Kiahuna Plantation Manor & Gardens
The Story of Kiahuna Plantation’s Plantation Manor & Moir Pau a Laka
Today, the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation is a tranquil retreat for visitors from around the world. In the 1930s, however, the area was the hub of the island’s sugar plantation society.
The resort property was originally the estate of Hector Moir and Alexandra “Sandie” Knudsen. A wedding gift from Mrs. Moir’s father, Eric Knudsen, the newlyweds moved into their beautiful lava stone manor upon their marriage in 1930. Built with lava rocks taken from the area, the Moirs named their home and gardens “Pau a Laka,” or “skirt of Laka,” after the Hawaiian goddess of hula and the early Hawaiian name for the area. Legend says a sacred hula-training temple was located in the area. Along the paths are magnificent lava rock arrangements. Some of the rock piles are exactly as the ancient Hawaiians left them.
Hector Moir was the manager of the nearby Koloa Sugar Plantation. Because of his position, the Moir home soon became the site of some of the most elaborate social gatherings on the island. There were cocktail parties, formal sit-down dinners and festive costume galas, sometimes with as many as 150 guests in attendance.
The Moir home continues to be a hub of activity even today, as it now serves as the main lobby of the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation.
Sandie Moir started her now-famous gardens as a hobby. She first planted tropical plants, such as ginger, heliconia and other flowering plants that required lots of water. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it became apparent that these plants would not thrive in an area with such low rainfall. Undaunted, Mrs. Moir continued to explore alternate varieties of plants. She soon discovered that cactus and succulents thrived in the area’s arid setting, and Sandie Moir’s cactus garden was born.
Throughout the years, Mrs. Moir continued to add rare and exotic cactus, succulents and other plants and trees, including wiliwili, hau, coconut and plumeria. Her brother-in-law, William Whitmore Goodall Moir, also assisted in expanding the gardens by presenting Mrs. Moir with specimens brought back from his world travels. Many of these plants still grace the gardens today.
Mrs. Moir also cultivated orchids and bromeliads in a special section of the garden. These colorful plants continue to awe visitors even today, with some resort employees and generous visitors donating plants to add to today’s orchid garden.
By 1948, the Moir gardens had drawn international attention and was classified as “one of the ten best cactus and succulent gardens in the world,” ranking with the likes of Huntington Gardens and the Royal Gardens of Monaco. The Moirs received many requests for garden tours and in 1954 officially opened the gardens to the public.
As visitors wander throughout the Pau a Laka Cactus and Flower Gardens, they will notice a variety of historical artifacts that Mrs. Moir collected throughout the years. A whaler’s melting pot was rescued from the sugar cane fields and marks a time in Kauai’s history when Koloa Landing was considered one of the largest whaling ports in the islands. Today it serves as a water lily planter. Mrs. Moir converted a marble butcher table into a garden bench to use as a respite from her gardening.
The gardens have been acclaimed in publications worldwide, including “Life” and “Sunset” magazines as well as numerous newspapers and gardening journals, such as the book “Great Gardens of America.”