The Kaua‘i Museum celebrates 43 years
this year, and is showing no sign of stagnating.
The artists’ exhibit is prominently displayed in the main
hall of the museum. Directly behind the main hall are several
small rooms that house Hawaiian artifacts, many of which are
thought to have once belonged to members of Hawai‘i’s
royalty. Palace glassware and cutlery are displayed in glass
cases, along with many items made of koa, a highly prized Hawaiian
wood often used now for ceremonial bowls. Lining the walls were
two timelines, one highlighting the life of Kaua‘i’s
last prince, Jonah Kuhio, and another of 19th century events,
such as the arrival of missionaries and other visitors and the
construction of Kaua‘i’s hospital.
The best part of the museum, in my opinion, is “The Story
of Kaua‘i,” a permanent exhibit in a separate room
that houses a brief fifteen-minute movie on Kaua‘i’s
formation. The exhibit itself begins with a “time tunnel” lined
with replicas of Hawai‘i’s native birds and plants,
diagrams about Kaua‘i’s natural history (vegetation
zones, wetlands, native forests, etc.), and a huge map detailed
with the Hawaiians’ areas of settlement, heiaus, springs,
freshwater ponds, ditches, and salt ponds.
One section features basic items used by a typical household.
Hunting tools and instruments used in food preparation are displayed
with a card showing their Hawaiian names and how they were made.
Hula implements, Hawaiian musical instruments, and games are
The walls of the main section of the exhibit are lined with
pictures of Kaua‘i’s monarchs dating back from 310 A.D. until
1780, along with a genealogy chart of King Kaumuali‘i,
probably Kaua‘i’s most notable king, who ceded the
island to Kamehameha I.
An interesting map is painted on the wall, highlighting the
travels of Captain Cook, who first set foot in Hawai‘i when he
landed on the west side of Kaua‘i.
A small section is dedicated to the religion of old Kaua‘i,
with a display of ‘aumakua figures and a description of
the main deities of the Hawaiians, as well as examples of items
used in sacrificial rites and other ceremonies.
Another interesting exhibit in the museum is the room dedicated
to Kaua‘i’s part in the industries that made Hawai‘i
famous, the sugar and whaling industries. Artifacts and timelines
are displayed near impressive murals of whalers and cane workers.
One room that is especially notable is made up to replicate
a typical plantation house, like those that dominated Kaua‘i
until mid-20th century. The room contains everything, including
the kitchen sink, along with clothes that the plantation workers
The upstairs back rooms are dedicated to the pioneers of Kaua‘i’s
educational system, who formed the first schools on the island.
Most of Kaua‘i’s early teachers, like those of other
islands, were missionaries. There is also a section dedicated
to these people, with information on their everyday lives. A
replica of a missionary’s room is also set up in the very
back, near a display case with personal items of the missionaries.
Overall, the museum is informative and very interesting. It’s
a cheap date, and you will enjoy learning about the events and
people that have helped to shape Kaua‘i today. Just a warning,
though: make sure you stay long enough to commit your favorite
exhibits to memory, as the museum prohibits any photography or
The Kaua‘i Museum is located at 4428 Rice Street. Museum
hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
on Saturdays. The museum is closed on Sundays. Call (808) 245-6931