Westside Attractions

Koke`e Natural History Museum

Koke`e Natural History Museum

The Koke`e Museum is the one-stop visitor center for Waimea Canyon & Koke`e State Parks. It is operated by Hui o Laka, a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve the beauty and essence of Koke`e. Although admission is free donations are always welcome and appreciated. The museum is open every day from 9 AM to 4:30 PM; knowledgeable staff and volunteers will be able to help you decide on hiking trails and advise you on current conditions and hazards to ensure your day out will be a safe one. The museum also has a mini gift shop that contains collections of Hawaiian books, Kauai-made jewelry, hiking sticks, and exclusive t-shirts.

You may inquire about volunteer opportunities at the museum or contact the email and number below. Kokua Koke`e is the name of the forest conservation program and is guided by the Hui o Laka staff. Kokua translates to "help," and by joining their team, you will work on beautifying trails, and lookouts, and assist in the renovation and preservation of the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp (CCC Camp). All ages are welcome; the volunteering schedule will vary.

Aside from forestry services, you may support the Koke`e Museum by getting an annual membership with Hui o Laka for as little as $20 a year. Benefits and privileges include a 10 percent discount on purchases in the museum shop, being able to stay at the CCC Camp, and the ability to vote at the Annual Members Meeting.
Location: Waimea (34.7 miles from Poipu)
Phone: 808-335-9975


Even for those of us who live on Kauai and gaze out at the Island of Niihau frequently, it is a mysterious place known as the Forbidden Isle. In the late 70`s I lived in Kekaha, on the west side of Kauai, and we used to do our laundry at the local Kinipopo Laundromat. One day I arrived at the Laundromat to find four or five Hawaiian women doing their laundry. They welcomed me with beautiful smiles and continued their conversation in Hawaiian. It was a very special experience. I actually met people from that distant island on the horizon!

Today Niihau`s population is about 130, whereas in 1875 the population was 350. The island is only 17.5 miles away from Kauai, but the huge majority of us have never been to the island. The island is generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island`s owners, U.S. Navy personnel, government officials, and invited guests. It is a private island owned by the Robinson Family, descendants of Elizabeth Sinclair. Ms. Sinclair purchased Niihau in 1864 from the Kingdom of Hawaii for $10,000 in gold. She chose Niihau over Waikiki and Pearl Harbor. The Robinsons recently turned down a one billion dollar offer from the U.S. government to purchase the island. They are committed to the preservation of the Hawaiian culture and traditions on Niihau.

All Niihau residents live rent-free. There is no telephone service, no paved roads, no power lines, and solar power provide all electricity. There is no plumbing or running water on the island. Barges deliver groceries from Kauai, often purchased by relatives. Some residents have radio and television, with limited reception, where they are able to watch VHS tapes and DVDs.

Residents commonly commute to Kauai for work, medical care, and school. The Robinsons maintain a helicopter for emergencies and to transport Navy contractors and residents to and from Kauai.

The people of Niihau are known for their excellent craftsmanship in making Niihau shell leis. Ipu art was developed on Niihau as well.

Niihau has had a relationship with the U.S. military dating from 1924. There is a small Navy installation on the island and the island is used for training special operations units, which includes hiring Hawaiians that live on Niihau as enemy trackers. Approximately 80% of Niihau`s income comes from the U.S. military.

In 1987, hunting safaris were opened to tourists as well as half-day helicopter and beach tours although contact with the residents is avoided.


From mauka to makai and back on up again. The beauty and excitement of Kauai extend as far as the sandy beaches of Poipu to the tip-top of Mt. Wai`ale`ale. It`s hard to completely take in all that is Kauai if you`re just sitting on a beach, but when you`re 5,000 feet above sea level, there, can you truly capture the vastness of this tiny rock in the middle of the ocean?

A great place to experience this side of Kauai is the Koke`e State Park; it is located on the West Side of Kauai, North of Waimea town. Koke`e offers visitors an excellent spot to explore an estimated 45 miles of hiking trails; you will be able to witness valley lookouts, lush rainforests, and swampy terrain. To learn more about the different hikes, click here. Those who have an interest in the geology, ecology, and climatology of Kauai, may want to check out the Koke`e Museum. Visitors can gain some valuable tips on the surrounding area as well as information on volunteering to aid the forestry services. If you want to know more about the Koke`e Museum, click here. If you get an appetite while up in Koke`e, make a stop at the Koke`e Lodge, right across from the museum. It`s a fully operating restaurant that provides a place for visitors to unwind after a long day out adventuring or for those that are just preparing for the trek ahead. You may even inquire about cabin rentals if you`re thinking about spending a night in the wilderness. Click here for more information.

One thing to remember, this is a fair warning: you will lose cellular service once up at Koke`e. That can`t be a bad thing, right?
Location: Waimea (36 miles from Poipu)
Kauai Coffee

Kauai Coffee

Kauai Coffee is the largest producer of coffee in Hawaii and the United States. A true Hawaiian coffee estate, they grow roast, and package the coffee on the farm. The farm started in the early 1800s as McBryde Sugar Company and transformed into Kauai Coffee in 1987.

There are many opportunities for you to experience Kauai Coffee while you are on and off island. If you are a guest of Koloa Kai you will enjoy the starter pack of coffee that comes with your rental. If you are not or you have run out and are looking for more, most of the local grocery and convenience stores have ample supply. If you are back home you can purchase directly from www.kauaicoffee.com.

When you are on island and headed towards the west side you will find Kauai Coffee just past the town of Kalaheo. The store is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. While on the property you can enjoy coffee tasting and shopping as well as a self-guided tour that shows how the coffee is grown, harvested, and roasted.
Location: Kalaheo (10.5 miles from Poipu)
Phone: 800-545-8605
Kukuiolono Golf Course

Kukuiolono Golf Course

This nine-hole course, nestled on the hills above Kalaheo, may be one of Kauai`s best-kept golfing secrets. Originally built as the personal course of sugar king Walter McBryde, Kukuiolono Golf Course offers generous fairways, limited hazards, and panoramic views of Kauai`s scenic southwest side. This is a great course for beginners.

Following its creation, McBryde donated the course to the people of Kauai. The local name for the course is Kuk`s. The best part is the laid-back atmosphere and the no scheduled tee time. If you need to wait to tee off, get a bucket of balls and take in the panoramic view from the driving range, or grab some food and beer in the newly opened Paco`s Taco`s Cantina.

Besides the scenic beauty and great golfing, the price can`t be beaten at $9 dollars to play, $9 dollars for a cart (that fits 2 people), and only $9 for club rentals. To share a fun family golfing experience on a relaxed course, we recommend Kuks! Head west on the Highway to Kalaheo, make a left onto Papalina Rd at the traffic light and wind up the hillside residential neighborhood of Mauka Kalaheo and check out this awesome 9-hole hidden gem.
Location: Kalaheo (9.0 miles from Poipu)
Phone: 808-332-9151
Hanapepe Art Night

Hanapepe Art Night

Every Friday night Hanapepe Town comes alive. It is an explosion of colors and sounds. And you can practically taste the excitement in the air.

From the street performances all the way down to the various food trucks and restaurants you are bound to cross paths with something that floats your boat.

We know you have probably heard this before: the Hanapepe Art Festival is fun for all ages. There is something for everyone.

When you first get to the Hanapepe Art Festival you will hear the faint sounds off in the distance.

As you are walking down the sidewalk you will hear rich and vibrant music. Music that is infused with the spirit of Aloha.

As soon as you hear the music, all your cares and worries will wash away.

If you love art you will love being able to shoot the breeze with Kauai`s up-and-coming artists.

You will stumble onto some of the finest handmade crafts Kauai`s local artists have to offer. From necklaces to paintings to wood carvings nearly every taste is covered.

And the best part about this art? You do not have to lug around any huge piece of art. You will experience hassle-free shipping from most of the vendors.

Have kids that need to burn off some energy?

Take them down the swinging bridge over the Hanapepe River. When you look to your right, you will see the breathtaking Hanapepe River darting off to the east. This view will be a reminder of why you came to Kauai.

Want a good book to read on the beach? Make sure to scramble down the street to the world-famous Talk Story Bookstore. This is not just any old bookstore. It is also the westernmost bookstore in the world!
Location: Hanapepe (12.6 miles from Poipu)
Waimea Theater

Waimea Theater

The Historic Waimea Theater originally opened on September 2, 1938. The electric lights on the marquee were the first of their kind on the island but were destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. After hearing that owner wanted to tear it down, West Kauai Main Street leased the building in 1993 and began to restore this landmark theater. The County of Kauai purchased the building in 1996 and in August of 1999, it again re-opened to the public under the management of West Kauai Business & Professional Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. It continues to be a gathering place for our island community.
Location: Waimea (19 miles from Poipu)
Phone: 808-338-0282