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Kauaʻi or Kauai (/kə.ˈwaɪ.iː/; 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. 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, with the largest town by population being Kapaʻa.

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Geography

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).

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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.

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History

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.

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.

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.

Kauai Island Facts
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.

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.

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Kauai in the Movies
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 and John Ford’s 1963 film Donovan’s Reef. Recent films include Tropic Thunder and a biopic of Bethany Hamilton entitled 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, including the pre-USA name of these two islands, Atooi or Tauaʻi.

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.