/kah'ooh ah"ee, kow"uy/, n.an island in NW Hawaii. 38,856; 511 sq. mi. (1325 sq. km).
* * *Hawaiian Kaua‘ivolcanic island, Kauai county, Hawaii, U.S. It lies 72 miles (116 km) northwest of Oahu island across the Kauai Channel. The northernmost and geologically the oldest of the major Hawaiian Islands, it is also the most verdant and is known as the Garden Isle. With an area of 552 square miles (1,430 square km), the nearly circular isle, whose name is of uncertain meaning, consists mainly of Mount Waialeale (Waialeale, Mount) (5,243 feet [1,598 metres]) and marginal lowlands dissected by fertile valleys and deep fissures; Waialeale's summit is considered the wettest place on Earth, averaging some 450 inches (11,430 mm) of rain annually. The first Polynesians to reach the Hawaiian Islands are said to have landed there a millennium ago and settled at the mouth of the Wailua River. Kauai was site of the first Hawaiian landing (1778) of the English explorer-navigator Captain James Cook (Cook, James). The island suffered considerable property damage when it was hit by Hurricane Iniki on September 11, 1992. Important cities include Lihue (the county seat) and Kapaa. Sugar was formerly the main agricultural product, but it is no longer a leading industry, and nearly all the sugar plantations have stopped operating. There is diversified manufacturing, especially of tourist-oriented goods. Coffee also contributes to the economy. Notable attractions include Waimea Canyon (known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), Huleia and Kilauea Point national wildlife refuges, Russian Fort Elizabeth State Park (built 1816), and Kilauea Lighthouse, which contains the world's largest (although currently inactive) lighthouse clamshell lens. The National Tropical Botanical Garden, chartered by the U.S. Congress in the 1960s, is located along the southern shore. The island's lush vegetation and fine beaches have made it a setting for numerous films and television shows. Kauai county embraces nearby Niihau island (70 square miles [180 square km]) and the tiny uninhabited islets of Kaula and Lehua; privately owned Niihau is known as the “Forbidden Island” because access is strictly restricted, and it is home to a small traditional Hawaiian population.
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