Where You Live: Kapa'a Town

Published On: Feb 13 2014 09:37:00 PM HST
KAPA'A, Hawaii -

Often seen as a sleepy, "small-kine" town, but rich with the kind of roots, the kind of spirit that defines Hawaii today.

Click here to watch Lara Yamada's report.

Kapa'a Town is 10 square miles on Kauai's east side. Its population hovers around 8,000, and younger generations are returning to revive the town.

Bill Fernandez, a Hawaiian novelist and historian, knows the history that makes Kapa'a Town special. It's been his home for decades, and his family's for generations more.

"A lot of things got started here that would not have otherwise," said Fernandez.

In 1875, free trade brought eager families to Kapa'a Town. Even King Kalakaua hunted for cheap land for his hui of friends. In the marshlands of Kapa'a Town rice was king, but not for long.

"They had all kinds of rules and regulations," said Fernandez.

While sugar cane had taken over elsewhere in the islands, Kapa'a seized a rare opportunity.

"It was a pineapple town and we were able to be what I would call a 'free community,'" said Fernandez.

Soon ports and trains provided transport. There was the pineapple factory on one side, and the massive Pono Cannery on the other. Sorting, filling and canning provided jobs and money to workers.

"You had some small mom and pop stores," said Fernandez.

Those stores helped start a service industry that would fuel the town for generations.

"There was no written contract. They just shook hands saying 'OK, you're gonna buy this place,'" said Ken Kubota of Pono Market.

For nearly 50 years, Pono Market has not only survived, but thrived. Kubota's family started the small shop on Kapa'a's main drag. Today, the Pono Market still benefits from the hard work of the generations before him; it grows and adapts.

"As the years went by, we changed as the times changed," said Kubota.

Kauai is also a story of rebuilding -- from the tragic fire of 1923 to the devastating damage from Hurricane Iniki.

Time and time again: each challenge becoming a new chance.

"It's a major undertaking," said Kauai Path's Tommy Noyes about the aftermath of Iniki, which trashed the island.

"What did they want? We had to listen," said Noyes.

The community -- from politicians to planners -- has come together to create a new attraction. A multiuse path, like no other in the state, will span 18 miles of pristine coastline and prime real estate.

The Kamakani Kai Bridge was built back in 2000 with half a million dollars in volunteer labor. This project provided the incentive for $2.5 million in federal money to launch the bike path.

"We've got to manage it," said Noyes. "We got to think hard now. Make intelligent choices. Do the work."

"We still have the same values, but we see the young ones coming with new energy, new ideas," said Kubota.

"It's changing outside, but not inside," said Vicky Masuoka of Vicky's Fabrics.

Thirty years in the same spot. Vicky's Fabrics is now transitioning with a new generation. Masuoka's daughter, Maile Bloxsom, is here to reconnect after returning from Los Angeles, Calif.

"A lot of what I enjoyed growing up -- the community, the family -- it's still here," said Bloxsom.

Maybe it's in the name -- since Kapa'a means "solid." Then and now -- solidifying a legacy its people can be proud of.

"We were always a very sharing community. We were always a community that really worked together," said Fernandez.

Kapaa has been named one of America's prettiest towns by Forbes. There are also major renovations occurring in the "Royal Coconut Coast", including the world-famous Coco Palms.

Bike Path

Where You Live: Kapa'a Town

Click here to see more images of Kapaa's past and present.


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