After being cooped up in our house for a few days because of rain (and a sick daughter), visiting Hanapepe Old Town was a fun way for Brett and I to get out and spend an afternoon last week. We hadn’t been to Hanapepe in a while, and had heard there was a new restaurant we should check out, as well as some new shops.
The historic town of Hanapepe is home to art galleries, gift shops and boutiques, Kauai’s only bookstore, a few restaurants and a wonderful bakery. There was plenty to see and do on this short little stretch of road that forms a gentle curve off the Kaumualii Highway on the south side of the island. The best way to see the town is to park your car as soon as you arrive and walk, which is exactly what Brett and I did.
There’s lots of history in Hanapepe. While many of Kauai’s towns were built and owned by the sugar plantations, Hanapepe was created by entrepreneurial immigrants who had either retired from the plantations or could not adapt to the plantations’ strict working conditions. Most of the stores and shops on the street today are in renovated and refurbished buildings that have been around since the 1920s and 1930s. Many have plaques that tell when the building was erected, and what the original business was. For example, the Talk Story bookstore once was the home of the Yoshiura Store, which carried food and clothing, and carried often hard-to-find goods from Japan. We discovered other buildings that held a grocery store, a hardware store, and a bakery (a whole pie from the bakery was just 10¢ back in the 1930s!).
These days, every Friday evening Hanapepe hosts an Art Night, with sixteen galleries open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to meet and chat with the artists, and can enjoy local food and live music. There were several galleries open the day Brett and I visited, with a wide variety of genres for sale including oil paintings, photography, sculpture and even painted and lacquered surfboards.
One interesting piece of trivia about Hanapepe town is that it was the inspiration for Kokaua town, the fictional village in Disney’s animated film, Lilo & Stitch.
No visit to Hanapepe Old Town is complete without a walk across its swinging bridge. The bridge was originally built in the early 1900s as a way for people to get across the Hanapepe Stream to get into town. It was restored following Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and still rocks and sways as you walk over it. There is an art gallery on the far side of the stream once you cross the bridge, but the area is primarily residential and visitors are asked not to go any further than the gallery.
Outside of the historic old town, Hanapepe is also home to Lapperts Ice Cream, Anahola Granola, the Kauai Kookie Company, and Salty Wahine – all have retail outlets out on the main highway, or at the end of the old road, before you enter back on to the highway. The Salt Pond Beach Park is also in Hanapepe, offering a protected swim pond and views of Niihau (the “forbidden island” – it’s entirely owned by the Robinson family, and visitors are not allowed).