If you’re a history buff interested in looking into North Shore Kauai’s past, then you definitely need to visit the Wai’oli Huiia Church and Mission House. Set on the 17-acre Waioli Mission District property, these historic buildings provide a unique glimpse into the lives of early Christian missionaries, Lucy and Abner Wilcox.
Before the Wilcox family arrived in Kauai in 1837, the property had already served as a place for missionaries to live while they shared their religion across the island. Upon arriving on the island as teachers, Abner and Lucy received the title to the property through the Great Mahele and turned the mission school into the Hanalei Public School.
After their deaths in 1869, their legacy lived on as the property continued to serve as a place of learning and growth for all visitors. And that’s still true to this day.
The 1836 Wai’oli Mission House still stands today and serves as a small museum open to the public. The 1841 mission hall, on the other hand, sits locked, although you can peer through the windows to get a glimpse inside.
The current Wai’oli Church still operates, however, allowing everyone to come through and marvel at its 1912 build. It’s even a popular wedding venue for couples who want to get married in a historical church set in the heart of paradise.
If you want to tour the Wai’oli Mission House, you’ll need to arrive on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday and wait for your turn to go through the building. All tours are first-come, first-served, so it’s usually up to an hour wait for a chance to see what’s inside.
As you wait for your turn, take a moment to admire the home’s architectural cues along with the grounds beyond. You can even take a short walk across the property to the mission hall to kill a bit of time while admiring its build as well.
Once you get inside the Wai’oli Mission House, you’ll get to see how the Wilcox family lived. All their furniture, knickknacks, and other belongings still sit in their original places, allowing you to imagine what it was like to live back in the 1800s.
As you look all around, you’ll see their beloved lava rock chimney, ohia wood floors, and lanais. On top of that, you can check out their original handcrafted koa furniture, braided rugs, and even a spinning wheel.
Your guide will tell you all about the lives of Abner and Lucy Wilcox plus their eight sons, all of which were born in the master bedroom. You’ll also get to hear about the life and accomplishments of their son, Samuel Thomas Alexander, a successful business owner who changed transportation across the Hawaiian Islands.
If you can return on Sunday morning, you’ll have a chance to attend the Wai’oli Church services and sing beautiful hymns with the community. Their church members regularly give their testimonies as well, showing you how their religious experiences tie into everyday life.
Even if you’re not religious yourself, attending the services is always a heartwarming experience, leaving you with a stronger connection with the local community. Plus, you’ll get to see the Wai’oli Church’s stunning interior design complete with handmade stained glass throughout, which is well worth the trip all on its own.
-Although the per-person admission fee for the Wai’oli museum is marked as a donation, it’s actually mandatory.
-Want to know when they’re holding the Wai’oli church services and bible study groups? Just look at the sign right out in front of the church.
-As you tour the property, stop to read the plaques all around to learn more about the history of the Waioli Mission District.
-If you ever get a chance to attend a wedding at the church, don’t miss the chance to see the couple’s love surrounded by gorgeous historic architecture.