Wish You Were Here (45 Years Ago): Camp Taylor, Kauai’s Lost Hippie Refuge

by Owen James Burke

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In 1969, a group of 13 hippies fed up with the war, the police, and oppressive hegemonic culture were seeking refuge, banded together and fled the continental U.S. for the then wild and sparsely developed Hawaiian Island of Kauai.

Having no money, no home, and very little (if any) clothing, they were quickly arrested and sentenced to 90 days of hard labor.

Somehow, a Kauai property owner who happened to be Elizabeth Taylor’s brother, caught wind of the story. He bailed the ragtag group out and offered them free reign over his Na Pali Coast plantation camp on the north shore of Kauai, which was more or less tattered and in shambles.

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The house on the property, which was dilapidated and about to be knocked down, offered up all the timber they needed to build a colony of tree houses. They were right on the beach with running water, a cesspool and all the drugs they could take.

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It must have been a nice place to be, in a sense. Children were raised there and peace and love were had, while fresh fruit and the bounty of the sea were always at their doorsteps.

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Camp Taylor’s treehouses are slightly visible through the trees on the beach at Limahuli.

Things turned dark for the hippies and their commune as it continued to grow (perhaps out of hand). Meanwhile, government officials became aware of the financial incentives for attracting tourists to the island’s untapped north shore, and plans began for the Na Pali Coast State “Wilderness” Park complete with campgrounds and vista points. However, one thing future tourists would not dare oblige would be naked hippies, drum circles and drugs smearing their clean white beach vacations. So the camp was condemned and burned down in 1977.

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For some, it may have been all bongos and acid, but for others, the camp was a useful experiment in spiritual growth. Interestingly enough, and to little surprise, many of these people who once lived at Camp Taylor are now considered to be ‘upstanding citizens’ of the mainland, including an attorney at law and a public school teacher. It’s interesting what a few years of sun and salt can do for an individual’s personal development.

Today, beside a road, a tourist car park/rest stop sits in its place, and any sense of what was once Camp Taylor is offered only to the imagination. Maybe somewhere, though probably no longer on Kauai, such a life is still to be had. A few less people, a sailboat and a fishing skiff, and we’d certainly be intrigued.

Watch a trailer for the documentary here:

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messynessychic via gregoryhan

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