With more tourist destinations opening up and welcoming back visitors, Hawaii is definitely on the list of many people’s travel plans. If you are planning a trip to Kauai, you may consider a visit to Wai`oli Hui`ia Church and Mission House.

The church building represents American Gothic architecture with its wooden exterior and steep roof, forest-green walls and a belfry reflecting the shape of the mountains behind it. It is one of the oldest surviving church buildings on Kauai. Built on 17 acres of former plantation land, the church and house offer a glimpse back in time.

Hidden by a grove of trees behind the church building is the 2-story Mission House, erected in 1837 by the area’s first missionaries, who traveled more than 289 miles from the Big Island of Hawaii via outrigger canoe. Missionaries and teachers Abner and Lucy Wilcox and their four sons moved to this 2-story home. While there, four more sons were born in the master bedroom of the Mission House. With eight sons, the family had their hands full, but they continued to teach the native students in English and the newly translated Hawaiian language.

The Mission House is now a museum where you can see the missionaries’ original Bibles, braided rugs and a spinning wheel, among other artifacts from the day. The home is also complemented by other Hawaiian elements such as ohia wood floors, a lava rock chimney and koa furniture. The wall clock was installed in 1866 and still keeps perfect time.

‘Wai`oli Hui`ia’ means ‘Joyful River’ in Hawaiian—a reference to the joyful songs that echoed across the plantation’s church walls. It has become one of Kauai’s most popular wedding destinations.

Restored in 1921, the church had to be restored again in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki. The structures survived two previous hurricanes, Hurricane Dot and Hurricane Iwa. Both the church and house are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Wai`oli Hui`ia Church has had a continuous record of service since 1834, first as a Congregational church, and, since 1956, as a United Church of Christ. The church holds worship services on Sunday mornings and at special services throughout the year. The property is open for drop-in, first-come, first-served guided tours three days a week.

For more information, visit www.waiolihuiiachurch.org.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.