Hawaii Guide

Niihau Island, Hawaii Kauai

Niihau Island, Kauai West Coast

Today the island is owned by Sinclair's great great grandson who runs the ranch on the island and is very protective of the islanders' privacy. Niihau Island has been unaffected by progress with no running water, indoor plumbing or mains electricity. Occasionally they have solar power or power supplied by generators but this is fairly intermittent. There is a school on the island.

There is a strong sense of community on the island: the residents only speak Hawaiian and crime is something not often heard of. They are very proud of their way of life and heritage. Mail arrives once a week and they have to go to Kauai to buy clothes or other goods. They are reasonably self sufficient but there are no permanent streams on the island so sometimes it is hard to find drinking water. Many have family on Kauai. When there is no work on the ranch the men hunt and fish. The women gather Niihau's distinctive seashells to make the prized leis (necklaces or garlands made of flowers, leaves, feathers or seashells) which are sold for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The tiny shells can be white, off white, speckled, gray, or light blue. In Hawaii, each island has a traditional lei which the islanders wear at parades or celebrations.

The descendants of the Sinclairs, the Robinsons, also own land on west Kauai and have an estate in the mountains near Olokele which can be seen on the helicopter tours of the Kauai. Although they own a lot of land, inheritance taxes have taken their toll and their income from sugar production is not great as it was originally thought to be. To make up for this, they are planning to develop some of their land for tourism and they offer tours of some of the mountainous regions near Waimea Canyon.

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