Historical Hawaii Kauai

More than 5 million years ago, oceanic eruptions created Kauai, the oldest and 4th largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Kauai was first settled by the Marquesans, who sailed from Polynesia in 400 AD, eventually becoming supplanted by the Tahitians in 1000 AD.

British explorer Captain James Cook sailed into Waimea Bay, Kauai, with his ships Discovery and Resolution in 1778, declaring a new find. He called the Hawaiian Islands the Sandwich Isles, after the Earl of Sandwich. In 1779, Cook was slain by Hawaiians.

Kauai, always proud, was the last island to join the Kingdom of Hawaii under King Kamehameha I, resisting two attempts to be taken by force. To avoid further loss of life, Kauai’s king made Kauai part of the kingdom in 1810, never foreseeing a greater threat to independence-missionaries.

The well-meaning missionaries had little understanding of Hawaiian culture, forcing the women into long dresses and banning the hula; a dance sacred as well as entertaining. In conjunction with the harvesting of sugarcane and an influx of foreigners, Kauai changed irrevocably.

However, Kauai has retained its mysterious beauty, leading to its scenery being featured in over 70 movies and TV shows including Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park. Kauai’s best attractions often include the unknown or spirituality. The Hauola Place of Refuge, a sacred spot now located in Lydgate State Park, took in fleeing lawbreakers or warriors defeated in battle. After a rite conducted by priests, those who sought shelter could return home, absolved.

Another site, the Menehune (Alekoko) Fishpond, is a 2,700 foot stone wall believed to have been built by the Menehune, small mystic beings able to complete marvels of engineering and construction overnight! One end of the fishpond was left uncompleted, due to the arrival of dawn, and the later completion, said to be finished by non-Menehune hands, doesn’t quite match the rest. The Fishpond can be seen from the Huleia River.

For hikers, there is the Kalalau Trail, 11 miles along the Napali Coast, overlooking the thunderous waves of the Pacific Ocean. The trail crosses 5 valleys and ends at Kalalau Beach, but can be muddy or even dangerous, due to the fury of heavy rainstorms.

The Fern Grotto is a natural amphitheater filled with ferns, accessible by a 2 1/2 mile boat trip down the Wailua River. This is a more tourist-friendly, popular attraction.

The highest point on Kauai is worth a look-it is Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth. The average rainfall is 400-500 inches per year. It can be most spectacularly viewed by helicopter.

There are countless other attractions in Kauai, but the best are those that capture the essence of the early pristine Kauai, wild, free, and smiled upon by the gods.