The fact that the Hawaiian Island chain holds the most remote location of any other archipelago on earth lends to an interesting migration history alone. Couple that with the rich culture that developed, and the boom of European influence and trading and the strategic military location of the islands, and you have a recipe for Kauai’s History that is rich in adventure, spirit, folklore and amazing nautical and navigational feats.
Kauai’s History is both commemorative of and distinctively different from the other islands. Like the other islands, Kauai was initially inhabited roughly 1500 years ago by the same Polynesian adventurers who completed their nearly 2000 mile sea voyage on outrigger canoes when they first landed on the shores of the big island of Hawaii. Here they stayed undisturbed for around 500 years, until a second wave of sea-canoe travelers appeared, this time from Tahiti (which was also originally settled by Polynesian sea-canoe explorers). It was from the Tahitian arrival that the current Hawaiian gods, belief structures and many traditions evolved.
Kauaiâ€™s name has no particular historical meaning; however, through the legend of Hawaii loa who is thought to have been the Polynesian founder of the Hawaiian islandâ€™s original inhabitants, â€śa favorite place around oneâ€™s neckâ€ť is suggested. According to legend, Kauai was the name of his favorite son, and a favorite place around oneâ€™s neck was (and perhaps still is) the universal place to carry oneâ€™s most beloved child. Despite the mystery behind Kauaiâ€™s proper name, an important part of Kauai’s History is in theÂ preserving the ancient Hawaiian dialect, before it was extinct, which differs distinctly from current accepted Hawaiian language.
European traders did not discover the islands until the late 1700â€™s, when in 1778, James Cook found and called them the â€śSandwich Islandsâ€ť after one of Cookâ€™s expedition sponsors. Unfortunately, the interaction between Cook and the Hawaiians ended up proving to be less than â€śfriendlyâ€ť, and he was met there with his untimely death when he tried to ransom a Chief and was killed during the altercation. Before his death, however, Cook managed to introduce the Hawaiian Islands to the European world, and with that introduction came other European travelers, traders and business ventures.
Kauai, though, remained relatively untouched by the traders in comparison to the other islands. This could be due to the fact the Kauai was the only island among the Hawaiian chain that resisted domination from the reign of King Kamehameha, who during his reign in the late 17th century to early 18th century had conquered and united the rest of the islands in the archipelago. Twice King Kamehameha had gathered armadas to conquer Kauai, and each time he was met with utter failure – due once to a storm and rough seas, and the other due to an epidemic which crippled his forces. Eventually though, the king of Kauai, King Kaumualii, united forces with Kamehameha, probably to avoid future invasion attempts, and to prevent continuing hostilities and any possible bloodshed which would ensue.
After Kaumualii agreed to become Kamehamehaâ€™s vassal, however, he engaged in secretive negotiations with the Russian-American Company in attempts to gain militia support against Kamehamehaâ€™s rule. When these negotiations ceased due to the companyâ€™s lack of support from their Russian Czar, Kauaiâ€™s historical fort, Fort Elizabeth, was abandoned. Fort Elizabeth still remains, and along with the coconut and sugar plantations which were established during Cookâ€™s trading era, is one of Kauaiâ€™s many popular tourist attractions.