The Real, Old Koloa Town

On the way back from Poipu, we always tend to stop at the Lappert’s Ice Cream shop in Koloa Town. They are located in “Old Koloa Town,” a row of old wooden buildings on the main street that were once local businesses and are now quaint tourist shops. While I do recommend them as the best local and just plain best ice cream around, I must admit I think we got treated like tourists this time: small scoop and no smile.

Anyways, while we were eating our cones, we walked up and down the side-street nearby and “discovered” the real, as in genuine, old Koloa Town. Sitting back from the street behind some overgrown bushes and fences are several plantation cottages. They now look like run-down wooden shacks, but they still have some charm in the weathered wood and tin roofs. These were the places where people used to live near the local businesses.

The first house sits in an overgrown yard with blooming hibiscus and looks fairly good except for the tin roof being peeled back.

The second house across the street is the largest, it even looks like it was fitted with a ramp which indicates it was used up until recently.

The last set of houses are near the main street are small cottages in really bad shape, all fenced in and condemned now.

Koloa is one of the oldest haole (foreigner, westerner, and by extension caucasian/white) settlements on Kaua’i. The first missionaries set up their churches there in the 1830’s, and the first sugar mill in Hawaii started there in 1835. There is a Koloa Heritage Trail that highlights all the points of historical interest in the area. Most recently, however, it has become just some restored buildings with tourist shops, nobody really lives on the main street anymore.

Sadly, all the houses above were fenced off and I suspect the land has been sold to developers. The newspaper recently reported on a business development planned in the “empty” land across from the old town. While that land currently has no buildings, it does have many shade trees and greenery that contribute to the relaxed atmosphere of Koloa. This is an unfortunate trend whereby a living space that has some appeal attracts tourists, which attract tourist shops, which drive out the residents.

I think the old Koloa houses should be replaced with more low-key housing so that people can live on Main street again and take advantage of walking to the post office, grocery store and library. Kaua’i needs more pedestrian-friendly communities mixed in with existing businesses and services.

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