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Visit a Restored Sugar Plantation
Kauai’s sugar plantations have all but faded from the landscape, but that century-long era, which turned the island’s history on its head, still breathes at Kilohana Plantation.
This 36-acre plantation, just west of Lihu’e. was once the home of sugar baron Gaylord Parke Wilcox. Now it is an historic theme park reaching back to the days when sugar was king and beyond to the epic journeys of Kauai’s first settlers.
A seven-bedroom, 16,000-square-foot English Tudor mansion, built in 1936 by Wilcox and his wife, has been faithfully restored and now houses a restaurant and shops. From its early days, the mansion was the scene of grand entertaining, a gathering place for Kauai’s movers and shakers. The restaurant, known as Gaylord’s, has carried on the tradition.
Restored to resemble its 1930s origins, Gaylord’s features courtyard seating, fine dining and a relaxed atmosphere. About 40 percent of the furnishings came from the original house and the art-deco fixtures and other elements popular at the time are still intact. The grounds, which lie in the shadow of Mt. Wai’ale’ale, are a model for the preservation of historic gardens and settings. Original workers and guest cottages have been preserved, as are the vegetable and flower gardens.
In addition to the restaurant, the mansion houses a number of restored art galleries and shops, which offer a range of unique, quality merchandise.
The plantation grounds are home to a reconstructed sugar plantation railway, a nearly 100-acre working farm, a Clydesdale-drawn carriage ride and an airy, 1,000-seat lu’au venue.
Lu’au Kalamaku is an exquisite production with an ancient storyline and a theatrical, avant-garde presentation. Most of the show is performed in the round on a circular center stage.
The Kauai Plantation Railway uses refurbished diesel-engine locomotives that once hauled sugar cane from the fields to the docks. A ride on this vintage narrow-gauge railway makes for a good family outing as the train chugs through 50 varieties of plantation-era fruits, vegetables and trees, and makes a stop to get close to some barnyard-variety animals
At Kilohana Plantation, Kauai’s rich heritage comes to life in a setting that is true to the past and thoroughly comfortable in the present. Themes have been developed with careful attention to historic integrity, and it is listed by the state of Hawaii as a historic landmark. But Kilohana is not a museum. It’s a place where you can expect — in true Gaylord Parke Wilcox style—to be entertained and have fun.