Kauai is located in the middle of the blue Pacific Ocean. Formed some six million year ago by volcanic eruptions, it is the oldest and most northern of the eight major Hawaiian Islands.
Known as the "Garden Isle" for its abundance of tropical flowers and blossoms, Kauai is also famous for its white sand beaches, spired peaks, waterfalls, and tropical rainforests making it truly one of the world's most beautiful islands. There is little wonder why it is a favorite of tourists, honeymooners, and film makers. Jurassic Park, South Pacific, Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, and even Fantasy Island were all filmed on Kauai.
Roughly 33 miles at its longest point, and 25 miles at its shortest, the island averages 26 miles in diameter and encompasses 554 square miles. Because of its relatively old geologic age, Kauai's 90 miles of shoreline has more beaches per mile than any other Hawaiian Island.
Most of the interior of the island is very mountainous. Carved with steep canyons, Mount Kawaikini (5,243 feet) and Mount Waialeale (5148 feet) are Kauai's highest points. Mount Waialeale receives an average of 480 inches (40 feet) of rain per year, making it the "wettest spot on Earth." This rain water cascades over hundreds of waterfalls, down streams and rivers as it makes its way to the ocean. The Waimea River is the state's longest at 20 miles and moves 150 million gallons of water per day into the sea. Kauai's Wailua River is the state's only navigable waterway.
Not surprisingly, Kauai's interior is mostly uninhabited with its population of 51,000 living mostly along the shores in small towns like Lihue, Kapa'a, Koloa, Hanapepe, and Hanalei.
Kauai is officially spelled Kaua`i with the backward apostrophe indicating a glottal stop (the way air stops in the expression oh-oh!). A definitive pronunciation for Kaua`i is harder to find but most sources say, "ka-wa'-ee" with the glottal stop between the wa and the ee. You'll often hear it pronounced "ka-wye'" (with the accent on the second syllable) although this would not match its official spelling.
Of course, Kauai is a very popular tourist destination and the island has several hotels and an entire industry of Kauai vacation rentals condos, homes, and cottages in its coastal tourist areas including Poipu Beach, Kapa'a, Hanalei, and Princeville.