Kauai's Biggest Little Town
As you drive west toward Waimea, just past the McDonalds near Port Allen is a Slice of History just waiting to be explored. STOP BY Historic Hanapepe! A small charming town located on the southwestern coast of the Island of Kauai.
A Bit of History:
Hanapepe town, in its glory days, lasted from the start of World War I in 1914 to the early 1950s. Sitting just about a mile away from Kauai's main harbor, Port Allen, bustling with GIs and Sailors stationed here for training. It became known as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town”.
This was "The Place To Be!" It’s where you went to buy a car, clothes, jewelry, the latest home appliance, not to mention, for entertainment, buy a ticket to see chorus girls in a live stage show.
Even looking centuries before Captain Cook arrived in 1778, the Hanapepe Valley was home to the Native Hawaiians. Many crops were grown in the area including banana, sugar cane, taro, and sweet potatoes.
But with time comes modernization and larger ships were starting to emerge, a new harbor was needed. In the 1930s the new port was made in Nawiliwili, it was a safer harbor for these new passenger and cargo ships, which was also funded by sugar baron and philanthropist George Wilcox.
Later the Military moved location on the island sealing the fate of “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town” and over the next decades, Hanapepe fell on hard times.
Today Hanapepe has still not returned to its full glory, but it has earned a new reputation as a destination for souvenirs, handiwork, and Kauai-made products, such as taro chips, ice cream, aloha shirts, salt rubs, and koa wood cabinetry.
So do forget to stop by this beautiful gem, that I myself was so fortunate to grow up near. Hanapepe is a place of my childhood adventures. There is so much to share but here are a couple of notable stops to mention, the Swinging Bridge, Talk Story Bookstore, and upcoming events.
The Swinging Bridge
One of the most popular attractions in Hanapepe is The Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. It is very fun, as a suspension bridge it rocks and swings, which can be quite an experience plus the area is beautiful for pictures.
Originally built in the early 1900s, as an access point for residents to cross the river. In 1992 Hurricane Iniki hit, and the bridge was majorly damaged, but being the vital access point to the local people the bridge was restored. Today the bridge faces many threats of damage from major flooding and storms, to the daily wear and tear of locals and visitors.
NOTE: Please be aware that this bridge is a functioning part of the community and respect the Locals that use it for their daily errands.
The Heart of Hanapepe
Talk Story Bookstore
America's most western Bookstore. That’s not its only intriguing “western” touch either. Despite being built in 1930 on a Hawaiian island, the building does look more like a Wild West watering hole than a bookstore.
The owners were honeymooners visiting the island and simply never left! Pre-loved books, and a celeb bookstore cat.
You have to stop by this local gem in Hanapepe!
Come see my journey below!
TALK STORY’S WORLD-FAMOUS BOOKSTORE CAT, CELESTE — AKA THE BOSS — TAKES CENTER STAGE
Ever since 1997, Every Friday night Hanapepe is host to a weekly art market. All of the galleries are open and the shops and restaurants are bustling. Artists, musicians, and vendors of all types lining the main street make for a wonderful night out. Either on a date or cruising with family and friends, there’s a little something for everyone in Kauai’s “biggest little town”.
The Pandemic Hit the town hard, but as of April 2022, the art walk is slowly making a comeback, it is not back to its former glory but they are getting there. Not many of the vendors and musicians are all back yet and the food choices were slim but Grandma's Japanese Kitchen and Popos cookies were open. The galleries were open and of course the Talk Story Bookstore.
Please don't let that discourage you, come down and support the businesses that are open, just make sure you’re coming in with the right expectations.
Every Thursday the Hanapepe Farmers Market begins at 3:30 PM
Located at the Hanapepe Park in Old Hanapepe Town this Farmer's Market features fruit, vegetables, plants, and flowers grown by local farmers. Usually lasts 2 hours, when produce is usually sold out.