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Driving along Kauai's north shore highway, it's easy to bypass Kilauea. We suggest that you don’t. The small town and its surroundings present a wide range of delights for lovers of local history, food, shopping and outdoor fun.
Kilauea was established in the late 1800s to support a sugar plantation, which drew immigrant workers from faraway countries such as China, Japan and Portugal. Today, it shares tales from the past while offering contemporary charms, all enhanced by an enticing natural backdrop and relaxed vibe.
These five Kilauea lures are sure to reward travelers who take the time to answer the call.
Anaina Hou Community ParkSince it opened in 2010, this 30-acre attraction has lived up to its name, Anaina Hou, which is Hawaiian for “new gathering place.”
Appealing to all ages, its spectrum of activities includes hiking the 4.5-mile Wai Koa Loop trail; taking turns on the 18-hole mini-putt course, complete with water hazards and a botanical garden; and romping around the 17,000-square-foot, place-inspired playground with replicas of a volcano, sailing canoe and sugarcane train.
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Clients can time their experience with the park’s weekly farmer’s market, teeming with ultra-fresh produce and baked goods; or with evening events in its pavilion, such as concerts by top musicians and a show that combines fire dancing, storytelling and Polynesian drumming.
Garden Island Chocolate There’s ordinary chocolate, and then there’s Garden Island Chocolate, a single-varietal, single-estate ambrosia made with no less than 85% cacao. Owner Koa Kahili offers guided tours of his 5-acre spread while discussing the art of chocolate, from cacao pod to finished product.
Clients see a remarkable assortment of exotic fruit that thrives on the plantation, and they get a firsthand look at how to cultivate and pollinate vanilla. The highlight, however, is the chocolate tasting, with 20 samples demonstrating a variety of flavors, smells and textures.
Visitors who can’t go on the tour can still stop by the farm’s roadside stand to buy one or more of its bars, some seasoned with island ingredients like sea salt and macadamia nuts.
Kong Lung Historic Market CenterAt this hub of commerce, Kilauea’s past comes alive through signage and photos reflecting days-gone-by. One of its shops — Kong Lung Trading, dating back to 1881 — sells products honoring the many ethnic groups that came to Kilauea to work in the sugar fields (think Chinese ceramics and Japanese kimonos).
The market center emphasizes local businesses such as Banana Patch Studio, featuring creations by Kauai artist Joanna Carolan. Another shop, Coconut Style, offers hand-painted tropical textiles transformed into men’s and women’s fashions, plus books, jewelry and other area-made souvenirs.
Be sure to try Kilauea Bakery & Pizza, popular for its delicious homemade pastries such as pineapple bran muffins and mango fandango smoothies. Regulars swear by its soups, salads, coffees and pizzas with inventive toppings.
Kilauea Point LighthouseBuilt in 1913, this regional landmark served as a steadfast beacon for passing ships. These days, the fascinating story of the 52-foot-high structure lives on courtesy of displays, artifacts and guided tours.
Well-versed staffers lead guests inside the lighthouse, where they can learn about its unique role in Kauai history and see its rare, French-made clamshell lens. (Editor’s Note: Tours are temporarily postponed due to COVID-19 as of publish date.)
Clients who visit the lighthouse marvel at its jaw-dropping views of the north shore, notable for its towering sea cliffs. The setting doubles as a National Wildlife Refuge, where Hawaiian seabirds find protection for breeding. From this perch, 200 feet above sea level, guests might be able to spot such winged wonders as the red-footed booby, Laysan albatross and wedge-tailed shearwater.
Silver Falls RanchWith names such as Ikaika, Hula Girl, Keiki, Akamai, Eleele and Alii, a herd of gentle horses stands ready to take visitors on guided tours of the 300-acre Silver Falls Ranch.
No matter which equestrian adventure clients choose, they find themselves sitting tall in the saddle surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, from tropical forests and botanical gardens to rivers and waterfalls, all presided over by Mt. Namahana.
Guides do an exceptional job of matching rider to steed, and they regale guests with legends and lore related to the area. Some tours include a picnic lunch; others invite participants to dismount and jump into a pristine stream. It’s a safe and family-friendly way to experience the unparalleled scenery of Kilauea, on Kauai’s north shore.