Hawaii Guide

Island of Kauai, History Kauai

The Island of Kauai, History Guide


The island of Kaui was formed by volcanic eruptions pushing lava rock up through the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Being the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, the exact details of its formation is not clear, but it is estimated to be six to ten million years old. Volcanic activity is still adding to the group of islands the big island is still growing and new islands are being created. Erosion caused by the constant movement of the water against the lava rock has created Kauai's stunning topography and natural beauty. The battle of these elements continues today with the ocean gradually reclaiming the island and heavy rainfall carving new designs in the geography of the island.

The first settlers were Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands 2,500 miles to the south of Hawaii around the fifth century AD. With them they brought plants such as taro and breadfruit which soon established themselves on the previously barren island. Warlike Tahitians arrived in about 1000 AD and subjugated the island's existing inhabitants.

European civilization made its first contact with Hawaii through the arrival of Captain James Cook at Waimea Bay in 1778. The British captain found himself at the island while trying to find the Northwest Passage which was supposed to link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the north. This was the first introduction to iron for the Hawaiians who were fascinated by the British with their pipes and guns. Unfortunately the British also brought diseases such as measles and syphilis with them which quickly spread amongst the islanders.

In the late 18th century, Kamehameha became the King of Hawaii using guns brought to the islands by the British. The chief of Kauai, Kaumualii, resisted Kamehameha's rule until he died in 1810, after which Kauai became part of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Sea traders, merchants and missionaries maintained links with Europe and in 1835 the first sugar plantation was founded in Koloa. As the sugar industry developed, workers were brought in from Asia and Europe. The last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani, was overthrown in 1893 by Americans, after which Hawaii became a republic. Hawaii was established as part of the United States in 1959.

Hurricane Iniki in 1992 was responsible for a lot of damage, which affected both the agricultural and tourist industries. However, the effects of the hurricane meant a lot of rebuilding work had to be done which saw a dramatic jump in the standards of many of the vacation rentals and other forms of accommodation. Kauai Island wishes to avoid the damage done to other islands in Hawaii though tourist development, and has thus opted to promote eco tourism. In with this decision there are restrictions on hiking and camping in certain parts of the island, other areas have become wildlife sanctuaries to preserve Kauai's environment and endangered species, and in the towns buildings are allowed to go no higher than the tree line. We welcome you to this tropical paradise and ask you to respect this untouched beauty.

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