All photography provided by Jill Beggs
The native people of Hawai`i, Kanaka Maoli, inhabited the fertile valley of Hanapepe for centuries before Captain Cook arrived in 1778.
Hanapepe Valley is a fertile area, where many foods such as banana, sugar cane, and sweet potato were grown. Besides growing taro, kalo, from which “poi” is made, Hawaiians developed salt, cultivated in saltwater ponds for trade with sailors. Salt trading was the earliest entrepreneurial legacy of Hanapepe. The right to harvest salt, handed down through families, continues today.
The sugar industry flourished in the 1880's, bringing Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants to the islands. Most stores and towns on Kaua`i were built and owned by the sugar plantations. Hanapepe, however, was built by entrepreneurial immigrants. Many who retired from the sugar plantations or could not adapt to their strict working conditions came to Hanapepe to grow taro, rice, or begin small farms or businesses to serve the local community.
Labor union organizers in the early 1900's were welcome in Hanapepe. Workers in the fist half of the century who organized to strike for better wages or conditions at sugar and pineapple plantations were not allowed to reside at plantation camps; strikers had to stay in independent areas such as Hanapepe. The nearby harbor had many longshoremen who had concerns about working conditions and safety as well. Today workers have better safety regulations, wages and retirement benefits due to the activism of previous generations.