Kauai from space (NASA image)
Kaua‘i (usually called Kauai outside the Hawaiian Islands) is the oldest and fourth largest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Known also as the "Garden Isle", Kaua‘i lies 105 miles (170 kilometers) across the Kaua‘i Channel, northwest of O‘ahu. Of volcanic origin, the highest peak on this mountainous island is Kawaikini at 1,598 m (5,243 ft). The second highest peak is Mount Wai‘ale‘ale near the center of the island, 1,570 m (5,148 ft) above sea level. The wettest spot on Earth, with an annual average rainfall of 460 inches (11,700 millimeters), is located on the east side of Mount Wai‘ale‘ale. The high annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountain, carving out canyons with many scenic waterfalls.
There is no known meaning behind the name of Kaua‘i. Native Hawaiian tradition indicates the name's origin in the legend of Hawai‘iloa — the Polynesian navigator attributed with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates how he named the island of Kaua‘i after a son.
The city of Līh‘ue, on the island's southeast coast, is the seat of Kaua‘i County and the largest city on the island. Waimea, on the island's southwest side and once the capital of Kaua‘i, was the first place visited by explorer Captain James Cook in 1778. Waimea town is located at the mouth of the Waimea River, whose flow formed one of the most scenic canyons in the world: 3000 ft (900 m) deep Waimea Canyon.
The island of Kaua‘i was featured in Disney's 2002 animated feature film Lilo & Stitch. Waimea Canyon was used in the filming of the 1993 film Jurassic Park.
Kaua‘i is home to the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility.
Kaua‘i was known for its distinct dialect of the Hawaiian language before it went extinct there. Whereas the standard language today is based on the dialect of Hawai‘i island (also extinct), the Kaua‘i dialect was known for pronouncing /k/ as /t/. Therefore, the native name for Kaua‘i was Taua‘i, and the major settlement of Kapa‘a would have been called Tapa‘a.
- Edward Joestring. Kauai, the Separate Kingdom. University of Hawaii Press and Kauai Museum Assocation. Honolulu. 1984. ISBN 0824811623