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Welcome to Kaua’i!

Lush and green, Kaua’i is a nature-lover’s paradise!

Kaua’i Fast Facts
• Area: 260 sq. miles
• Population: 65,680 (2008)
• Highest point: Kamakou (4,960 ft)
• Population density: 106 people per square mile
• Principal Cities and Towns: Lihue, Princeville, Hanalei, Wailua, Poipu, Kalaheo, Hanapepe, Pakala Village, Waimea, Haena
• Highest Point : Kawaikini (5,240 ft)
• Nickname: The Garden Isle
• Flower: Mokihana
• Color: Purple
• Administration: Is a part of Maui county (except for Kalaupapa peninsula, which is a part of Kalawao County.)

Next to O’ahu, Kaua’i is my favorite island. We’ve always enjoyed its lush, verdant countryside and its (relatively!) unspoiled nature. “Green” is the order of the day on Kaua’i, and no island does it better.

Strangely, no one really knows the origins of the name “Kaua’i.” Local lore says the name might have come from the legend of Hawai’iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates how he named the island of Kaua’i after a favorite son; therefore a possible translation of Kaua’i is “place around the neck”, meaning how a father would carry a favorite child.

Geological Facts

Kaua’i is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, at about 5-6 million years. While many consider Kaua’i the northwest-most island in the chain, it is really “just another” island in a long chain of volcanic islands that runs from the island of Hawai’i in the southeast all the way to the Aleutian Islands, by way of the Hawaiian Ridge, Kurile Atoll and the Emperor Seamounts.

That said, one might wonder how a string of volcanic mountains could form over such a distance, and in largely straight lines at that! The answer lies in “plate tectonics,” that feature of the earth that is responsible for many volcanoes and mountain-building all over the globe. In short, the earth’s crust (outermost layer) consists of a number of large plates that, because of their lesser density, actually float on the even more dense material beneath, and are propelled by forces originating deep within the earth.

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The first recorded history of Kauai’s people began with the Marquesans of Polynesia. They inhabited the island from the time of their arrival (ca. 400 A.D.) until the Tahitians finally conquered them 600 years later. The Polynesian bloodlines still run strong on the island: many of Kauai’s oldest families are of Polynesian descent. In addition, much of the flora and fauna that flourish on the island was transported from Polynesia during this era of migration.

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Spotlight On the Sugar Industry…Perhaps the single-most influential time in Kauai’s recent history was the boom-time of the sugar industry. Up until that era, the sleepy little island had known nothing of trade. The first sugar plantation was founded in Koloa in the year 1835. Plantations like it would eventually attract scores of people from all corners of the world, including East Asia, the Philippines and Europe. Immigrant labor was cheap, with workers being housed in structures known as Camp Houses. A few of these old Camp Houses are still standing today, although they have been completely renovated. The Camp House Grill is a family-style Kalaheo restaurant situated inside one of these renovated buildings. Renovated plantation homes such as Grove Farm Homestead Museum and Kilohana Plantation teach visitors about the growth of the sugar industry and its influence on the island as a whole.

The Kauai-Hollywood Connection…

With its lush, tropical landscape, breathtaking views and relative seclusion, Kaua’i makes the perfect location for a Hollywood film shoot—particularly if the story is set in the jungle. Kauai’s Hollywood history goes back as far as the 1930s, but it entered the international spotlight due to the 1976 production of ‘King Kong’. In just the past 10 years, the world has seen Kauai’s scenery in movies like ‘Hook’ (1991), ‘Jurassic Park’ (1993), ‘George of the Jungle’ (1997), ‘Six Days, Seven Nights’ (1998) and ‘Mighty Joe Young’ (1998). Hawaii Movie Tours takes interested tourists to all the top locations.

Today’s Economy

Tourism is Kaua’i's largest industry. In 2007, 1,271,000 visitors came to Kaua’i. The two largest groups were from the United States (84% of all visitors) and Japan (3%). As of 2003, there were a total of approximately 27,000 jobs on Kaua’i, 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). In terms of income, the various sectors that comprise the visitors industry accounted for one third of Kaua’i's income. On the other hand, employment is dominated by small businesses, with 87% of all nonfarm businesses having fewer than 20 employees.

As of 2003, Kaua’i'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, Kaua’i's poverty rate was 10.5%, compared to the State’s 10.7%. As of mid-2004, the median price of a single family home was $528,000, a 40% increase over 2003. As of 2003, Kaua’i'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 (Kaua’i 15%, State 5%)..

In the past, sugar plantations were Kaua’i's most important industry, but most of that land is now used for ranching. Kaua’i's sole remaining sugar operation, the 119-year-old Gay & Robinson Plantation, has announced its intention to quite producing sugar in August 2010.