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The volcanic island of Kauai is over 5 million years old, but the town of Koloa as we know it today is less than 200 years old. In 1830, Ladd and Company built Kauai’s first sugar plantation on the southern coast of the island and named it Koloa. It was actually one of the first plantations in all of the Hawaiian Islands, and its early success (after just five years, it was producing 2 tons of raw sugar per year!) helped to establish the sugar industry as a staple of Hawaii. In the 1900s, the plantation’s output had increased astronomically, to a million tons per year, but it had been dwarfed by the other, larger plantations that had since sprung up in other areas of Hawaii. Recent years have seen the closing of the Koloa plantation, and the decline of the sugar industry in Hawaii. However, because it is no longer characterized by its plantation, Koloa has been able to develop as a charming tourist town and blossom as a source of natural beauty.
Old Koloa Town is the best place to get a slice of local history. This historic district of Koloa has retained some of the old farm structures, enabling visitors to glimpse the ghosts of the town’s plantation past. Other attractions include restored storefronts of what were once markets run by Japanese immigrants, and original plantation homes on Waikomo Road.
History buffs should also not miss the Koloa History Center, which is in Old Koloa Town by the Salvation Army. Here, photographs, plantation tools, art and artifacts tell the story of Koloa’s rich past.