The most traveled area on Kauai, Lihue (chilling cold in Hawaiian) is not only the commercial and administrative center of the island, but also a town steeped in history. In olden times, this location was known as the Puna district (moku). The name changed to Lihue in the late 1800s.
Home to fishing and taro farming during the early days of Hawaiian settlement, Nawiliwili Harbor is now a shipping hub and cruise ship port. Supposedly, the harbor was named for the wiliwili trees, once in abundance and native to the area. Automated since 1953, the Ninini Point Lighthouse, an 86-foot concrete structure, gazes out to the blue Pacific from a point marking the entrance to the bay.
Running along the Huleia River, Alekoko (Menehune) fishpond is located less than two miles from the harbor. According to legend this fine example of aquaculture was built 1000 years ago by the Menehune, mythological dwarf people in Hawaiian tradition, who were superb craftsmen. With walls four feet thick and five feet high, the enclosure is made from volcanic rock, cut and assembled together, forming an enclosure to raise freshwater fish that has endured for centuries
Another prominent lava rock structure in Lihue, the Kauai Museum houses treasured artifacts and explores the geological and cultural history of the Garden Isle and Niihau, the Forbidden Isle. Visitors enter via the Albert Spencer Wilcox building, originally the first public library on the island, then in 1970 converted to house more museum pieces. A boutique-like gift shop sells the prized Niihau seashell leis, made from the seashells only found on the shores of Niihau.
1930’s Kauai comes back to life at the Kilohana plantation. The site of the first mansion built on the island, the restored 16,000 sq. ft. estate now accommodates shops and galleries. The manicured, tropical grounds are also home to the Kauai Plantation Railroad, which gives an educational tour of the working farm.
Not only a transportation and commercial hub, Lihue should not be overlooked as a destination worth exploring. With an itinerary including an ancient Hawaiian fishpond, plantation era architecture, and living museums, the area that residents call “town” is filled with a variety of activities.