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It’s only fitting that drivers must veer off a main highway to reach the heart of Hanapepe. With its Wild-West-meets-hippie vibe, the sleepy town in south Kauai calls to clients who like to take the road less traveled every now and then.
Along Hanapepe’s central street, wood-frame buildings dating back to the 1920s and 1930s have found new meaning as galleries, restaurants and mom and pop shops. Some display an informational plaque describing the structure’s former identity. For instance, the 1921 Serikawa Hotel — where food and lodging originally cost just $3 per night — now houses multiple businesses. A 1926 building best known as the Hanapepe Pool Hall has been restored as an art gallery.
These days, Hanapepe is considered one of Kauai’s hot spots at the end of each work week — when shops stay open late for the town’s well-attended Friday Art Night. But Hanapepe is a worthwhile destination on any given day.
Here are five reasons for spending quality time in this bohemian burg.
Art GalleriesIt’s hard to pick a favorite among Hanapepe’s rich mix of galleries. Standouts include Bright Side Gallery, with canvases inspired by the ocean and surf. Arius Hopman Gallery specializes in plein air watercolors and Hawaii landscape photography. Island Art Gallery features works by a variety of artists and craftspeople. Friday Art Night provides a perfect venue for chatting with Hanapepe’s creative spirits.
Japanese Grandma’s CafeSharing a space with retailer Blu Umi, this intimate bistro pays homage to traditional Japanese cuisine. Owner Keiko Napier focuses on what’s seasonal and healthy in dishes such as thin-sliced ahi poke and chicken teriyaki with fresh, local vegetables. Sushi rolls, miso soup and broiled eel are additional menu highlights. Look for it in Hanapepe’s former USO Club.
Midnight Bear BreadsArtisanal baked goodies greet guests at this appetizing haunt. Voluptuous loaves range from rosemary and Hawaiian sea salt to ulu (breadfruit) sourdough. Its macadamia-nut cinnamon rolls have earned a devoted following, as have its nut and seed butters. Gluten-free clients can choose from options such as herb focaccia and a super six-seed loaf.
Talk Story BookstoreOnce the 1930s Yoshiura Market, Talk Story Bookstore now holds the distinction of being the westernmost bookstore in the U.S. Defying the modern trend toward e-books, the successful venture is a popular community hangout presided over by owners Ed and Cynthia Justus. Visitors can find a remarkable range of books here, from recent releases to secondhand and out-of-print titles.
Storybook TheatreFamily-friendly storytelling, concerts and book and poetry readings regale patrons of this innovative hub, overseen by the affable Mark Jeffers. Each October, it honors Hawaii’s Princess Kaiulani with a cultural festival featuring a children’s parade and hula. Jeffers also offers delightful walking tours of Hanapepe, providing an insider’s look at this one-of-a-kind Kauai town.