BURSTING WITH COLOR: Limahuli Garden is a botanical garden and nature preserve on KauaiĀ’s wet north shore. (Hawaii Visitors / Convention Bureau)

Visitors to Kauai who venture beyond the beach may be rewarded with a few hours in a town where time has slowed, at a Hindu monastery high in the hills, a small museum chronicling the history of Kauai and a garden of the gods.

HANAPEPE

On a typical day in Hanapepe, a sleepy town on Kauai's south shore, roosters strut across the wide main street, a parrot named Tabasco greets you at an art gallery, and a sign on the door of a boutique explains that the owner has gone to the bank but will return soon.

Life is lived slowly in Hanapepe, population about 2,300 and about 16 miles southwest of Lihue off Kaumualii Highway. It's a delightful day trip, and, to my mind anyway, more interesting than touristy Old Koloa Town to the east.

Hanapepe Road, the main drag, is lined with frame buildings that recall the early American West. These nicely restored buildings have taken on a second life: A former laundry is an art gallery, a onetime service station is a bookstore and café.

The town fell on hard times when the center of commerce shifted to Lihue and Highway 50 was realigned. But recently Hanapepe has reinvented itself as the art capital of Kauai. Friday is Art Night, and from 6 to 9 p.m. galleries welcome visitors with pupus (appetizers) and tunes by local musicians.

A day trip might start with a stroll across the Hanapepe swinging bridge, a creaky, swaying wooden pedestrian bridge suspended by two cables over the Hanapepe River at the east end of town.

Pick up the widely available Historic Hanapepe Walking Tour Map to learn histories of some of the buildings, identified by plaques. The old Serikawa building, once a 1920s bed-and-breakfast ($3 a night, with meals, back in the day), is now a complex of small stores. (Its balconied second story passed for an Australian hotel in the 1983 TV miniseries "The Thorn Birds.") A former Chinese-owned bakery now houses Banana Patch Studio, where you might find artisans at work.

You won't find McDonald's in Hanapepe. But you might try Bobbie's for pulled pork sandwiches or a local-style plate lunch or Hanapepe Café & Bakery for salad, sandwiches and vegetarian fare and a little ambience — ceiling fans, original 1930s counter and stools. Both serve lunch, as well as dinner on Art Nights.

KAUAI MUSEUM

Downtown Lihue, with its state and county offices and fast-food restaurants, isn't exactly a magnet for tourists. But the Kauai Museum is well worth the $10 ticket and investment of a couple of hours for those interested in Hawaiian history.

Its eclectic collection gives a glimpse into the lives of those who molded Hawaii — the Polynesians, the missionaries, the immigrants who labored in the sugar cane fields. There's a good film that puts it all in perspective, including today's emergence of the Native Hawaiian movement.

Displays include Filipino swords with exquisite metalwork, objects from Honolulu's Iolani Palace during the monarchy, Chinese lacquerware, a giant sugar boiling pot, stone tools, Japanese musical instruments, early New England furniture brought by the missionaries, feather leis and capes and an outrigger canoe.

The museum, 4428 Rice St., Lihue, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Info: (808) 245-6931, http://www.kauaimuseum.org.

HINDU MONASTERY

In the hills four miles above the coastal town of Kapaa, this peaceful retreat is home to 21 Hindu monks from five nations. Visitors are welcome to stroll the gardens, which are lush with ferns and flowering trees, and to visit Kadavul temple, on either guided or self-guided tours.

One drizzly morning I took the self-guided tour, following a narrow, winding footpath past a banyan tree housing a six-faced god showing the path to wisdom through yoga. A free map identified points of interest. There are ponds and botanical gardens with trees from India and Sri Lanka as well as Hawaiian tropicals.

Outside Kaduval temple, I watched an orange-robed monk tossing rice to the birds in a ritual honoring the nature god. He stood near a 16-ton black granite statue of the bull Nandi, which represents the perfect devotee of God Siva. Shedding my shoes, I dipped my feet in the temple pool and stepped inside, where there are more than 100 statues of God Siva. A service at 9 a.m. daily is open to anyone.

From the pali (lookout) in the gardens, there's a view of Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on Earth, and the Waialua River valley. Across the way, sun glinted on the golden domes of the Iraivan Temple, a Southern Indian-style structure being built of white granite hand-carved in India. It's projected to be completed in 2017.