Kauai is geologically the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of 562.3 square miles, it is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, and the 21st largest island in the United States. Known also as the “Garden Isle”, Kauai lies 105 miles across the Kauai Channel, northwest of Oahu.
Hawaii Standard Time is observed on Kauai year-round. During DST, for example, the time on Kauai is three hours behind the West Coast of the United States and six hours behind the East Coast.
The city of Lihue, on the island’s southeast coast, is the seat of Kauai County and the second largest city on the island. Kapaa, on the “Coconut Coast” (site of an old coconut plantation) about 6 miles north of Lihue, has a population of nearly 10,000, or about 50% greater than Lihue. Waimea, once the capital of Kauai on the island’s southwest side, was the first place in Hawaii visited by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778.
Kauai is home to thousands of wild chickens, who have few natural predators. Kauai’s chickens originated from the original Polynesian settlers, who brought them as a food source. They have since bred with European chickens that have gotten free from farms and cock-fighting breeders.
Kauai is home to the U.S. Navy’s “Barking Sands” Pacific Missile Range Facility, on the sunny and dry western shore.
As of 2008, there were just 66k people on the island. Compare that to Oahu, which at 596k square miles, is just slightly larger than Kauai but with a population of 954k in 2010. That’s over 10 times the number of people on that island! Honolulu alone has 390k people. The smaller population on this island makes for a much more quiet and laid back life.
In addition to having few people, there are no cities on Kauai. No chain restaurants (other than the ubiquitous fast food joints), very few mainstream stores. No skyscrapers or towers. In fact, no building taller than the tallest palm tree. There are no freeways and the fastest speed limit on the entire island is 50 mph.
What the island has plenty of are chickens. Tons and tons of chickens, chicks in every stage of life, and roosters that crow 24/7. Apparently one doesn’t need sun up to begin crowing on Kauai. If you’re a rooster and you have a heartbeat, you crow. End of story. Never mind that it’s 3am and the people just inside the window you’re perched outside of are attempting to sleep. You’re a rooster and it’s mandated, by Kauai law, that you crow. And crow very loudly.
But Kauai has more than just an overpopulation of chickens and roosters. There are a vast number of feral cats, countless geckos, huge spiders that would make even a grown man shiver, poisonous centipedes, and the nasty, disgusting cockroach. Ugh. How I wish that the cockroach could be exterminated island-wide. They dart in from outside and run across the ceiling, up the walls, inside my cupboards (and from there they leer out at me when I open the door – I don’t care who you are. Having a giant roach stare at you from an open cupboard door will give you a huge case of the heebie jeebies. Ick.)
Kauai is basically a large mountain with a small amount of habitable area on 3 sides. Mount Waialeale rises from the middle and averages more than 452 inches of rain a year (since 1912), with a record 683 inches in 1982. Its summit is one of the rainiest spots on earth. (Mount Waialeale wiki)
On the west side of the island is Waimea Canyon. Called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this is an area of breathtaking beauty. Brilliant reds, oranges, and greens color a landscape of deep canyons and gorges. There are several waterfalls and rivers and the 45 minute drive to reach the area is worth every second. (Waimea Canyon wiki)
The Na Pali Coast lies along the northwest side of the island. The cliffs rise 4000 feet from the beaches below and are an awe-inspiring sight. The beaches can only be reached by boat or helicopter or by a strenuous hike through more than a few deep valleys along an 11 mile trail.The work to reach this coastline is well worth it though as, in my opinion, this should be one of the Wonders of the World. It is a place of extreme, wild beauty. Truly amazing. (Na Pali Coast wiki)
Kauai may be limited in what most would consider necessities of life (shopping, dining-out options, giant movie theaters, cities, etc) but this quiet life with its sweeping beauty is what drew us to the island. What it lacks in modern amenities it more than makes up for in the sheer wonder of the landscape and extremes of the wet and rainy north side to the dry and almost desert-like aridity of the west. Sweeping cliffs, plunging canyons, green and verdant throughout, Kauai is a remarkable island and one we are incredibly happy to call home.