Hanalei … Taro … Pier –> you’d expect these are all associated and the reason for the picturesque pier in Hanalei Bay. … Kinda.
The Hanalei Bay Pier was originally built to serve the region’s thriving rice industry (recall that as taro production declined in the mid- to late-1800s, many of the loʻi were converted to rice cultivation.)
The Chinese were growing rice at Hanalei at least by 1882, and by 1892, Hanalei and Waioli, with 750 acres of land devoted to rice farming, were the largest rice producing areas in Hawaii.
At this time, rice was the number two agricultural product of the Hawaiian kingdom (behind sugar,) having developed as a major crop in the 1860s when numerous Chinese farmers left the sugar cane plantations following the expiration of their five-year contracts.
Occupying taro patches vacated by a declining Hawaiian population, these rice farmers found a ready market for their product in Honolulu and California, as more and more Chinese immigrated to these areas.
At the time of annexation (1898,) Hawaii was third in rice production in the United States, behind Louisiana and South Carolina.
Annexation, with the removal of all tariffs boomed the sugar industry, however spelled the downfall of Hawaiian rice production. This caused agricultural land costs to rise from $10-20/acre to $30-35/acre, forcing rice land to be converted to cane use.
Annexation also brought with it Chinese exclusion policies which led to a decreased market for rice. In a matter of five years Hawaii’s Chinese population dropped by 6,000, which was a significant factor in the Honolulu market (the Japanese did not purchase the local rice, preferring to use rice imported from their homeland.)
Other difficulties confronting the rice farmer included an increased need to fertilize (the well-used lands began to show signs of exhaustion;) in addition, a labor shortage caused by many Chinese leaving their farms in hopes of earning more elsewhere.
The decline in the Chinese population, the requirements for fertilizer, competition from California rice growers and the introduction of a rice-borer insect all served as contributing factors to the decline of rice farming.
Since the islands of Hawaiʻi are separated from one another and the rest of the world by the Pacific Ocean, ships and boats have been the major means of transporting goods between the islands and frequently to different areas of the same island.
On Kauaʻi, in the early twentieth century, Port Alien was the major port with Nawiliwili and Hanalei serving as local shipping centers.
Large-scale development of Nawiliwili harbor commenced in 1926 and, with its completion in 1930, Nawiliwili became Kauaʻi’s primary harbor.
As a result of its expansion, the tonnage handled by Nawiliwili jumped from 3,766 tons in 1929 to 56,439 tons in 1931. Much of this increased tonnage reflected an improved highway system which led to a decreased use of smaller ports on the island.
As a result of little use, Hanalei pier was abandoned in 1933, marking the end of an era of inter-island transportation.
Originally, a pier there was constructed out of timber, prior to 1882. The pier was reconstructed with reinforced concrete piles and beams and a wooden deck in 1912.
The structure was used seasonally, primarily to transport rice from Hanalei to Honolulu.
The Hanalei River is adjacent to Hanalei Pier, much of the valley’s rice “arrived at the pier area on the black barges of the rice plantations up the river.” At the foot of Hanalei Pier was a freight storage warehouse connected to the pier by railroad tracks.
From the mauka landing, the rice was shuttled to the end of the pier on a set of iron railroad tracks and then loaded onto boats. Small whale boats known as “lighters” carried rice to steamers anchored out in Hanalei Bay.
Interisland steamers docked in the deeper waters of Hanalei Bay while cargo was rowed to and from the pier.
Due to the difficulty in maintaining the wooden deck, the Territorial Legislature in 1921 appropriated funds for the construction of a concrete deck. The wooden decking was subsequently replaced with reinforced concrete in 1922.
The Hanalei Pier is a steel reinforced concrete finger pier which extends from the beach out into Hanalei Bay. It is 340-feet long and has a 32 x 72 terminus with a shed on it. (The shed at the end of the pier was originally built in 1940.)
From the 1940s until the present, the pier has been primarily a recreational resource for fishing, picnicking, etc. Located adjacent to a beach park, it is a highly scenic attraction to visitor and resident alike.
The pier was featured in the 1957 classic film “South Pacific”. Kauaʻi may not be in the South Pacific, but the 1958 movie musical “South Pacific” put it on the map as a premiere film location.
On the east side of Hanalei Pier is Black Pot Beach Park, named after a big iron pot that was used to cook fish caught during a hukilau, a traditional fishing practice in which everyone cooperates to spot, net, and gather fish.