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Comprehensive Resources for Princeville, Kilauea and Hanalei residents and visitors

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Princeville History (as well as other parts of Kauai)

Kauai’s History is both commemorative of and distinctively different from the other islands. Like the other islands, Kauai was initially inhabited roughly 1500 years ago by the same Polynesian adventurers who completed their nearly 2000-mile sea voyage on outrigger canoes when they first landed on the shores of the big island of Hawaii. (To read the history of Hawaii visit Hawaii History). Here they stayed undisturbed for around 500 years, until a second wave of sea-canoe travelers appeared, this time from Tahiti, which was also originally settled by Polynesian sea-canoe explorers. It was from the Tahitian arrival that the current Hawaiian gods, belief structures, and many traditions evolved.

Hawaii and Kauai history
Princeville History: Early Polynesian sea-canoe explorers (Princeville history archives)

Kauai’s name has no particular historical meaning; however, through the legend of Hawaii loa, who is thought to have been the Polynesian founder of the Hawaiian island’s original inhabitants, “a favorite place around one’s neck” is suggested. According to legend, Kauai was the name of his favorite son, and a favorite place around one’s neck was (and perhaps still is) the universal place to carry one’s most beloved child. Despite the mystery behind Kauai’s proper name, an important part of Kauai’s History is in the preserving the ancient Hawaiian dialect, before it was extinct, which differs distinctly from current accepted Hawaiian language.

European traders did not discover the islands until the late 1700s, when in 1778, James Cook found and called them the “Sandwich Isles” after one of Cook’s expedition sponsors. Kauai, though, remained relatively untouched by the traders in comparison to the other islands. This could be due to the fact the Kauai was the only island among the Hawaiian chain that resisted domination from the reign of King Kamehameha, who during his reign in the late 17th century to early 18th century had conquered and united the rest of the islands in the archipelago.

Twice King Kamehameha gathered armadas to conquer Kauai, and each time he was met with utter failure – due once to a storm and rough seas, and the other due to an epidemic which crippled his forces.

Eventually though, the king of Kauai, King Kaumualii, united forces with Kamehameha; probably to avoid future invasion attempts and to prevent continuing hostilities and any possible bloodshed which would ensue.

Kauai is Hawaii’s oldest island and Hanalei one of Kauai’s earliest population centers. The story begins in the early 1830s:

Princeville History in the early 1800s

1821 – King Kamehameha II takes a 42-day voyage to Kauai

1831 – Richard Charlton, British Consul to the Hawaiian Islands, leases lands between Hanalei and Kalihiwai from Governor Kaikioewa of Kaua’i to use as a cattle ranch. Longhorn cattle are imported from California, when California was still part of Mexico.

1835 – The first successful sugarcane plantation is started in Koloa in Kauai. The first 8,000 pounds of sugar was shipped to the United States the following year.

1834 – The Waioli Huiia Church, a United Church of Christ in Hanalei, is founded and the church, as it stands today, is built in 1912.

1835 – The first sugar plantation opens on Kauai. Agriculture becomes a dominant economic force and during the first half of the 1800s and Hanalei harvests mulberry leaves, coffee, tobacco, cotton, rice, sugarcane, citrus fruits, peaches, pineapples, bananas, dates, tamarinds, guava, potatoes, plantains, cabbage, and lettuce.

1842 – Following the Great Māhele, the Hawaiian land redistribution proposed by King Kamehameha III, British sea captain Godfrey Rhodes and Frenchman John Bernard are  given a 50-year Government lease of 150 acres of land along the Hanalei River for a coffee plantation. (Refer to the Hawaii history section for details the 1839 Bill of Rights and the 1840 Constitution of Hawaii).

Rhodes builds a home near the future Hanalei Bridge site and names it Kikiula (it would later be called the Princeville Plantation House). The coffee plantation grows to almost 1,000 acres. Along with the neighboring Hanalei coffee plantation of Charles Titcomb, there are now 100,000 coffee trees being cultivated in Hanalei Valley.

Princeville history
Princeville History: Robert Crichton Wyllie (a name that pops up frequently in the Princeville history)

1844 – Robert Crichton Wyllie, Scottish physician and businessman, arrives in Hawaii with William Miller who has just been appointed British Consul to the Kingdom of Hawaii. While working under Miller, Wyllie compiles an in-depth report on the conditions in the islands, leading to King Kamehameha III appointing him Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he holds for 15 years until his death in 1865.

1848 – John Richard Kellett officially acquires the property encompassing the future Hanalei Plantation Hotel Resort acreage.

Princeville History in the second half of the 1800s

1852 – It is thought that the first Chinese contract laborers arrive in Kauai to work in the sugar plantations around this time. (refer to Hawaii history for first imported workers from China). King Kamehameha III visits Hanalei.

1853 – Wyllie acquires one of the two coffee plantations on the North Shore. Over the following decade he acquires an estimated 11,000 acres but battles against a blight that withers the coffee trees until he finally decides to plant sugar. He subsequently builds the full-scale cultivation of sugar cane on a large scale.

1854 – German immigrant Hermann A. Wireman starts Grove Farms. He leases it to plantation manager Gorge Norton Wilcox, who later buys the plantation.  In 1881 Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani sells some adjoining land, which grows the acreage by about a factor of ten. This 1948 Grove Farm acquires the Kolao plantation and in 2000 the company and some 40,000 acres is bought by Steve Case, former AOL CEO and Chairman.

1856 – King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma visits Hanalei.

1857 – The first irrigation ditch built to carry water to sugarcane fields is completed at the Hanama‘ulu Stream by William Harrison Rice, manager of H. A. Peirce & Company (renamed Lihu‘e Plantation Company in 1859).

1860 – Wyllie invites King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma, and their son, Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Lei O Papa a Kamehameha to visit. In honor of the young prince, Wyllie names his estate, Barony de Princeville (the city of the prince). Sadly, the Crown Prince, who was also the godson of Queen Victoria, dies two years later at the age of four, but the name Princeville sticks.

1861 – Wyllie builds a sugar mill on the east bank of the Hanalei River but the Hanalei Valley.


History of Princeville and where the name came from
Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Lei O Papa a Kamehameha
The Princeville History really starts with little Prince Albert
Circa 1862 (Princeville history archives)


1862 – Paul Isenberg, a German businessman, is credited for developing the sugar cane business in Kauai while being plantation manager and co-owner of the Lihue Plantation Company.

1864 – George Norton Wilcox uses his engineering training and designs designed an irrigation system to bring water from the wet mountains to the sugarcane fields.

1865 – Upon Willie’s death his nephew inherits the Princeville Plantation, but the following year he commits suicide. Elisha H Allen acquires most of the 10,000 for $40,051.50 in an auction the following year.­­ Several hardships fall on the new owners, including flooding, fire, and even an outbreak of a bovine disease, which forces the owners to destroy all the cattle.

1868 – The first Japanese workers arrive in Hawaii.

1874  King Kalakaua visits Hanalei Bay.

1881 – The first railroad opens in Kauai.

1892 – The first pier in Hanalei is built from wood and used to unload goods arriving by ship. In 1912 it is lengthened to 340 feet, but the wooden deck proves difficult to maintain in the tropical climate. In 1921 the legislature authorizes $25,000 for a concrete deck and the work is completed by the end of 1922. The shed roof is added in the 1940s.

1892 – Albert S. Wilcox, son of missionaries Abner and Lucy Wilcox who traveled to Hawaii in the mid-1800s to teach English and Christianity to the Hawaiian people, acquires an interest in the Princeville Plantation, and by 1895 holds a controlling interest. During that time the Hanalei Sugar Mill closes and changes from sugar cane to a cattle ranch. Wilcox also rents the lower lands of the ranch to Chinese farmers to plant rice. By the early 1900s, the Hanalei’s coastal plain is covered with rice fields.

Princeville History in the early 1900s

In the early 1900s, nearly every square inch of Hanalei’s coastal plain was covered with rice fields. The first rice farmers were Chinese, followed by the Japanese, Filipinos, Portuguese and other ethnic group. The rice farmers built homes, schools, stores, rice mills, churches or temples, and raised their families in Hanalei. Many descendants of the farmers and plantation workers still reside in Hanalei today.

1912 – A one-lane, 113-foot steel truss bridge to Hanalei opens, replacing the original bridge built in 1895. The Hanalei Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and is still operation today.

Henry Birkmyre, married to Maude Hatfield Birkmyre, the granddaughter of John Richard Kellett, builds a home on Princeville bluff. It is used in the 1958 20th Century Fox film version of “South Pacific” before it is moved to make way for the Hanalei Plantation Hotel Resort and part of the Princeville history. The Resort started operations in 1961.

After four years of planning and one year of construction the Kīlauea Lighthouse goes into operation. The lighthouse is featured in the movie Lilo and Stitch.


Princeville history
Princeville History: Hanalei Pier circa 1915
Photographer: Ray Jerome Baker / Courtesy of Kauai Historical Society


Princeville History:
Princeville History: Hanalei Bay today

1919 – Lihue Plantation buys the Princeville Ranch lands. They maintain Princeville as a cattle ranch and plant pineapples on part of the upper lands during the 1930s.  Throughout the years, coffee, silk, pineapples, oranges, sugar, rice, taro, and other crops were experimented with.  Cattle and taro outlast all of them due to the optimum combination of rain and sun.

1927 – Princeville Ranch begins shipping cattle from Hanalei Bay.

1930s – Hanalei Valley supports four rice mills and is producing much of the State’s rice crop, a crop that had only been started in the late 1890s.

1937 – Rotary of Kauai is formed; Rotary started in Hawaii in 1915.

1940 – A roof is added to the Hanalei Pier.

Princeville History in the second half of the 1900s

1951 – Hanalei Pier is featured in the movie “Birds of Paradise”.

1957 – The opening scenes of the movie “South Pacific” are filmed at mouth of the Hanalei River and atop the Hanalei River Ridge. Movies are to become an integral part of the Kauai and Princeville history.

1959 – Miriam and Frederick Dunkley sell the property which had served as a fictional residence in the movie “South Pacific”, to Lyle Guslander, the owner of Coco Palms Hotel. It is to become the site for a new resort.

1961 – The Hanalei Plantation Resort opens as 50 single-story cottages and 162 rooms atop the Hanalei River Ridge in Princeville.  It is designed by Hollywood 20th Century Fox art directors John DeCuir and Lyle Wheeler. The bar “House of Happy Talk” is named after a scene in the movie In South Pacific.

Princeville History
Princeville History: Happy Talk circa 1962 (Princeville history archives)

1968/9 – Eagle County Development Corp., / Consolidated Oil & Gas, Inc. led by developer Doug Hoyt, acquires a 11,000-acre ranch from AMFAC Inc. (including the area today known as Princeville). Harry Trueblood becomes the CEO of Princeville Development Corporation and tasked to develop the first master-planned community on Kauai. 

1970/1 – The majority of the land in Hanalei Valley, some 2,000 acres, is donated as a state wetlands park including several Hawaiian fishponds as a tradeoff for approval of Princeville, the first master-planned community on the island of Kauai. Robert Trent Jones Jr., son his famous golf course design father, is commissioned to design 3 nine-hole courses, the Makai Woods/Lake/Ocean Golf Courses. The Hanalei Plantation Resort is rebranded as Club Med Kauai. 

1972 – Donn “Curly” Carswell is brought in as engineer to help build Princeville’s infrastructure, including the roads and sewers still in use today.

1975 – The Hanalei Beach and Racquet Club is opened, and Matthew Schaller is brought in to manage. Schaller ends up becoming a respected architect and designs many commercial and residential buildings along the North Shore. 

1977 – Princeville Airport (HPV), a private one-runway airport, opens.

1978 The Hanalei Beach and Racquet Club is acquired by a financial institution and becomes the Hanalei Bay Resort. Rick Wall who is brought in to manage the purchase and later forms Castle Resorts & Hotels, a company he takes public company and that participates in numerous other developments in Hawaii. Carswell and his wife Gale (a descendant of the Wilcox family) starts Po’oku Stables on a portion of the original Princeville Ranch lands. The Princeville Makai Golf Club plays host to the 26th World Cup and International Trophy Championship.

1979 – The Cliffs at Princeville opens; a mixed-use resort condominium project with 202 units.


Princeville History:  Princeville circa 1978 (Princeville history archives)

1980 – After operating for only seven years, Club Med Kauai closes, and the 19-acre land and complex is sold to Hanalei Investment Inc./Bruce Stark Development. After getting approval for 90 condos in January 1980, Stark redesigns the project to 70 condos (approved by the Planning Commission in September 1980), then to 64 condos, and finally to 204 hotel units (approved by the Planning Commission in 1984). Foundations are poured for all, or virtually all, of the 64 condos / 204 hotel units (which were built on the same footprint). Strong resistance from locals, the 1982 Hurricane and the weight of 18 percent mortgage rates causes the project to be halted.

After multiple ownership changes Pierre Omidyar/Ohana Real Estate Investors buys the parcel (and 3 others) and continues to own the land today. The land remains an incomplete ruin of the original proposed complex and has become a popular walking trail and part of the Princeville history.

1982 – Hurricane Iwa devastates Ni’ihau, O’ahu as well as Kauai. During the worst of the storm, 5,800 people are evacuated from shoreline areas to temporary shelters.

1983/4 – Colorado-based parent company Consolidated Oil & Gas spins Princeville Development Corp. off as a separate company and takes it public via NASDAQ.

1986 – The Princeville Resort, three four-story buildings, on the slope overlooking Hanalei Bay, opens as a Sheraton Hotel. (Different ridge/slope than the Hanalei Plantation Hotel / Club Med Kauai property). A five-year contract was inked with the Ladies Professional Golfing Association to host the Women’s Kemper Open in Princeville.

1987 – 1,000 Friends of Kauai, the North Shore Ohana, the North Shore Belt Road Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and the Hanalei School Parents Association formally request the Princeville Development Corp. to slow the fast pace of development in the Princeville area.

Consolidated Oil and Gas sells Princeville Airways to Aloha Air Group.  A tide pool located in Princeville is designated Queen’s Bath when the original “Queen’s Bath” in Kalapana on the Big Island of Hawaii is destroyed by lava flow following the eruptions of Kīlauea Volcano in 1983.

Christopher Skase, the flamboyant chairman of Qintex Australia Ltd. – owner of Mirage Resorts – sees Princeville as the key to opening worldwide markets in the visitor industry and purchases 51 percent of Princeville Development Corp.  He takes the company private, announces plans to triple the size of the resort’s shopping center; build a nine-acre tennis and fitness center, add a movie theater, complete the 18-hole Prince golf course and add thousands of residential units.

1988 – Qintex commissions a 900-ton piece of marble to be used to create Princeville Fountain as well as a 14-foot statute large statue of Kamahameha I. The Fountain is inspired by the “Fountain of Love” at Cliveden House, in England and carved in Italy before shipping it Kauai. It is unveiled in 1989 and becomes the most photographed fountain in Kauai. The statue, also made in Italy, is slated to stand in the foyer of the new Princeville hotel. Local resistance argues that Kauai is the only island King Kamahameha I never conquered, and this results in the statue never being erected in Princeville. The statue is warehoused for many years before it is final erected near downtown Hilo, at the north end of the Wailoa River State Recreation Area.

Princeville history
Princeville History: King Kamahameha I statue – part of the Princeville history but how standing in Hilo on the Big Island

1989 – Qintex’s primary focus is to upgrade the Princeville hotel – which is renamed the Sheraton Mirage Princeville. Skase secures Mitsui & Co. Ltd. and Nippon Shinpan Co. Ltd. to purchase a combined 49 percent interest in the Mirage Resorts.

At the same time Qintex outbids Rupert Murdoch with an enormous offer of $1.5 billion to buy MGM-UA Communications Corp. The deal does not close, and it becomes clear Skase and Qintex had overextended themselves. Qintex is placed in court-appointed receivership and all plans are halted, including the projects in Princeville. Skase goes into exile.

1990 – Japanese credit card giant, Nippon Shinpan Co. Ltd., agrees to purchase Qintex’s majority share in The Princeville Corporation, and then turns around and sells the majority stake to Suntory Holdings, Ltd., a Japanese multinational brewing and distilling company. Suntory decides to complete the remodeling of the Princeville hotel.

1991 – The Sheraton Mirage Princeville opens.

1992 – Hurricane Iniki, the second hurricane in 10 years, causes around $3.1 billion  in damage and six deaths, making it the costliest natural disaster on record in the state. Damage was greatest on Kauaʻi, where the hurricane destroyed more than 1,400 houses and the severely damaging the Sheraton Mirage hotel. Hurricane Iniki made landfall on the south-central portion of Kauaʻi, and moved across the island in 40 minutes. Much of the island experienced sustained winds of 100 to 120 mph and wind gusts were estimated at 175 mph at landfall.

One hotel—the Coco Palms Resort, famous for Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii—has not ben reopened in more than 30 years.

Among those caught on Kauaʻi was filmmaker Steven Spielberg who was preparing for the final day of on-location shooting of the film Jurassic Park. He and the 130 of his cast and crew remained safely in a hotel during Iniki’s passage.Spielberg included footage of Iniki battering the Kaua’i coastal walls as part of the completed film, where a tropical storm makes up a pivotal part of the plot.

It is thought that Hurricane Iniki blew apart many chicken coops, resulting in a  dramatic increase in the numbers of feral chickens roaming Kauaʻi today.

1994 – The Carswell family buys the Princeville Ranch’s herd of cattle and takes over the lease of the entire ranch lands; totaling an estimated 4,000 acres.


Princeville history
Princeville History: Princeville circa 2000 (Princeville history archives)


Princeville history
Princeville History: This magnificent location that has changed ownership and its name four times since its opening in 1979. First it was the Princeville Resort, then the Sheraton Mirage, then the Princeville St. Regis Hotel, and in December 2022 reopens as the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. (Princeville history archives)

Princeville History in the 2000s

2005 – Suntory exits Princeville when they sell Princeville Corp. to Princeville Associates, consisting of Hawaii Land Development Corporation, Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds and the Resort Group, led by Jeffrey Stone. The 9,000-acre sale includes the Makai Golf Course, the Prince Golf Course, the Princeville Shopping Center, the Princeville Airport, the Hanalei Plantation property, and extensive other lands for future development. The sale does not include the Sheraton Mirage Princeville hotel which is bought by The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association.

2008/9 – Starwood Hotels & Resorts (the owner of multiple hotel brands, including Westin, Sheraton and St. Regis) opens the new Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, a 346 one-and two-bedroom resort while at the same time rebranding the Sheraton Mirage to the St. Regis Princeville Resort.

2011 – The movie “The Descendants” featuring George Clooney and Beau Bridge, shoots extensively on the North Shore, including at Hanalei’s Tahiti Nui restaurant.

2012 – The Resort Group acquires Morgan Stanley’s interest in Princeville Associates.

2013 – The state-owned Hanalei Pier is in bad shape, and they can’t afford repairs. The Hanalei Bay Rotary Club raises the money to get the job done. The Prince Golf Course closes.


Princeville History: Hanalei Bay and Hanalei Pier is a large part of the development along the North Shore of Kauai and the Princeville history. (Princeville history archives)

2015 – The Hanalei Bay Resort undergoes major renovations after 30 years of deterioration and a fire in 2011.

2018 – Starwood Capital Group (not to be confused with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which is in 2016 becomes part of Marriott International) acquires the 252-room St. Regis Princeville Resort and major renovations are announces. Makana Urgent Care opens in Princeville.

2019/21 – Starwood Capital starts a two-year, multi-hundred million, remodeling of the St Regis hotel with the goal to make it a world class wellness center. It is rebranded the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay and slated to open February 15, 2023.

2021 – The Resort Group announces a partnership with Discovery Land Company to move forward with development of the one-thousand-acre North Shore Preserve, their 25th residential club community. The Preserve is to become a one-of-a-kind low-density residential community that blends seamlessly into the land while offering secret swimming holes, dramatic waterfalls and tranquil pastoral meadows. The Resort Group also acquires the Princeville Ranch and ranch lands from the Carswell family. 

2022 – Discovery Land Company starts the total overhaul of the 18-hole Prince Golf Course. The development is slated to run through end 2023.

Kauai is one of the most magnificent islands in the world, and the North Shore of Kauai is the most beautiful region of Kauai. With its lush landscapes, oxygen-rich air, blissful beaches, and self-perpetuating serenity it is easy to see why this magical paradise is called the Garden Island. And Princeville, a 9,000-acre unincorporated master-planned community, is the most northernmost settlement in the state of Hawaii, and its crown jewel. See the post on 5 reasons to love the North Shore of Kauai. Princeville does have a dedicated wikipedia page and this can be found here.

If you have any information to add to the Princeville History please reach out to us via email at updates @ alecs127.sg-host.com. Mahalo.


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