The lush valleys and dense forests of Kauai aren’t just full of greenery and wonder – they may also contain a mystery of magical, mischievous, and small proportions. Because it is March, you may be thinking of a particular Irish giver of good luck, but we’re not talking about Leprechauns.
According to Hawaiian oral traditions, the Menehune were an ancient race of Polynesian people who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands before the first voyagers arrived. While there are no written accounts or skeletal remains of the Menehune, many Hawaiian legends reference them as mythical people of small stature and great strength. According to mythology, Menehune lived deep in the forests of Kauai and the other Hawaiian Islands. Many stories detail their ability to build great feats of engineering like heiaus (stone temples), fishponds, dams, ditches, and irrigation systems in a single night of work.
What makes the legends and stories of the Menehune so intriguing are the many ancient structures still standing that archeologists have determined were constructed before the existence of any known Hawaiian population. If you are planning to visit Kauai Coffee during your stay on the Garden Island, there are a few mythical Menehune sites you can see along the way.
Located just south of Lihue along the Huleia River, Alekoko Fishpond is a stunning example of ancient aquaculture and shrouded in mystery to this day. Commonly referred to as the Menehune Fishpond, archeologists believe the site was constructed 1,000 years ago and that the stones used in its construction came from more than 25 miles away. The wall that separates the fishpond from the river is more than 900 feet long and 5-feet high. Today the Menehune Fishpond is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but an explanation of its construction remains a mystery.
The Menehune Fishpond overlook is located on Hulemalu road, about one-half mile from the Nawilili Boat Harbor. Anytime is a great time to pull over and see this Menehune feat of engineering, but sunset is particularly beautiful.
Another structure with mysterious Menehune ties on Kauai is the Kikiaola irrigation ditch located in Waimea. While ancient Hawaiians are known for their stone crafted irrigation systems for growing taro, the Menehune ditch is a fascinating archeological find because of the type and cut of stone used to create it. Instead of uncut or roughly shaped lava rock, the Menehune ditch is constructed of finely carved basalt stones. It is an ancient construction method not seen anywhere else in Hawaii, and archaeologists have predated its construction before the 14th-century Tahitian Voyagers arrival in Hawaii.
The Kikiaola ditch is located in Waimea, which is a short drive from the Kauai Coffee Visitor Center. From Visitor Center, take Kaumualii Highway west to Waimea. Turn onto Menehune road and continue until you see the swinging bridge. The ditch is located across the street from the bridge. As with all Hawaiian and cultural sites, please be respectful during your visit. Do not disturb residents or disrupt the site.
Menehune Practices in Action
We may not have a team of mythical Menehune craftsmen to complete tremendous feats of engineering overnight, but we are proud to keep the tradition of innovation in Hawaiian agriculture and irrigation alive on our farm. We’re pleased to be the largest drip irrigation coffee estate in the world, with over 2,500 miles of drip tubing. Our efficient drip irrigation system applies water and fertilizers directly to the roots of the trees, so we do not have to spray or dust fertilizer on our coffee farm.
During the harvest period, we divert water from the drip irrigation system to the wet plant where it is used in processing. Because we only use our water in processing, it can easily be cleaned using a filter system and then reapplied to the coffee fields.
Learn more about our commitment to sustainability and see our systems in action when you take a Kauai Coffee Farm Tour. No time for a tour? The Kauai Coffee Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Stop in to sample coffee, shop, and caffeinate for a day of Menehune sigh seeing on Kauai.
More Menehune Information:
Check out these great resources for more Menehune mysteries and information: