I came across bag number two in Hanapepe Hawaii on the garden island of Kauai. It was our first full day on the island, and we were out for a drive… just trying to get a feel for the island and the lay of the land, when Steven decided to take a turn off the main road, and we found ourselves in a sleepy Hanapepe.
Hanapepe means “crushed bay”, and is on the southwestern side of the island. Hanapepe once liked to call itself the "biggest little town in Kauai." Established in the mid to late 1800s by Chinese rice farmers, the town once housed numerous opium dens - some of which survived into the 1930s. Hanapepe’s uniqueness on Kauai was probably due to it being the only non-plantation town on the island. It was also well known for its swinging river bridge and its rowdy bars. Hanapepe's decline started in the late 1970s. In 1992 the town was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Iniki (as was most of the island), even now the town is still in the process of recovery. Today the town is a bit of a curiosity; and it remains a captivating and quirky place with an "old west" sort of feel, Hawaiian style. A few shops and art galleries have begun opening in "old town"; it is an interesting and easy diversion while exploring the island.
The first thing we did in Hanapepe was to cross the famous swinging footbridge (built in 1911, and rebuilt in 1992 after Iniki) over the Hanapepe River. It was a fun, and simple sort of thrill. The guys had blast making it swing, buck and sway. Afterwards we decided to explore the stores and galleries of Hanapepe.
While I was browsing in the Banana Patch Studio I came across a number of beautifully woven baskets and bags in various shapes and sizes. While not Hawaiian made these baskets are commonly made in Indonesia. Woven from atta (I’ve also seen it spelled with one “t”, ata) grass, which is a vine that grows in the forests there. It favors wild places and is a kind of spora spices and spreads wide by roots. Once the vines are woven, the pieces are then smoked over a delicious-sounding fire of coconut and honey, giving them a rich glowing color and a soft sweet smell of fire and smoke.
The Banana Patch Studio is probably best know for its Hawaiian pottery and ceramic tiles that are hand-painted using lead free glazes. Their original and well known tiles "Mahalo for removing your shoes" can be seen on many Hawaiian lanais reflecting the tradition of removing your shoes before entering a Hawaiian home. My favorite tile was one of a dog wagging its tail and holding plastic slippers (aka: flip-flops) in its mouth and it reads, “A wagging tail massages your heart with Aloha”.
One thing we missed while visiting Hanapepe was sampling some famous Lappert’s ice cream (which BTW is not the same company as Lappert’s Hawaii).
Hanapepe trivia: The town was used in the films “The Thornbirds” and “Flight of the Intruder”, as well as the inspiration for hometown of the main characters in the Disney animated film “Lilo and Stitch”.