This small town’s history is present and relevant today
By Kristen Pedersen
We know Kauai for its incredible natural scenery, dense rainforests, and dramatic ocean cliffs. It has been the location for several Hollywood movies and television series, and is a popular destination for hiking and exploring. But, there is also a slice of history, alive and well, in the small town of Hanapepe, that warrants attention.
Hanapepe, a quiet town on Kauai’s south shore, is off the Kaumualii Highway, about 16 miles southwest of Lihue. With a population of just 2700, there may be as many free-range chickens on the streets as there are human residents. The lush Hanapepe Valley was home to native Hawaiians for centuries before Captain Cook arrived in 1778. Many crops were grown in the area, including banana, sugar cane, taro, and sweet potatoes. By the 1880’s, the sugar industry was flourishing in Hawaii, bringing Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants to the islands. While most stores and towns on Kauai were built by the sugar plantation owners, Hanapepe was largely built by entrepreneurial immigrants. Many workers who retired from the sugar plantations came to Hanapepe to grow taro, rice, or begin small farms or businesses to serve the local community.