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Kauai History and Historical Landmarks

Kauai is the oldest of the populated Hawaiian islands. Now home to over 58,303 Residents (Jan 1 2007 Census), Kauai was first inhabited by the Marquesans who sailed here from Polynesia in 400 A.D. In 1000 A.D., the Tahitians discovered the island's beauty and overpowered the Marquesans. Many of the plant life you see on the island were brought here by the Polynesians.

Captain Cook

It wasn't until the 1700s that westerners came to the island. Perhaps the most widely known is Captain James Cook. He landed two large ships HMS Discovery and Resolution (a sight never seen by Hawaiians before) on the west coast of the island in Waimea Bay in 1778. These Englishmen traded trinkets for food and learned about the local culture from their Hawaiian hosts. Cook declared the islands be called the "Sandwich Islands" after the 4th Earl of Sandwich who at the time was Cook's superior officer and the First Lord of Admiralty. In 1779 Cook was killed by the Hawaiians when he attempted to kidnap their high chief to force the return of a stolen boat. After his passing, James King became First Lieutenant. It was Cook and his men who brought popularity to the islands and acted as the catalyst that would bring missionaries, disease, merchants, and strip much of the islanders of their cultural identity.
Some historians now believe, contrary to popular opinion, that Capt. Cook was not the first European to discover these islands. It is thought that the Spanish navigator Gaetan was blown off course while traveling to Mexico in 1542. He marked these islands on his charts, but finding no treasures (like gold or silver); he never bothered to return here.

Fort Elizabeth and King Kamehameha

In 1810 King Kamehameha who had reign over all but 2 of the other islands took Kauai non-violently from Kaumuali'i. In 1815 a Russian doctor named Georg Scheffer journeyed to the island in hopes of retaining trading privileges with King Kamehameha. Since Kauai was still nominally under control of King Kaumualii, Scheffer promised King Kaumualii that Nicholas I of Russia (Then Emperor) would help him liberate against King Kamehameha in exchange for cargo that was being held in Waimea. Kaumualii allowed Scheffer to erect Fort Elizabeth on the west side of the island as well as 2 more near Hanalei. Scheffer's plans were curbed however when he was called back to Russia leaving Fort Elizabeth to fall under the reign of Kamehameha and later was used against a rebellion led by Kaumualii's son.

The Kilauea Lighthouse

In 1913 The Kilauea Lighthouse was built. At the time it was erected it contained the largest glass lens of its kind and it guided sailors who were arriving from the Orient. The Kilauea Lighthouse is the northern most point of all the major inhabited Hawaiian Islands. In 1970 the lighthouse was turned off but still stands as a historical landmark. From the peninsula, spectators and birdwatchers can gaze up the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a diverse array of birdlife and the occasional island favorite Monk Seal.

Hurricane Iniki

On September 11, 1992 Hurricane Iniki (category 4) swept over Kauai having a severe impact both on the natural ecosystem as well as on the local population. Locals were rushed into hotels where the strong foundations acted as more adequate shelter. The hurricane destroyed over 1500 houses and 6 people were killed. Iniki was formed during the meteorological phenomena "El NiƱo".

Silver Screen

Kauai has been used as a backdrop in several major motion pictures such as:
Jurassic Park III (2001) 
Dragonfly (2002) 
Six Days Seven Nights (1998)
Mighty Joe Young (1998)
Outbreak (1995)
Hook (1991)
Raiders of the Lost Arc (1983)
King Kong (1976) 
South Pacific (1958)
View entire list

Museums and Landmarks


Kaua'i Museum - 4428 Rice St. in Lihu'e - Exhibits there include artifacts from the Missionary and Plantation periods, Hawaiiana, geology, flora and fauna. (808) 245-6931

Kamokila Hawaiian Village - The closest thing you're likely to see to an ancient
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