Kauai Sugar Plantations

Sugar cane, or Ko in Hawaiian, is a perennial grass that can grow up to 20 feet high. Imported by the original Polynesian inhabitants of Hawai’i the plant was believed to have medicinal properties in addition to its sweet flavor. Once harvested the stalks are ground up and the liquid extracted by rollers to obtain juice, which is then slowly boiled down to create raw sugar.


The first commercial sugarcane plantation was started at Koloa, Kauai in 1835. Early sugar planters faced a multitude of challenges including shortages of water, limited labor, and due to their isolated location a lack of markets for their sugar.



It takes approximately 5 million gallons of water per acre to bring a crop of sugar ready to harvest during a two-year growing cycle. Just 20% of that amount comes from rain so the pioneer sugar planters solved water shortages by building irrigation systems that included aqueducts (the first built on Kauai in 1856), artesian wells (the first in 1879), and tunnels and mountain wells (the first in 1898).



The 1876 Treaty of Reciprocity between the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii eliminated the major trade barrier to Hawaii's closest major market for its raw sugar and a new industry in Hawaii was born. In just 60 short years raw sugar production reached 225,000 tons and by 1932 had grown to one million tons.


As the major commercial enterprise in rural Hawaii the plantations were cities unto themselves employing the majority of island labor force, providing housing, transportation, entertainment and later even electricity to the residents of Kauai through the power generated at their sugar mills. The first train came to Kauai in 1881 and served the Kilauea Plantation with 3 miles of track and five engines.

For over a century, sugarcane was the state's leading economic activity providing Hawaii's major source of employment and tax revenues. It takes approximately three feet of cane to produce one cube of sugar. On Kauai alone there were over 70,000 acres dedicated to sugar with up to nine major plantations operating across the island at any given time from the Hanalei River to the Mana Plain.







Kauai Sugar Plantations

Gay and Robinson
Established 1889 at Makaweli, Kauai

Grove Farm Plantation
Established 1864 at Lihue, Kauai

Kekaha Sugar Company
Established in 1856 at Kekaha, Kauai

Kilauea Sugar Plantation
Established 1877 at Kilauea, Kauai

Kipu Plantation
Established 1907 at Kipu, Kauai

Koloa Sugar Company
Established 1835 at Koloa, Kauai

Lihue Sugar Plantation
Established 1849 in Lihue, Kauai

McKee Plantation
Established 1877 at Kealia, Kauai

McBryde Plantation
Established 1899 Eleele, Kalaheo, and Lawai, Kauai

Today there remains only one commercial plantation and mill on the island of Kauai. For an informative view of a working plantation we highly suggest that you take their tour.

Gay & Robinson Sugar Plantation
2 Kaumakani Avenue, Kaumakani
Website: www.gandrtours-kauai.com
Office: open during regular business hours
Mail to: P.O. Box 440, Kaumakani, HI 96747
Phone: (808) 335-2824 Fax: (808) 335-6852
Hours: Monday–Friday 8:00 am–4:00 pm, except plantation holidays