Our History

Old Kapaʻa Town History

From the beginning...

This place was different from the other local communities. It was a haven. Because of its marshy landscape, it was not controlled by plantation owners like so many other towns throughout Hawaiʻi. Here, field laborers, ordinary families, and plantation luna (overseers) lived together as equals. No matter how poor someone was or where they came from, they were welcome in this place.

Eventually the community grew and earned the name Kapaʻa, which means “stuck” or “held fast.” The first theatres, courthouses, and churches popped up. Kapaʻa Town became a thriving local community.

Although it was a quiet town on a little island in the middle of a big ocean, it could not escape the effects of World War 2. Soldiers arrived by boat, barbed wire was strung across the sandy beaches, and many shops opened to support the influx of new people. Their first months of the war were hard, but by 1942 Kapaʻa had transformed into a booming town. 

When the war ended, the town slowed back down. The atmosphere of Kapaʻa changed, and so did the economy. Just a year after the war in 1946, the last plantation closed. Kapaʻa’s workers had to find a new way to survive, and ultimately they found it in tourism.

Today, tourism is the biggest industry in Hawaii and in Kapaʻa. But for those looking to relive its unique history, Old Kapaʻa Town offers the perfect blend of the sleepy good old days and a peaceful aloha atmosphere. 

Historic photos courtesy of Hawaii State Archives.

Historic photo of Kauai

Learn more about Old Kapaʻa Town on Our Blog

Aloha Friday No. 2

Here in Hawai‘i we find that everyday ideas are infused with cultural values and are often inspired by the beauty of this place. Aloha Friday being our first example of this is explained in Blog #1. Our local culture shows how Hawaiian values affect change and transform lifestyles, in ways as simple as ‘talking story’ or having dinner with ‘ohana.

Did you know?

  • In 1923 a fire burned down Old Kapaʻa Town. It was rebuilt stronger than ever, and one of those buildings is the Hee Fat building today.
  • Kuhio Highway has been around since the 1930s-the people of Old Kapaʻa Town traveled the same roads we do today!
Visit Old Kapaʻa Town to see its history come to life for yourself!