Koloa Town

South Kauai

The history of Hawaii has touched points across the globe, yet there is no place quite like it. Many inquisitive visitors find themselves ambling around its unique infrastructure and historical landmarks, wondering just how far back it goes and what there is to find the further back in time one travels.

Of course, the Hawaiian Islands have been populated for nearly 2,000 years. The wealth of culture born out of this extensive time period is still thriving on the islands today. Visitors would have to stay inside their hotel rooms 24 hours a day not to see it (don’t do that).

However, when it comes to post-colonial history, a new chapter opens up, along with another layer of local landmarks to visit and learn from. Perhaps the most foundational of these is Old Koloa Town in the south of Kauai. 

Koloa is the first place in Hawaii where a thriving sugarcane plantation was set up. This happened in 1835; when slavery was legal in the United States, Hawaii was more than 100 years away from being part of the United States, and King Kamehameha III ruled the kingdom. Needless to say, it was a wildly different time, with different rules and expectations. 

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This one location on Kauai set the course for Hawaiian history until 2016 when Hawaii’s last sugar mill sent off its last-ever shipment from the shores of Maui. Following the success of Ladd & Company’s Koloa mill and the springing up of Koloa Town around it, sugar became the economic backbone of the islands for the better part of two centuries.

Today Hawaiian culture is a beautiful conglomeration of Polynesian and Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, and other influences. This can largely be attributed to the sugarcane plantations that followed the one in Koloa. This sugary period was in many ways quite brutal - a handful of wealthy corporations controlled virtually all the mills and many other staples of the Hawaiian economy as well, predictably resulting in lousy wages, exhausting hours and working conditions, and a generally poor quality of life for working-class island residents. However, those residents came from around the globe, bringing recipes, traditions, and perspectives that all met each other out on the fields.

Whether you love poke or the sound of a slack key guitar, by visiting Koloa, you are visiting the beginning of it all. Hawaiian culture coalesced into its modern form, starting with this small Kauai village a few minutes north of Poipu.

The first thing you’ll see on the journey to Koloa that will signify your imminent arrival is a marvelous canopy of eucalyptus trees forming a kind of natural tunnel over Maluhia Road. Upon emerging from this fittingly transitional checkpoint, you’ll find yourself in a quaint mix of old and new. 

Geolocation Data

Geographic Coordinates

Latitude: 21.90666668
Longitude: -159.4691667

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