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(kou'ī', kou-ī') pronunciation

An island of Hawaii northwest of Oahu. It was an independent royal domain when visited by Capt. James Cook in 1778 and became part of the kingdom of Hawaii in 1810.

The Garden Isle
Location: Hawaii
Extraordinary Islands > Garden Islands > Lush Life
Tourist information: Kauai Visitors Bureau www.kauaidiscovery.com
Airports: Honolulu into Lihue, Kauai (40 min.).
Hotels: Hanalei Colony Resort $$ 5-7130 Kuhio Hwy., the North Shore ☎ 800/628-3004 or 808/826-6235; www.hcr.com Waimea Plantation Cottages $$$ 9400 Kaumualii Hwy., Western Kauai ☎ 866/77-HAWAII [774-2924] or 808/338-1625; www.waimea-plantation.com

The opening scenes in the film Jurassic Park show a helicopter swooping over an impossibly green, incredibly lush island landscape. Special effects? Computer imaging? Nope, just the mossy backbone of Kauai ringed by the sparkling blue Pacific.

The Hawaiian Islands are all beauties, of course, but Kauai is Hawaii gone native, a tropical Eden blissfully devoid of high-rises and megaresorts. And it should stay that way; a local ordinance has decreed that no building taller than a coconut tree (four stories high) can be built on the island. Kauai is Hawaii unvarnished and almost primeval, with 50 miles (80km) of some of the world's most spectacular beaches, breathtaking cliffside seascapes, and waterfalls tumbling into rainforest jungle. Under 5% of the island is zoned for commercial and residential use; the rest is protected parkland or farmland. This is where many Hawaiians themselves go to relax amid sumptuous and serene natural environs.

Kauai is the ideal spot for those who not only enjoy scenic splendors but can't wait to plunge in. The outdoor adventures here are world-class—and in this climate, you can enjoy them all year-round. You can hike Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," its burnt-red lava beds sculpted by an ancient earthquake. The raw and remote Na Pali Coast—with its spectacularly eroded sea cliffs—can be seen by sea kayak or helicopter tour. The all-purpose Kauai Kayak (☎ 800/437-3507; www.kayakkauai.com) , with locations in Hanalei and Kapaa, has been taking visitors on guided sea kayak tours of the Na Pali Coast for more than 20 years. It also offers hiking tours (including of the Waimea Canyon), snorkeling tours on the calm Puupoa Reef ("The Blue Lagoon") on the Hanalei River, and whale-watching tours. Also highly recommended is Outfitters Kauai (☎ 888/742-9887; www.outfitterskauai.com) , which has a tantalizing array of outdoor adventures, such as kayaking Hawaii's largest tropical river, the Wailua, and hiking through rainforest to a 100-ft. (30m) waterfall. Another well-known general outfitter is Snorkel Bob's (several locations; ☎ 800/262-7725; www.snorkelbob.com), which offers boat tours, snorkel trips, helicopter tours, zip-line outings, and even traditional luaus.

Of course, if zip-lining here and adventure trekking there isn't your idea of relaxing, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy Kauai's natural wonders. For some people, lying on the beach will do the trick—and Kauai's beaches are among the world's best. Try the 17-mile (27km) Polihale State Park, on the island's west coast, or the beauteous Anini Beach, which overlooks a blue lagoon—look (or listen) for Barking Dogs Beach nearby, where bare feet walking on sand sounds like dogs barking. Speaking of animals, you may be surprised to see so many chickens and roosters roaming free on the island—local lore has it that when Hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai in 1992, it knocked down a chicken farm. And the freed chickens bred like, well, rabbits.

Kauai (kou'wī'), circular island (1990 pop. 51,177), 549 sq mi (1,422 sq km), 32 mi (52 km) in diameter, N Hawaii, separated from Oahu island to the southeast by Kauai Channel. Lihue (1990 pop. 5,536) is the largest town and Nawiliwili Harbor the chief port. Geologically, Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands. It was formed by now extinct volcanoes; Kawaikini (5,170 ft/1,576 m high) and Waialeale (5,080 ft/1,548 m high) are the tallest peaks. High annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in Kauai's central mountain mass. Waimea Canyon (2,000-3,000 ft/610-915 m deep; c.10 mi/16 km long) resembles a miniature Grand Canyon. The northeastern slopes of Waialeale, one of the wettest spots on earth, receive an annual average rainfall of 450 in. (1,143 cm).

An independent Polynesian kingdom when visited by English Capt. James Cook in 1778, Kauai became part of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810. The first major attempt at agricultural development in Hawaii occurred there with the establishment of a sugar plantation in 1835. Most of the island's people live along the coast. Agriculture is the main industry, but tourism also is central to the economy. In Sept., 1992, Hurricane Iniki, the strongest hurricane to hit the Hawaiian islands in the century, devastated the island.

The Garden Isle
Kauai from space oriented.jpg
August 1995 satellite photo.
Map of Hawaii highlighting Kauai.svg
Location in the state of Hawaii.
Location 22°05′N 159°30′W / 22.083°N 159.500°W / 22.083; -159.500
Area 562.3 sq mi (1,456 km2)
Rank 4th largest Hawaiian Island
Highest point Kawaikini
Max elevation 5,243 ft (1,598 m)
Population 65,689 (as of 2008[1])
Density 106/sq mi (41/km²)
Official Insignia
Flower Mokihana (Melicope anisata)[2]
Color Poni (purple)

Kauaʻi or Kauai[3] (pron.: /kə.ˈw./; Hawaiian: [kɔuˈwɐʔi]), known as Tauaʻi in the ancient Kauaʻi dialect, is geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of 562.3 square miles (1,456.4 km2), it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and the 21st largest island in the United States.[4] Known also as the "Garden Isle", Kauaʻi lies 105 miles (169 km) across the Kauaʻi Channel, northwest of Oʻahu. This island is the site of Waimea Canyon State Park.

The United States Census Bureau defines Kauaʻi as Census Tracts 401 through 409 of Kauaʻi County, Hawaiʻi, which is all of the county except for the islands of Kaʻula, Lehua, and Niʻihau. The 2010 census population of Kauaʻi (the island) was 67,091,[5] with the largest town by population being Kapaʻa.


Etymology and language

Native Hawaiian tradition indicates the name's origin in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa — the Polynesian navigator attributed with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates how he named the island of Kauaʻi after a favorite son; therefore a possible translation of Kauaʻi is "place around the neck", meaning how a father would carry a favorite child. Another possible translation is "food season."[6]

Kauaʻi was known for its distinct dialect of the Hawaiian language that is still spoken on the neighboring island of Niʻihau. Whereas the standard language today is based on the dialect of Hawaiʻi island, which has the sound [k] at the beginning of words, the Kauaʻi dialect was known for pronouncing this as [t]. In effect, Kauaʻi dialect retained the old pan-Polynesian /t/, while 'standard' Hawaiʻi dialect has innovated and changed it to the [k]. Therefore, the native name for Kauaʻi was Tauaʻi, and the major settlement of Kapaʻa would have been called Tapaʻa.

In one of Captain Cook's earliest maps of the Kauaʻi put it's name as Atoui, though that was soon abridged to Atooi by many newcoming foreigners, until the Hawaiian Language was standardized, and it became Kauai.


Kauaʻi's origins are volcanic, the island having been formed by the passage of the Pacific plate over the Hawaii hotspot. At approximately six million years old, it is the oldest of the main islands. The highest peak on this mountainous island is Kawaikini at 5,243 feet (1,598 m).[7]

The second highest peak is Mount Waiʻaleʻale near the center of the island, 5,148 feet (1,569 m) above sea level. One of the wettest spots on earth, with an annual average rainfall of 460 inches (1,200 cm), is located on the east side of Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The high annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountains, carving out canyons with many scenic waterfalls. On the west side of the island, Waimea town is located at the mouth of the Waimea River, whose flow formed Waimea Canyon, one of the world's most scenic canyons, and which is part of Waimea Canyon State Park. At 3,000 feet (914 m) deep, Waimea Canyon is often referred to as "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific". Kokeo Point lies on the south side of the island. The Na Pali Coast is a center for recreation in a wild setting, including kayaking past the beaches, or hiking on the trail along the coastal cliffs.[8]


In 1778, Captain James Cook arrived at Waimea Bay, the first European known to have reached the Hawaiian islands, which he named after his patron the Earl of Sandwich.[9]

During the reign of King Kamehameha, the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau were the last Hawaiian Islands to join his Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Their ruler, Kaumualiʻi, resisted Kamehameha for years. King Kamehameha twice prepared a huge armada of ships and canoes to take the islands by force, and twice failed; once due to a storm, and once due to an epidemic. In the face of the threat of a further invasion, however, Kaumualiʻi decided to join the kingdom without bloodshed, and became Kamehameha's vassal in 1810, ceding the island to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi upon his death in 1824.[10]

In 1815-17, Kaumualiʻi led secret negotiations with representatives of the Russian-American Company in an attempt to gain Russia's military support against Kamehameha; however, the negotiations folded and the Russians were forced to abandon all of their presence in Kauaʻi, including Fort Elizabeth, after it was revealed that they did not have the support of Tsar Alexander I.

In 1835, Old Koloa Town opened a sugar mill.[11]


The commercial area in Port Allen

Tourism is Kauaʻi's largest industry. In 2007, 1,271,000 people visited Kauaʻi. The two largest groups were from the United States (84% of all visitors) and Japan (3%).[12] As of 2003, there were a total of approximately 27,000 jobs on Kauaʻi, of which the largest sector was accommodation/food services (26%, 6,800 jobs) followed by government (15%) and retail (14.5%), with agriculture accounting for just 2.9% (780 jobs) and educational services providing just 0.7% (183 jobs).[13] In terms of income, the various sectors that constitute the visitors industry accounted for one third of Kauai's income.[13] On the other hand, employment is dominated by small businesses, with 87% of all nonfarm businesses having fewer than 20 employees.[13] As of 2003, Kauaʻi's unemployment rate was 3.9%, compared to 3.0% for the entire state and 5.7% for the United States as a whole; and, Kauaʻi's poverty rate was 10.5%, compared to the State's 10.7%.[13]

As of mid-2004, the median price of a single-family home was $528,000, a 40% increase over 2003. As of 2003, Kauaʻi's percentage of home ownership, 48%, was significantly lower than the State's 64%, and vacation homes were a far larger part of the housing stock than the State-wide percentage (Kauaʻi 15%, State 5%).[13]

In the past, sugar plantations were Kauaʻi's most important industry. In 1835 the first sugar plantation was founded on Kauaʻi and for the next century the industry would dominate the economy of Hawaii.[14] Most of that land is now used for ranching.[12] Kauaʻi's sole remaining sugar operation, the 118-year-old Gay & Robinson Plantation plans to transform itself into a manufacturer of sugar-cane ethanol.[12]

Land in Kauaʻi is very fertile and is home to many varieties of fruit and other crops. Guava, coffee, sugarcane, mango, banana, papaya, avocado, star fruit, kava and pineapple are all cultivated.

Island facts

Some of Kauaʻi's feral chickens at Lydgate Beach Park

Hawaii Standard Time is observed on Kauaʻi year-round. During DST, for example, the time on Kauaʻi is three hours behind the West Coast of the United States and six hours behind the East Coast.[15]

The city of Līhuʻe, on the island's southeast coast, is the seat of Kauaʻi County and the second largest city on the island. Kapaʻa, on the "Coconut Coast" (site of an old coconut plantation) about 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Līhuʻe, has a population of nearly 10,000, or about 50% greater than Līhuʻe. Waimea, once the capital of Kauaʻi on the island's southwest side, was the first place in Hawaiʻi visited by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778.

Kauaʻi is home to thousands of wild chickens, who have few natural predators. Kauaʻi's chickens originated from the original Polynesian settlers, who brought them as a food source. They have since bred with European chickens that have gotten free from farms and cock-fighting breeders.

Kauaʻi is home to the U.S. Navy's "Barking Sands" Pacific Missile Range Facility, on the sunny and dry western shore.

HF ("shortwave") radio station WWVH, sister station to WWV and WWVB in Ft. Collins, Colorado, is located on the west coast of Kauai about 5 km south of Barking Sands. WWVH, WWV and WWVB are operated by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, broadcasting standard time and frequency information to the public.

The Kauaʻi Heritage Center of Hawaiian Culture and the Arts was founded in 1998. Their mission is to nurture a greater sense of appreciation and respect for the Hawaiian culture. They offer classes in Hawaiian language, hula, lei and cordage making, the lunar calendar and chanting, plus trips to cultural sites.

Important towns and cities

Hanalei town with a view of Mt. Na Molokama, and Māmalahoa
Northeastern coast of Kauaʻi, near Kīlauea

Cities and towns on Kauaʻi range in population from the roughly 9,500 people in Kapaʻa to tiny hamlets. The list below lists the larger or more notable of those from the northernmost end of Hawaii Route 560 to the western terminus of Hawaii Route 50



Located on the eastern end of the island, Lihue Airport is the aviation gateway to Kauaʻi. Lihuʻe Airport has direct routes to Honolulu, Kahului/Maui, the United States mainland, and Vancouver, Canada.


Several state highways serve Kauaʻi County:

  • Hawaii Route 50, also known as Kaumualiʻi Highway, is a thirty-three mile road that stretches from Hawaii Route 56 at the junction of Rice Street in Lihuʻe to a point approximately 1/5 mile north of the northernmost entrance of the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the far western shore.
  • Hawaii Route 58 stretches two miles (3 km) from Route 50 in Lihuʻe to the junction of Wapaa Road with Hawaii 51 near Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauaʻi.
  • Hawaii Route 56, also known as Kuhio Highway, runs twenty-eight miles from Hawaii Route 50 at the junction of Rice Street in Lihuʻe to the junction of Hawaii Route 560 in Princeville.
  • Hawaii Route 560 passes ten miles (16 km) from the junction of Route 56 in Princeville and dead ends at Keʻe Beach in Haena State Park.

Other major highways that link other parts of the Island to the main highways of Kauaʻi are:

  • Hawaii Route 55 covers 7.6 miles (12.2 km) from the junction of Route 50 in Kekaha to meet with Hawaii Route 550 south of Kokeʻe State Park in the Waimea Canyon.
  • Hawaii Route 550 spans 15 miles (24 km) from Route 50 in Waimea to Kōkeʻe State Park.
  • Hawaii Route 540 goes four miles (6 km) from Route 50 in Kalaheo to Route 50 in Eleʻele. The road is mainly an access to residential areas and Kauaʻi Coffee.
  • Hawaii Route 530, also called Kōloa Road, stretches 3.4 miles (5.5 km) from Route 50 between Kalaheo and Lawai to Route 520 in Koloa. The road is mainly an alternative to Route 520 for travel from the west side to Poʻipū.
  • Hawaii Route 520 runs five miles (8 km) from the "Tunnel of Trees" at Route 50 to Poʻipū on the south shore.
  • Hawaii Route 570 covers one mile (1.6 km) from Route 56 in Lihuʻe to Lihuʻe Airport.
  • Hawaii Route 580 spans five miles (8 km) from Route 56 in Wailua to where the road is no longer serviced just south of the Wailua Reservoir.
  • Hawaii Route 581 passes five miles (8 km) from Route 580 in the Wailua Homesteads to a roundabout just west of Kapaʻa Town.
  • Hawaii Route 583, also known as Maalo Road, stretches 3.9 miles (6.3 km) from Route 56 just north of Lihuʻe to dead-end at Wailua Falls Overlook in the interior.

Hawaii Scenic Byway

  • Holo Holo Koloa Scenic Byway, this state designated scenic byway runs over 19 miles and connects many of Kauai's most historical and cultural sights such as the Maluhia Road (Tree Tunnel), Puhi (Spouting Horn), The National Tropical Botanical Gardens, and the Salt Beds.

Mass transit

The Kauaʻi Bus is the public transportation service of the County of Kauaʻi. It is operated by Roberts Hawaii.

Places of interest

The Spouting Horn: located on the southern coast of Kauaʻi
A view of the Hanalei Valley in Northern Kauaʻi. The Hanalei River runs through the valley and 60% of Hawaii's taro is grown in its fields.
A view of the Hanalei Valley in Northern Kauaʻi. The Hanalei River runs through the valley and 60% of Hawaii's taro is grown in its fields.
view of the Nā Pali coastline from the ocean. It is part of the Nā Pali Coast State Park which encompasses 6,175 acres (20 km2) of land and is located on the northwest side of Kauaʻii.
A view of the Nā Pali coastline from the ocean. It is part of the Nā Pali Coast State Park which encompasses 6,175 acres (20 km2) of land and is located on the northwest side of Kauaʻi.
A view of the Kalalau Valley on Kauaʻi's Nā Pali Coast from the Kalalau Lookout.
A view of the Kalalau Valley on Kauaʻi's Nā Pali Coast from the Kalalau Lookout.

In films

The island of Kauaʻi has been featured in more than seventy Hollywood movies and television shows, including the musical South Pacific and Disney's 2002 animated feature film and television series Lilo & Stitch, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch, Stitch! The Movie, and Lilo & Stitch: The Series. Scenes from South Pacific were filmed in the vicinity of Hanalei. Waimea Canyon was used in the filming of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Parts of the island were also used for the opening scenes of Indiana Jones' Raiders of the Lost Ark. Other movies filmed here include Six Days Seven Nights, the 1976 version King Kong[16] and John Ford's 1963 film Donovan's Reef. Recent films include Tropic Thunder and a biopic of Bethany Hamilton titled Soul Surfer. A scene in the opening credits of popular TV show M*A*S*H was filmed in Kauai (helicopter flying over mountain top). Some scenes from Just Go with It and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides were also filmed in Kauai. A Perfect Getaway is set in Kauai.

Parts of the 2002 film Dragonfly were filmed there (although the people and the land were presented as South American) and the producers hired extras (at least three with speaking parts) from the ancient Hawaiʻian native population, which seeks to preserve its cultural heritage,[17] including the pre-USA name of these two islands, Atooi or Tauaʻi.[18][19]

Major parts of the 1966 Elvis Presley film Paradise, Hawaiian Style were filmed at various locations on Kauai. One of the most famous was the Coco Palms resort. During Hurricane Iniki, the Coco Palms was decimated and never rebuilt, but the film showcases the resort at its peak.

The Descendants, a film by Alexander Payne released in November 2011 and featuring George Clooney as lead actor, has major parts shot in Kauai, where the main character and his cousins own ancestral lands which they are considering selling. The film is based on the 2007 novel by the Hawaiian writer Kaui Hart Hemmings.

See also


  1. ^ Kauai County QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
  2. ^ "Mokihana". Native Hawaiian Plants. Kapiʻolani Community College. http://old.kcc.hawaii.edu/campus/tour/plants/pmokihana.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  3. ^ The spelling with the ʻokina accent (as "Kauaʻi") indicates syllable "i" with respelled pronunciation as "cow-Eye" or "cow-a-ee". Sometimes, an apostrophe or grave is used, as: Kaua'i or Kaua`i.
  4. ^ "Table 5.08 - Land Area of Islands: 2000". 2004 State of Hawaii Data Book. State of Hawaii. 2004. http://www.hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/economic/databook/db2004/section05.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-23.
  5. ^ Census Tracts 401 through 409, Kauaʻi County United States Census Bureau
  6. ^ Pukui, Mary Kawena. Place Names of Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-0524-0.
  7. ^ "Table 5.11 - Elevations of Major Summits". 2004 State of Hawaii Data Book. State of Hawaii. 2004. http://www.hawaii.gov/dbedt/info/economic/databook/db2004/section05.pdf. Retrieved 2007-07-23.
  8. ^ Kalalau Trail General Information
  9. ^ "Kauai History". Hawaiian Tourism Authority. http://www.gohawaii.com/kauai/about/history. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  10. ^ "Kauai History". Hawaiian Tourism Authority. http://www.gohawaii.com/kauai/about/history. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  11. ^ "Kauai History". Hawaiian Tourism Authority. http://www.gohawaii.com/kauai/about/history. Retrieved 2012-06-16.
  12. ^ a b c "Kauai Economic Outlook Summary: Tourism Woes Mean No Growth Through 2009". University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization]. 2008. http://www.kauai.gov/Government/Departments/EconomicDevelopment/EconomicStatisticsandForecasting/tabid/256/Default.aspx. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Kauai Economic Development Plan 2005-2015". County of Kauai Office of Economic Development,Kauai Economic Development Board. 2004. http://www.kauai.gov/portals/0/oed/KEDP_2005-2015.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
  14. ^ Kauai Plantation Railway - Kauai Sugar Plantations
  15. ^ Discover Kauai
  16. ^ <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074751/locations>
  17. ^ Background of loss of language and culture: the takeover of Hawaiʻi by the USA in 1893.
  18. ^ Current interest in the language and culture.
  19. ^ Original name and language discussion.


  • Edward Joesting. Kauaʻi, the Separate Kingdom. University of Hawaiʻi Press and Kauaʻi Museum Association. Honolulu. 1984. ISBN 0-8248-1162-3
  • Cook, Chris (October 1996). The Kauaʻi Movie Book. Landscape photography by David Boynton. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing. ISBN 1-56647-141-9.

External links

Coordinates: 22°05′N 159°30′W / 22.083°N 159.500°W / 22.083; -159.500

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