As you might imagine, Kauaʻi’s museums are largely of a historical nature. This is an island of small towns, so there aren’t really any art museums like you’d expect in a big city. That said, most historical artifacts that you’ll find on display at these museums in Kaua’i were made with impressive craftsmanship and have withstood the test of time, so they do have a great artistic value on top of the historical tales they tell.
Kauaʻi Museum, Lihue
This is the largest museum collection on the island. The Kaua’i museum hosts exhibits about pre-Western contact lifestyles, as well as life during the sugar plantation days. Be sure to check out both buildings so you don’t miss anything. The museum also contains archives of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau; call ahead if you’d like to meet with the archivist. There is a very nice gift shop, selling books and clothing as well as locally made gift items.
Grove Farm Sugar Plantation Museum, Lihue
Step back in time to the plantation era! Sugar cane was the chief industry of Kauaʻi for 150 years, and influenced life on the island in so many ways that persist today. Acquired in 1864 by the Wilcox family, this beautifully preserved hundred-acre homestead still includes the plantation manager’s house and plantation workers’ “camp” housing. Tours are available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. It’s recommended to call first to make a reservation. Grove Farm also has a collection of old steam locomotives that were used to transport sugar cane; on the second Thursday of each month, they offer free rides to the public on a mile-long stretch of the old Lihue Plantation railway.
Kōkeʻe Natural History Museum, Kōkeʻe State Park
If you make the drive up the mountain to visit the native rainforest at Kōkeʻe, you’ll want to stop in at this small museum in Kaua’i to learn about the history of the area. It’s also a great place to get information about hikes and local weather forecasts. Take a few minutes to learn about our unique forest ecosystems, and learn the difference between native and non-native forest species.
Waioli Mission House, Hanalei
Anyone interested in Hawaiʻi’s history will want to know something about the missionaries who came halfway around the world from New England, setting up shop here in the islands and forever changing the lives of the people. A great place to get a sense of missionary life in the 1800s is the Waioli Mission House. Filled with artifacts of daily life, you’ll be able to imagine the unique challenges faced by these intrepid souls. You can also see the room where James Michener stayed while researching his book, Hawaii. Tours are offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Ring the large bell to alert docents that you’ve arrived.
A visit to Kauaʻi isn’t only about sun, sand, and golf; make your vacation complete by learning something new in one of the historic museums in Kaua’i!