By the standards of London and New York, the Kokee Natural History Museum located on Kauai, Hawaii is tiny. But within this space visitors can find a surprisingly rich and detailed view of the area’s geology, botany, wildlife, and climate.
The weather exhibit alone is worth the visit. It details how Mount Waialeale not far away receives among the highest recorded rainfalls anywhere on Earth. The over 600 inches per year downpour is an amazing figure considering competition from places like the Oregon Coast, the Amazon jungle and other spots on the planet that regularly get thoroughly drenched every year. Yet the mountain, at 5,150 ft/1,570 m is not enormous by planetary standards.
Other fascinating climate information around the area that houses the museum is also on display. Details about Hurricane Iniki in 1992 give one a good overview of how these deadly storms grow and decay seasonally.
There are numerous displays about the native birds of the island, along with exhibits about the upland forests of Kauai. Some show how the natives hunted and fished the local waters for centuries, and how those practices have evolved in the modern world.
Tourists can get a look at some of the interesting shells that are distinctive to this ecosystem. Nearby are many examples of Hawaiian stone artifacts fashioned by the inhabitants centuries before the first European settlers paid a visit.
Located at one end of Waimea Canyon, the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ as Mark Twain described it, the museum is part of Kokee State Park. At over 2,700 feet/820 m deep it would be hard to disagree with the famed author.
The museum offers extensive information on many of the dozens of great trails in the park that can be hiked by novice or expert. This is also the meeting place for guided summer walks led by experienced staff as part of the park’s WonderWalks program.
In addition, there are basket weaving and lei making workshops for those inclined to crafts and who want to learn the Hawaiian way. Come in October and enjoy the Emalani Festival, with live music and craft demonstrations galore.
Stick around until noon and watch ‘Queen Emma’ arrive on horseback, a symbolic parade of the mighty monarch’s great ride of 1871 with 100 of her friends and followers. Then enjoy the chant and hula rituals for the rest of the afternoon.
Take a look around and drink in the view of the many waterfalls in the area enjoyed by over 100,000 visitors per year. Explore some of the native wildlife as you check out the cliffside views of this natural wonderland.
The museum is located at 3500 East Waimea Canyon Drive, Kekaha, Kauai. The Kokee State Park is at Mile Marker 15 on Hwy 550.
Photo Credit: Alex Pang Flickr via Wunderstock (license)