, hand-
The Kauai Museum is located at 4428 Rice St. Its phone number is 245-
Nawiliwili Bay, the deep-
On the north side of the bay is Nāwiliwili Park. The seaward edge of the park is a concrete retaining wall facing Kālapakī Bay. The park is popular for picnicking and fishing. Beyond Nāwiliwili Stream, which flows through the north end of the park, are Kālapakī Beach and the Marriott resort (see Beaches chapter).
One and a half miles along Nawiliwili Road from Nawiliwili Park is the Grove Farm
Homestead Plantation Museum. A small sign on the north side of the road marks it.
The museum is the two-
Up the hill from Nawiliwili Park on Nawiliwili Road is the south turnoff to Menehune
Fishpond. The viewpoint over the fishpond is a mile up Niumalu and then Hulemalū
Roads. Across a large bend in the Hule‘ia Stream is a 900-
Hawaiian legend says that the race of people called Menehune placed the stones on the facing of the dam at the request of Chief ‘Alekoko and Chiefess Kalālālehua. The Menehune would not do this job unless the Chief and his wife agreed to remain in their house and not peek at their work. Throughout the night the Menehune passed the stones hand to hand from the plains of Wahiawa. Chief ‘Alekoko listened to the voices of the workers and the sounds of stone falling on stone until he couldn't stand it any more and peered out from his grass house. Immediately, the Menehune chief ordered his people to stop work on the wall. The Menehune workers, who had been handling rough stones all night, washed their bleeding hands in the almost completed fishpond and left. The unfinished fishpond stood as a reminder to Chief ‘Alekoko of a promise broken. To this day, the fishpond bears the name ‘Alekoko, which means, "rippling blood."
Rather than turning around on Hulemalû Road and returning to Lihue, you can continue and make your way back to the Highway 50 at Puhi, across from the Kauai Community College. This area is called Kipu, which means, "to remain as mist or rain." William Hyde Rice, who bought 1,800 acres of land from Oahu ali'i, founded the Kipu Ranch in 1912. Magnificent rows of Norfolk pine trees mark the entrance to the cattle ranch. Shipbuilders prized these tall, straight trees to use as their masts. You can take the side road to the ranch entrance gate and see a monument dedicated to Mr. Rice by his Japanese workers.
At the highway, in front of the college is a marker indicating the scene of Queen Victoria's Profile. Nature has formed a resemblance of the British monarch in the east slope of Mount Hā‘upu in the Hoary Head Ridge to the south. With some imagination you can make out the queen's crown, her noble profile facing left and an erect finger. Local wits, such as tour bus drivers, like to say she is pointing her finger at her grandson, William II, and admonishing him with the words "Now Willy Willy" (she's facing Nawiliwili Bay).
On the north side of the highway, between the community college and Lihu‘e's Kukui
Grove Shopping Center is Kilohana Plantation Estates. Once, sugar was king on Kauai
and the prosperity it grew for plantation owners is captured and preserved here at
Kilohana. Built is 1935, the manor house of Gaylord Parke Wilcox, once head of Grove
Farm Plantation, was to become the most expensive and most beautiful home ever built
on Kauai. Visitors are free to wander through the halls and great room filled with
artwork, antique furniture and crafts. Display cases show off stone poi pounders
and Hawaiian artifacts. Most of the smaller rooms are leased to art and Hawaiian
crafts shops. Gaylord's restaurant is in the U-
When you are at Nawiliwili Bay, you can look out to the open water and see Ninini Point and a lighthouse marking the north side of the bay's entrance. It's possible to drive to the point to see the lighthouse as well as a spectacular view of the bay and Hoary Head Ridge. In Lihue, turn off Kapule Highway (Highway 51) across from Vidinha Stadium, halfway between Ahukini Road (the airport entrance road) and Rice Street. Drive past a guardhouse as the road turns left and then makes two gentle right turns. The road goes around the golf course and gives you a very close look at the airport's main runway. In two miles, the road turns to dirt and ends at Ninini Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse, which was built in 1932, stands 118 feet above the water and its light is visible for 17 miles. A couple of picnic tables stand next to the foundation of what was the lightkeepers quarters. As a bonus to the views of the coastline, you will be treated to close up looks of the underside of roaring jets coming in to land at the airport.
You can take an alternate route when you leave Ninini Point. Just past the parking area, at the runway fence, take the dirt road that forks to the right. This will lead you around the other side of the airport and end at Ahukini Recreation Pier State Park on the south side of Hanama‘ulu Bay. The old pier and the breakwater were built in the 1920s to facilitate the shipping needs of the sugar plantations. It was used extensively until 1945 when shipping operations were relocated to Nawiliwili Harbor. The pier was dismantled and in 1978 the landing was converted to a park that has become a prime locale for pole fishing. Ahukini Road crosses abandoned narrow gauge railway tracks and returns to the airport and then Kapule Highway.
The valley of the Wailua River was considered one of the most sacred areas in all of ancient Hawai‘i. Kings chose Wailua as their capital and it was the home of the high chiefs of Kauai. Legends tell of sailors who journeyed to Wailua from Tahiti and returned to spread the word of this sacred place. Before the 13th century, Wailua was famous throughout Hawai‘i as well as parts of Central Polynesia. The heart of this area was called Wailua Nui Hoano, or Great Sacred Wailua. It extended from the mouth of the Wailua River for two miles along the south bank and for three miles along the northern section. This area was reserved for the ali‘i of Kauai. A commoner was allowed in this exalted area only with the permission of an ali‘i.
It was no wonder that Wailua was such a desirable place to live in ancient Hawaii, for it was a garden of plenty. The Wailua River supplied fresh water in abundance and the fertile soil was ideal for growing taro, yams and bananas. The ocean offered fish and the coconut trees were a source of food, utensils and fibers.
Wailua means "two waters" because the river splits into a north fork and a south fork, two miles from the ocean. The Wailua River is 12 miles long from its source at Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, in the heart of the island, to the ocean. It is claimed to be the only navigable waterway in Hawai‘i.
On the river's south fork is the 80-
Between mile markers four and five on the Kūhiō Highway you will see the Wailua County Golf Course on the makai side and Kalepa Ridge on the mauka side. The ridge is a remnant of older lava flows that stood while new lava flowed around it. The bare sides of the ridge were covered with sandalwood forests 200 years ago. The trees were cut down and sold to foreign markets that valued the fragrant wood.
At mile marker five, a signs directs the way onto Leho Drive and to Lydgate State
Park. The park is named after Rev. John Lydgate, a Protestant minister who was a
founder of the Kauai Historical Society and an advocate of preserving historic sites
on Kauai. The park features the Kamalani Playground, which was designed by architect
Bob Leathers and built by community volunteers. Keiki (children) are free to walk
into a play lava tube and crawl up the inside of a 20-
North of Lydgate State Park's parking lot, under a coconut grove, are the remains of the heiau, Hikina a ka Lā, meaning "rising of the sun." Here on Kauai's eastern shore, the sun's rays would first hit the large structure, 395 feet long, 80 feet wide at the front and 56 feet wide at the rear. The stone walls of the enclosure measured 8 to 11 feet thick and 6 feet high. Centuries later, the remains appear mostly as a loose collection of large stones forming a rough outline. Originally, the walls of Hikina a ka Lā were formed from great slabs of rock set on end in a double row, with the space between filled with smaller stones. The paved interior was divided into three sections. The middle section held graves belonging to a family that reportedly desecrated the place by living and cultivating land within the walls of the sacred structure. Part of the interior was a pu‘uhonua, or place of refuge. This pu‘uhonua, on the banks of the Wailua River, was called Hauola. A person who had committed a crime or broken a kapu and reached the place of refuge would be safe from punishment within its walls. The person would then remain at the refuge for several days and perform certain rites prescribed by the priests. The expunged kapu breaker could then return to society, free from retribution. Along the shore, at the south edge of the mouth of the Wailua River, are boulders with petroglyphs carved on them. Depending on the flow of the river, they may be exposed or they may be covered with sand.
Another heiau stands a few hundred yards to the west of Hikina a ka Lā, on the other side of the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort and the highway. The Malae Heiau stands about 50 feet west of the highway. At 273 feet by 324 feet in size, Malae is the largest heiau on Kauai. Its outer walls were 7 to 10 feet high and 13 feet thick. Back in its day of use, there was an altar in the middle of the enclosure. All around the inside of the wall was a ledge six feet wide and two feet above the ground on which people could sit during ceremonies. After being converted to Christianity in 1830, Debora Kapule, wife of Kauai's King Kaumuali‘i, used the high walls of the enclosure as a cattle pen to signify that it was no longer a holy place. The jungle swallowed the heiau when maintenance was halted after the queen's death. Builders of the sugar plantations in the late 1800s and early 1900s pillaged the heiau's rock walls for construction materials. This prompted the Rev. John Lydgate and other civic leaders to found the Kauai Historical Society in 1914 to protect the Malae Heiau and others. Recently, 400 volunteers worked to rid the heiau of the guava trees, java plum and weeds that overran it. Plans of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources call for an additional seven acres around the heiau to be cleared for a cultural park with interpretive signs.
Turning mauka at the road on the south bank of the Wailua River takes you to the
Wailua marina. The Parks Division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources
built the marina to accommodate the great volume of visitors who take the riverboat
excursion up river to the state park at the Fern Grotto. Besides the visitors staying
on Kauai, the visitors on one-
West of the Wailua marina is the theme gardens of Smith's Tropical Paradise. You
can stroll along a mile-
Immediately north of Wailua River is Kuamo‘o Road. In ancient times, the "path of
chiefs" originated at the river's mouth and passed by several heiaus before ending
at Wai‘ale‘ale at the center of the island. The second road going towards the river
off of Kuamo‘o Road leads a few yards to a small boat-
To the right and slightly beyond Holoholokū's enclosure are the Royal Birthstones. The birthstones are two large pieces of smooth stone—one supported the woman's back and the second was a brace for her feet. A grass house was adjacent to the stones where the expectant mother would stay until the moment of birth drew near. It was essential for women of royalty to come to the royal birthstones in order to insure the royal status of the newborn infant. After the birth of a royal infant, the umbilical cord was cut and wedged into the wall of the stone bluff rising behind the birthstones and covered with rocks and hala seeds to keep rats away. If the umbilical cord of an infant were to be eaten by rats, it was believed that the child would grow up to be a thief.
Kuamo‘o Road begins an incline onto a ridge. Kuamo‘o means "spine of a lizard" and the Wailua River represents the fluid running through the spine. A dirt road appears to the left just after mile marker one. The dirt road angles behind so it is easier to approach from the other direction. About two hundred yards along the dirt road two upright boulders stand at the edge of the bluff. One of these, no one is sure which, is the Bellstone. One legend states that the newborn child of a chief was carried up the hill from the Royal Birthstones to a boulder on the ridge overlooking the valley. The kahunas would strike the Bellstone with a rock in a way that would bring forth a sonorous sound that carried up and down the Wailua Valley announcing to everyone that a new chief was among them. Both of the stones have chips in them, probably from the curious trying to make a rock sound like a bell. You may try too. A petroglyph is carved onto one of the stones. Its design is too perfect and its archaeological importance is suspect.
Two hundred yards up the road is the Poli‘ahu Heiau. It is a relatively well-
A few yards up the road from Poli‘ahu Heiau and on the opposite side is the parking
lot for the ‘Opaeka‘a Falls viewpoint. From the parking lot, which has restrooms,
walk the short path to viewpoint of the 200-
Directly across the road from the falls viewpoint is another viewpoint of the Wailua River valley. To the right, you can see where the river splits into a north and a south fork. Both forks narrow shortly after the split and even kayakers will have to turn around. The Fern Grotto is on the south fork and Wailua Falls is two miles upstream of that.
Below the viewpoint, on the north bank of the river, are the thatched huts of Kamukila
Hawaiian Village (823-
Kuamo‘o Road (Highway 580) continues west towards the heart of the island. The air cools as you pass through the residential neighborhoods of Wailua Heights and then on to the Homesteads. This area of cattle ranches, vegetable farms and poultry ranches was settled by homesteaders awarded land grants after Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1900. The road becomes a rough 4WD trail at a stream crossing, 6.7 miles from the Kuhio Highway intersection. On the other side of the stream is Keahua Arboretum. If the stream is low you can drive across, or you can park and walk the few yards to the arboretum trail. The trail begins at a stand of painted eucalyptus trees. Unfortunately, many of the trees are not labeled. The short trail carries over a knoll where picnic tables look over a valley to the west. If you are lucky and clouds don't obscure the view, you can see the volcanic center of Kauai and the highest point of the island. The peak on the south end of the steep ridge is Kawaikini, which rises to 5, 243 feet. Follow the ridge a mile to the north to see Wai‘ale‘ale with an altitude of 5,148 feet.
Nounou Ridge stretches north for two miles from ‘Opaeka‘a Falls. The ridge reaches its highest elevation of 1,241 feet in its middle. The east side of the ridge slopes gradually to the coast—evidence of the original slope of Wai‘ale‘ale. Erosion has erased nearly every other remnant of the slope on the island. More colorfully, the elongated mountain is called Sleeping Giant. When viewed from the east, Nounou offers a profile vaguely resembling a giant in repose, its feet to the right, its head on the left and the high point in the middle being its chest. A sign on the highway points to a Sleeping Giant viewpoint behind the Waipouli Complex.
Legend says the giant, named Puni, was sleeping when a fleet of war canoes from Oahu attacked. The Menehune, who were friends of Puni, tried to wake him, but to no avail. When their pushes and prods didn't work, they lit huge bonfires around Puni, but he didn't waken. In desperation the Menehune threw large rocks on Puni's stomach, which bounced off and into the sea near the canoes. When the invading forces saw boulders dropping around them and the illuminated outline of a giant on land they turned and fled for home. The next morning, the Menehune tried to wake Puni to thank him, but their friendly giant would not stir. Sadly, some of the rocks bouncing off his stomach landed in his mouth and choked him to death.
The Kuhio Highway between Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a can become congested, especially during
morning and afternoon commutes. To help alleviate the traffic problem, the Kapaa
Bypass Road is utilized everyday from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The road runs through
private land and is gated during off hours. The south end of the bypass connects
with the highway between mile markers six and seven. It runs mauka of Waipouli and
reconnects with the highway at Kapaa's town center, at the traffic lights next to
the ABC store. The bypass is designated as a temporary road pending re-
The area north of the bypass turnoff is called the Royal Coconut Coast. Rows of planted coconut trees tower and sway above both sides of the highway. This area has been developed with four resort hotels, a condominium complex and the Coconut Marketplace shopping center.
Kapa‘a is a charming small town with falsefront stores painted in bright colors and
North of Kapaa, the Kuhio Highway crosses over Kapa‘a Stream and runs along the length of Kealia Beach. Hawaiians used to collect seawater to dry into salt along this coast. Salt was needed to preserve fish and flavor poi. Little is left of the plantation town that later developed in this area. Kealia had a sugar mill, a train depot and a steamer landing.
The spread out village of Anahola straddles the highway at mile markers 13 and 14.
Almost a hundred years ago it was designated as a settlement where Hawaiian people
could live and acquire land with long-
Behind Anahola stand the beautifully rugged Kalalea Mountains, which stand at the east end of the Anahola Range. The peak on the left is Hoku‘alele, which means "shooting star." Atop this peak was a heiau with three terraces. Next to Hoku‘alele is Kalalea, which means "prominent." Commonly, the peak is called King Kong's Profile. Before the famous ape debuted on movie screens, Hawaiians thought the mountain's sharp outline resembled the dorsal fin of a shark as it cleaved the surface of the sea.
Near the top of the ridge to the right of King Kong's Profile is Hole In The Mountain. Erosion and landslides on both sides of the ridge have exposed a lava tube that once ran from the volcanic center of the island to the sea. In the early 1980s, more landslides filled the hole until it nearly disappeared. Erosion is again opening the hole so that a small amount of daylight is visible through the mountain. There are many legends to account for the hole. Several involve a spear being hurled through the mountain. There is a viewpoint for King Kong's Profile between mile markers 14 and 15. Hole In The Mountain can be seen between mile markers 15 and 16.
The Kuhio Highway reaches farther inland as it heads north and west and approaches the north shore. Ko‘olau Road connects with the highway at mile marker 16 and again in three miles. It's an alternate route you can take for a change of pace and scenery. Side roads lead off Ko‘olau Road to Moloa‘a Bay and Larsen's Beach (see Beaches chapter).