Find stories of island’s own special king and how immigrants shaped the Garden Island.
If you want to understand Kauai, you could start by learning about King Kaumualii — and if you want to learn about him, you could start by visiting the Kauai Museum ($10-$15; kauaimuseum.org) in the town of Lihue, which is also home to the airport.
“He was all about peace and his people. He was the epitome of Aloha,” said Chucky Boy Chock, the museum’s director. “They felt safe with him.”
Kaumualii was the last independent king of Kauai, ruling for the 30 years preceding his death in 1824.
The colossal Big Island King Kamehameha twice sought to conquer Kauai. But “pule oo,” which Chock said means “powerful prayers,” twice intervened to protect Kaumualii and his island’s people, the director said.
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The rough waters between Oahu and Kauai wrecked one Kamehameha armada, Chock said. Disease ripped through a second before it set sail.
In the museum, you can see portraits of royals such as Kaumualii and reflect on what happened in later decades, when U.S. colonists started sugar plantations, took land, overthrew the Hawaiian kingdom and annexed the islands. That history still resonates on Kauai.
You can also see handmade wooden bowls, textiles made with beaten bark, and bright feather cloaks.
Don’t miss the second building, where displays tell stories about the contributions of immigrants from countries including China, Japan, Portugal and the Philippines.
For history outside the museum, see the stone remains of the Hikinaakala heiau, a sacred site at the north end of Lydgate Beach Park that dates back to the 1300s. Placards there tell its story.
Hungry? Taste Kauai’s immigrant history at nearby Hamura’s Saimin, a decades-old noodle shop that blends Japanese, Chinese and Filipino influences.