With its laid back lifestyle westside sightseeing of the Garden Island feels like a world away. Step back in time to the charm of Kaua1’s westside that still maintains the true feel of old Hawaii.
Our first stop heading west of the Garden Isle where 97% of the land is used for agriculture and conservation is the Kauai Coffee Estate, the largest producer of five varieties of coffee beans in the United States. After a self-guided walking tour and learning about the coffee’s journey from tree to cup we sip free coffee samples.
On Highway #50 we keep watch for the sign to the historic and picturesque town of Hanapepe (means “crushed bay” in the Hawaiian language). Dubbed as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town”, Hanapepe features art galleries than anywhere else on the island and boasts historic buildings that are so authentic attracting filmmakers to use this storybook town as locations for movies like “The Thorn Birds”and “Flight of the Intruder” and the model hometown of Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch”. A jaunt over the century-old rickety Hanapepe Swinging Bridge is delightful- walking across the bridge as it creaks and sways in the wind. Not known to many of us, it was in this town where a group of Filipino laborers under the leadership of Pablo Manlapit protested against the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association for better wages and working conditions and ended in a strike battle that lasted for several days. More than 100 strikers were arrested, 16 Filipino workers and 4 policemen died and many others were wounded.
Gateway to the grandiose ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific” or Waimea Canyon is the seaport town of Waimea,which means “red water” in Hawaiian. Captain James Cook’s 1778 landing at Waimea Bay eventually changed the course of island history. A statue of the British explorer stands in the centre of the town to commemorate his first contact with the Hawaiian islands. Across the river from the historic town is the site of Russian Fort Elisabeth State landmark, the last remaining Russian fort dating back to 1816 built by an employee of the Russian Fur Company of Alaska hoping to seize Kaua’i for his Russian Czar.
Staying on Kekaha Road we pass through Kekaha, a country town complete with an old sugar mill and one-story wooden plantation homes.
A long dusty drive though Kaumualii Highway on an unpaved bouncy and poorly marked dirt sugarcane road rewards us in the end with the longest stretch of wild white sand beach of Polihale with its rolling sand dunes and uninhabited coastline.
Awe-inspiring and geological wonder Waimea Canyon is Kauai’s most famous visitor attraction. To experience its majesty the Waimea Canyon Drive leads us to a lookout point and to the main Waimea Canyon overlook.