Part way between the colorfully striated Waimea Canyon and Kalalau Lookout atop the fabled Napali Coast, the excellent but aging Kōkeʻe Museum serves as a regional visitor information center as well as a natural history museum. Inside you’ll find topographical maps, cultural and geological information, late 19th century botanical prints, dioramas of Hawaii’s forest birds, and mounted specimens of its more notorious feral invasive species like Polynesian boar and mouflon sheep. The gift shop occupies nearly half the space and features many books, guides and Kauai-made souvenirs. Next door, the rustic Kokee Lodge Restaurant has all day breakfast, soup and sandwiches and is the only meal for miles.
Each October, Hawaiian Queen Emalani’s visit to Kokee is celebrated with a traditional hula festival on the expansive treeless Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow. Fronting the museum, this large, treeless green is popular with picnicking families. No one really knows trees don’t grow here, but, according to one Hawaiian legend, it was formed by an angry, headless, giant demi-god who plows the path each night in search of his missing head. For brave overnighters, there’s a small selection of rental cabins across the lawn.
The museum is in Kokee State Park at 3600 Kokee Road. It keeps daily hours—including holidays—from 9am-4pm. There is a suggested donation of $1 per person.
Visitors can learn about regular visitor talks and programming by calling (808) 335-9975. Kokee is in upper elevation forest with temperatures rarely topping 70 degrees. Remember to dress warmly and bring a rain jacket.