Kauai, located 66 miles northwest of Oahu, rises to one main central peak named Mt.
Waialeale at about 6,000 feet, considered by many to be "the wettest place on earth."
From the early 19th Century, Kauai was nicknamed the "Garden Isle" for its abundance of
fruits and vegetables and also for its lush vegetation. Its principal harbor is at
Nawiliwili Bay, 98 miles from Honolulu and located on the eastern side of Kauai – so
subject to some problems in strong trade winds. Other landings were located at Hanalei
Bay on the north, Koloa on the south and Waimea on the southwest. Overland travel from
Hanalei to Waimea via Kapaa, Lihue and Koloa was a relatively simple task in the last
half of the 19th Century. Terrain on the northwest Na Pali Coast, however, was (and is)
impassable. A horse trail crossed the mountains between Hanalei and Waimea but most
people took the longer, safer and less arduous trip around the east shore of the island.
Kauai remained independent of Kamehameha I until its king agreed by treaty to join the
kingdom Kamehameha assembled by conquest in the other islands. Settlement of Kauai by
non-Hawaiians began in 1820 although some beachcombers were there earlier. For details
about overland mail carriage on Kauai, see
Islands of Kauai and Niihu Routes under Overland Mail Routes
and for detail about the town postmarks found on Kauai, see
Islands of Kauai and Niihau under Town Postamrks.
Kauai is 551 square miles in size and is the northernmost inhabited island of the chain.
The privately owned island of Niihau is located 15 miles off the south west coast of
Kauai. Niihau land size is 72 square miles and it is the westernmost inhabited island.
Niihau fell under administrative authority of Kauai. Principal communication with
Niihau was by private boat between Nanopapa landing on Niihau and Waimea, Kauai.
Hanalei and Environs
Hanalei is on the north shore of Kauai. This map shows the prominent Hanalei Bay with
Princeville and Waioli. The town of Hanalei is at the inner most point of the Bay and
is 30 miles from Lihue.