Visit Hanapepe on Your Kauai Vacation

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PanioloDuring your stay in Kauai, be sure to include a visit to the historic town of Hanapepe, on Kauai’s South shore.  Known as Kauai’s “biggest little town,” Hanapepe is a window into a unique part of Hawaii’s past.  While much of the town’s architecture evokes a feeling of the old American West, the valley of Hanapepe was inhabited by the native people of Hawai`i, Kanaka Maoli, for centuries before the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778.

The fertile valley of Hanapepe is fed by the Hanapepe River, which flows through the town and into Hanapepe Bay, historically making Hanapepe an ideal location to produce crops, such as banana, sugar cane, sweet potato, rice, and kalo.  Much of the valley’s nutrient-rich soil has come from past landslides, giving the surrounding area its monumental slopes and cliffs, as well as its name, Hanapepe, which literally translates in English as, “crushed bay.”

Despite the area’s abundance of agricultural wealth, Hanapepe is distinctive as one of the few Kauaiian towns which were not established by the sugar plantations around the turn of the 20th century.  Hanapepe was an independent area, built with the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants, most of whom where Asian, originally arriving from China, Japan and the Philippines to work on Kauai’s sugar plantations.  As much of the skilled labor force of old Hanapepe Town, including its architects and carpenters, flowed from the same source as the labor force which built the American West, Hanapepe appears to be a portal to the old west, with Hawaiian flair.  Large display windows, pent roofs and awnings, and false front parapets are characteristic of old Hanapepe’s architecture, as well as the signature western style of vertical tongue in groove or board and batten siding.

Parts of Hanapepe may seem familiar, as the town’s authentically historical buildings have enchanted filmmakers.  Hanapepe Town has been a filming location for movies like The Thornbirds and Flight of the Intruder, as well as the inspiration for the hometown in Disney’s Lilo and Stitch.  Manawaiopuna Falls, in Hanapepe Valley, may evoke images of the prehistoric type, as the falls were featured in Jurassic Park.

Film is just one of Hanapepe Town’s links to the art world.  Also known as Kauai’s art capital, Hanapepe is home to the most fine art galleries in any one town on Kauai.  Many of the town’s old stores now function as galleries and studios for a variety of local artists.  Several of Hanapepe’s galleries are operated by the artists themselves, giving both viewers and buyers a more personal connection to the art displayed, with the opportunity to discuss the processes and products with the artists.  Every Friday night, from 6 PM to 9 PM, Hanapepe Town’s Art Night celebrates the local community and artists with festive food, music and a chance to meet more of the local artists and gallery owners on Hanapepe Road.

Along with the many fine art galleries, Hanapepe Town includes an assortment of stores and restaurants to excite any shopper.  Literature enthusiasts will want to visit the award-winning Talk Story Bookstore, which has the distinction of calling itself the Western-most bookstore in the United States, and an independent one at that!  As Kauai’s largest new, second-hand and out-of-print bookstore, Talk Story Bookstore is bound to have something for every reader.

While visiting Hanapepe Town, remember to pick up the full color Historic Hanapepe Walking Tour Map, available in most commercial stores in Hanapepe.  With over 43 locations that meet the State or National Historic Register Criteria, the small town of Hanapepe is brimming with captivating scenery.  Many people begin their walking tour at the Swinging Bridge, another must see in Hanapepe Town, though you may choose to start anywhere along Hanapepe Road.


Featured Rentals: Paniolo and Nalu

Facing Hanalei Bay, Paniolo and Nalu are neighbors on a large grassy lot.  Beautiful ocean and mountain views are seen from both 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom cottages.  These two charming cottages are decorated in a Hawaiiana design, both offering one king, one queen and two twin size beds, sleeping up to six or seven people.  Only steps to the beach and within walking distance to shopping and dining in Hanalei Town, these two rentals provide private tranquility, as well as easy access to fun.  Rent one or both for family and group getaways.

For more information and availability for Paniolo and Nalu, as well as our many other rental options on the wondrous island of Kauai, please feel free to call us at (800) 800-3637 or send us an email at