Visit Russian RuinsKaua‘i

Kaua‘i’s history took a peculiar turn in the early 19th century when Russian arms, construction materials and ships were sent to the island with the intention of helping Kaua‘i’s reigning monarch, King Kaumuali‘i, gain control of the Hawaiian Islands.

But in January 1815, a vessel belonging to the Russian-American Company was shipwrecked on reefs offshore of WAIMEA. King Kaumuali‘i took possession of the vessel and its cargo. In response, the company office in Sitka sent its best diplomat, George Scheffer, to arrange for the release of the company’s property.

Scheffer, with the help of several hundred Kaua‘i residents, began to build the stone walls of FORT ELISABETH at Waimea. But growing distrust of Scheffer by Kaumuali‘i and the now-alerted Kamehameha I resulted in an order that all Russians be removed from Kaua‘i.

In May of 1817, Scheffer was forcibly returned to his ship and he sailed away, leaving the half-constructed fort behind. The fort, which was built roughly in the shape of a star and stretched 300 feet around an armory, barracks, officers’ quarters and a sandalwood trading house, was dismantled in 1864. Little remains today.

Fort Elisabeth (called FORT HIPO by the Hawaiians) was declared a NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK in 1966. The ruins are at the Waimea River mouth off Highway 50.