Down a dirt road behind Hanalei’s iconic green Wai’oli Hui’ia church, the Wai’oli Mission House served as the residence for three different gospel-sharing families in the early 19th century. The charming two-story, four-bedroom home—one of the Island’s oldest Western-style dwellings—was built by Congregational missionary Reverend William Alexander and his wife Mary in 1837.
Though tours of clap-board house are offered only on certain days, and on a first-come first-served basis—ring the old school bell to alert the docents of your presence—visitors are treated to a unique blend of early Hawaiian-made home goods as well as items useful in missionary life: A still-functioning wall clock, koa bedframes and bookshelves filled with the missionaries’ tomes, a lava rock chimney, ohio wood floors, a traveling chest, a whale oil burning lantern and a spinning wheel. Many of the artifacts belonged to Lucy and Abner Wilcox and their eight sons who lived here between 1846 and 1869—the longest serving and final residents of the Mission House. Touring the historic home is an educational way to spend a rainy Hanalei day, indeed, the name “Wai’oli” means joyful water, perhaps a nod to the many waterfalls that stream down the mountains behind the old mission settlement during the rains or its proximity to the meandering Hanalei River.
To reach the Mission House, continue 0.2 miles west on Kuhio Highway past Wai’oli Hui’ia Church to Old School House Road. A parking lot and footpath leading to the mission house is located in the trees alongside Hanalei Elementary School. Guided mission tours run Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for children.