Cultural / Historical Sites and Attractions


Līhu‘e is Kaua‘i’s county seat, and home to various county offices as well as the island’s main airport. Līhu‘e is also Kaua‘i’s commercial center, and home to the island’s main harbor at Nāwiliwili Bay.

Līhu‘e’s rise as a population center began in 1837 when Kaua‘i’s Governor Kaikio‘ewa moved his capital from Waimea to Līhu‘e to begin planting sugarcane.

In 1849, the Lihue [Līhu‘e] Plantation was established, and milling began in 1851. Nāwiliwili Harbor opened in 1930, and the Līhu‘e Airport opened in 1950. Līhu‘e means “Cold chill.”[i]

Līhu‘e’s main thoroughfare is Rice Street, the location of the War Memorial & Convention Center, the Līhu‘e Shopping Center, and the Kaua‘i Museum. Kaua‘i Community College is located just off Kaumuali‘i Highway (Hwy. 50) near Puhi.

The Kaua‘i Museum is located on Rice Street in the impressive former town library building, which is notable for its stately Greco-Roman (Greek Revival) facade. The museum displays many ancient Hawaiian (and Kauaian) artifacts with information about Hawaiian history and culture.

Photographs show Kaua‘i’s post-contact period including the eras of rice and sugarcane. A gift shop sells books and a variety of other items.

Just next door is the Kaua‘i Historical Society, another repository of cultural and historical information. Membership in the Historical Society is open to the public, allowing access to manuscripts and photos.

Heading east on Rice Street leads to two sizeable shopping complexes, Harbor Mall and Anchor Cove, as well as Kalapakī Beach (see below).

[Līhu‘e, Kūhiō Highway (Hwy. 56) and Kaumuali‘i Highway (Hwy. 50).]

[Kaua‘i Museum, 4428 Rice Street, Līhu‘e, 808-245-6931, 9-4 M-F, 10-4 Sat., www.kauaimuseum.org.]

[Kaua‘i Historical Society, 808-245-3373, 4396 Rice Street, Suite 101, Līhu‘e, appointment required. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1778, Līhu‘e, HI, 96766, www.kauaihistoricalsociety.org.]

Grove Farm Homestead Plantation Museum

Grove Farm is located just south of Līhu‘e and just north of Nāwiliwili Harbor. Grove Farm’s 80-acre (32-ha) living museum includes the original relatively sparse 1864 cottage of George Norton Wilcox, and the two-story main house that George provided for his brother Sam and his family.

The main house was later home to George’s niece, Mabel Wilcox, who established the museum at Grove Farm in the 1970s. The home features floors made from the native ‘ōhi‘a lehua (Metrosideros species) as well as a staircase fashioned from koa (Acacia koa).

George Norton Wilcox was the second son of pioneering Wai‘oli missionaries Abner and Lucy Wilcox who served at Wai‘oli on Kaua‘i’s north shore from 1846 to 1869 (see Hanalei below). The original Grove Farm home was built in 1864, was later the home of Mabel Wilcox, the niece of George Norton Wilcox.

Notable features at Grove Farm include the plantation home estate’s period furniture and Hawaiian quilts. The tour includes the plantation cottage as well as a guest house, workers quarters, tropical gardens as well as orchards and pasture land. Tours are given by reservation only.

[Grove Farm Homestead, 808-245-3202, Nāwiliwili Road, Līhu‘e, tours M,W,Th 10 and 1, by reservation. Directions: Look for a small sign marking the entrance on the north (Līhu‘e) side of Nāwiliwili Road (Hwy. 58) about 1¼ miles (2 km) from Nāwiliwili Harbor.]

Nāwiliwili Bay and Harbor / Kalapakī Bay

Nāwiliwili Bay at the south end of Līhu‘e is Kaua‘i’s major deep-water port and commercial harbor. A long breakwater protects the port, which is used by fishing boats, whale-watching boats, cruise ships, container ships, and United States Navy vessels. On New Year’s Eve in 1941, a Japanese submersible shelled the area.

Nāwiliwili Park is located on the north side of Nāwiliwili Bay. On the ocean side of the park is a concrete wall that faces Kalapakī Bay.

Kalapakī Beach is located adjacent to Nāwiliwili Harbor, and in front of the Kaua‘i Lagoons Resort, which boasts of having the largest swimming pool in the Hawaiian Islands. Kalapakī’s gentle surf and a sandy bottom make it a popular swimming beach.

[Nāwiliwili Harbor, Wa‘apā Road, Līhu‘e.]

Ninini Point Lighthouse

Ninini Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1932 at the north end of Nāwiliwili Bay. The lighthouse is 86 feet (26 m) tall, and rises to 118 feet (36 m) above sea level.

Next to the lighthouse is the remaining stone foundation of the lightkeeper’s guest quarters. The visibility of the lighthouse beacon extends for 17 miles (27 km). Ninini means “Pour.”[ii]

Exiting from the lighthouse area by the right fork in the road (just after the parking area) leads to Ahukini Recreation Pier State Park, located at the south end of Hanamā‘ulu Bay. The breakwater and pier were constructed in the 1920s by sugar plantation owners, and were used until 1945 when a breakwater was constructed at Nāwiliwili, which then became Kaua‘i’s primary port.

The pier at Ahukini was taken down in 1978, and all that remains are cement pillars and the old framework, and a wooden walkway is now used by local fishermen. Hanamā‘ulu Bay Beach Park, located at the head of Hanamā‘ulu Bay, is a deep bay partially protected by a boulder breakwater.

[Ninini Point Lighthouse, north end of Nāwiliwili Bay. Directions: Take turnoff from Kapule Highway (Hwy. 51) between Rice Street and Ahukini Road (Hwy. 570), which leads to Līhu‘e Airport. The turnoff, about ½-mile (.8 km) south of Ahukini Road, goes around the golf course and then turns to dirt after about 2 miles (3.2 km), ending at the Ninini Point Lighthouse.]

Alekoko (Menehune) Fishpond / Hulē‘ia National Wildlife Refuge

The Alekoko Fishpond, commonly called Menehune Fishpond, is located just above Nāwiliwili Harbor on a bend in the Hulē‘ia Stream. Constructed of earth and faced with stone, the 900-foot (274-m) levee was built for the purpose of trapping and raising fish.

The walls of Alekoko Fishpond are about 4 feet (1.2 m) thick and 5 feet (1.5 m) high. In the 1800s, two of the three gaps in the levee were filled in by rice farmers.

Building the massive Alekoko Fishpond was a remarkable engineering feat that is attributed to the legendary ancient race of people known as menehune (see Menehune section, Chapter 3). The huge aquaculture facility is said to have been built in a single moonlit night by a 25-mile (40-km) long, double row of menehune who passed rocks to each other all the way from the source of the stones, the Makaweli Quarry in Waimea. Makaweli means “Fearful features.”[iii]

Hulē‘ia National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 238 acres (96 ha) and was established in 1973. The Refuge, which is not open to the public, provides habitat for numerous endangered Hawaiian waterbirds, including stilts, coots, and ducks.

The valley was the site of scenes in Raiders of the Lost Ark, including an opening scene escape by Indiana Jones. A small lookout can be reached by going ½-mile (.8 km) up Hulemalū Road.

[Alekoko (Menehune Fishpond). Directions: Take Nāwiliwili Road (Hwy. 58) or Kapule Highway (Hwy. 51) to Wa‘apā Road (which becomes Hulemalū Road) to the Overlook.]


Located just west of Līhu‘e, on the mauka (mountain) side of Kaumuali‘i Highway (Hwy. 50), Kilohana Plantation Estates’ 16,000-square-foot (1,486-sq.-m) Tudor mansion was built in 1935 in the English country house tradition.

The home was designed by renowned architect Mark Potter for Gaylord Parke Wilcox and his wife Ethel. Gaylord and Ethel Wilcox moved to Kaua‘i from Honolulu in 1936 when Gaylord took over the management of Grove Farm Plantation (see above).

Considered Kaua‘i’s first “mansion,” Kilohana was the most expensive home on the island at the time it was built. Gaylord and Ethel Wilcox had the new house constructed after tearing down the previous home on the site.

The old home was owned by Albert Spencer Wilcox and his wife Emma Napoleon Mahelona, who lived there from 1896 to 1935. Albert had purchased the land from the Lihue [Līhu‘e] Plantation when he worked as their manager.

After construction was finished, the Wilcox’s furnished the home with a large order from the high-class Gump’s store of San Francisco, and many of these furnishings remain in the home.

The self-sufficient Kilohana estate included a cattle ranch and a dairy herd as well as a milking shed, piggery, poultry house, carriage house, and horse stables. The estate also grew vegetables, taro, coffee, and various flowers.

Kilohana became a commercial venture in 1985 with the opening of Gaylord’s Restaurant, a garden courtyard restaurant. Various shops on the site sell local arts and crafts and specialty items. On display at the 35-acre (14-ha) site are rare Hawaiian artifacts as well as historic cottages, flower gardens, and agricultural exhibits.

Carriage rides pulled by Clydesdales allow tours of the estate’s grounds, including the gardens, livestock, and buildings that once housed workers for the plantation. There is also a Sugarcane History Tour carriage ride, and a weekly lū‘au (traditional Hawaiian feast).

[Kilohana Plantation Estates, 808-245-5608, 3-2087 Kaumuali‘i Highway (Hwy. 50), Līhu‘e; located between Kukui Grove Shopping Center and Kaua‘i Community College, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Līhu‘e on mauka side (mountain) side of Kaumuali‘i Highway. Open 9:30-9:30, Mon-Sat.; 9:30-5, Sun. Clydesdales horse-drawn carriage tour: 11-6:00, Mon.-Sat: 11-5 Sun. Sugarcane history tour: 246-9529; Historic high tea: Mon. and Sat. at 2 p.m. by reservation; Lū‘au: Tues, Thurs, 5 p.m.; kilohana@hawaiian.net.]

[i] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[ii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.

[iii] Pukui, Mary Kawena, Elbert, Samuel H., and Mookini, Esther T. Mookini. Place Names of Hawaii: Revised & Expanded Edition. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1974.