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Historic Trails on Kauai

The Spouting Horn on one of the historic trails on Kauai.

Spouting Horn along the Koloa Heritage Trail.

Hiking on the island of Kauai can be an exciting way to explore the rain forests, canyons, rivers, valleys, and coastlines of the island. The island of Kauai has several trails that boast not only of beautiful land and seascapes, but also have cultural and historical meaning.  Here are a few of the best historic trails on the island.

Koloa Heritage Trail

This 10-mile trail is ventures through many of the most interesting historic locations on the island of Kauai. Among the 14 major stops are famous places such as: Spouting Horn , one of Hawaii’s most famous a blowhole which has been a part of ancient Hawaiians legends; Koloa Landing, once the only port of entry for foreign imports and Hawaii’s third largest whaling harbor; and the Kihahouna Heiau, a structure dedicated to a number of Hawaiian gods.  The trail also passes by a grass hut where the beloved Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was born in the late 19th century. From his humble beginnings of a grass hut, and once heir to the Kingdom of Hawaii, he went on to serve for almost 20 years as a delegate to Congress, after Hawaii was annexed as a territory of the United States.

All along the Koloa trail, the road is replete with both historical sites from the ancient Hawaiians to those who have become part of the modern, diverse community of Hawaii.  Hikers trekking through the Koloa Heritage Trail will explore the celebrated beauty of Poipu Beach. They will also pass through Keoneloa Bay, a former fishing camp where tools and religious artifacts have been found.  Here, somewhere between 200 and 600 AD, Polynesian settlers made some of the earliest arrivals into Hawaii. The trail passes Makawehi and Pa’a Dunes where sea birds roost and where hundreds of bird bone and plant fossils in limestone rocks can be found.  There is also the lava-wall Hapa Road and Ha’upu Ridge where other volcanic cones and geologic formations stand as windows into Hawaii’s past.

The trail winds past the Koloa Missionary Church, Koloa Jodo Mission, Yamamoto Store and Koloa Hotel, historic structures which were constructed  during the 19th century. The nearby Koloa Plantation was the first sugar mill to export sugar cane commercially, established in the 1830s. Here, immigrants from Japan, Germany, Portugal, the Philippines and China lived and worked for the plantation. This trail is one of the best ways to explore Kauai and get a better understanding of culture and history of the  island.

Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

Located along the southern shores of Kauai, the Maha’ulepu trail is an important part of Kauai heritage, as it is the final bit of accessible coastline which has still not been developed. This is a fantastic way to experience some of Kauai’s last remaining undeveloped coastline, the way it has existed for centuries.  Additionally, hikers on this path will enjoy views of Shipwreck Beach, sand dunes, sea cliffs, kiawe tree groves, nesting sea turtles and beach-napping Hawaiian monk seals. The total distance of the path is about 2 miles over flat ground that is fairly easy to tread.

View from Nounou Trail.

Nounou Trail

Between the towns of Wailua and Kapa’a, is the Nounou Trail, often referred to as the Sleeping Giant Trail, so named because it passes through a mountain having the same two names.  From a distance, the mountain has the shape of a giant lying down on its back. This trail is a beautiful and pleasantly cool hike, being mostly shaded by Cook and Norfolk pine groves planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. About a quarter of a mile into the walk, veering left up the mountain will result in views of the expansive eastern Kauai coastline. The hike is moderately challenging, up hilly terrain and alongside ridges, and will afford visitors glimpses of the wildlife, birds and forests of the surrounding area.


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