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Kauaʻi (in standard Hawaiian pronounced [kauˈaʔi]; in Kauaʻi-Niʻihau dialect, [tauˈaʔi]; usually spelled Kauai outside the Hawaiian Islands and pronounced /ˈkaʊɑɪ/ or /kaʊˈɑɪ/) is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. With an area of 552.3 square miles (1,430.5 km²), 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", Kauaʻi lies 105 miles (170 kilometers) across the Kauaʻi Channel, northwest of Oʻahu. Of volcanic origin, the highest peak on this mountainous island is Kawaikini at 5,243 feet (1,598 m). The second highest peak is Mount Waiʻaleʻale near the center of the island, 5,148 feet (1,569 m) above sea level. One of the wettest spots on Earth, with an annual average rainfall of 460 inches (11,700 mm), is located on the east side of Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The high annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountains, carving out canyons with many scenic waterfalls.
There is no known meaning behind the name of Kauaʻi. Native Hawaiian tradition indicates the name's origin in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa — the Polynesian navigator attributed with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. The story relates how he named the island of Kauaʻi after a favorite son; therefore a possible translation of Kauaʻi is "place around the neck", meaning how a father would carry a favorite child.
The United States Census Bureau defines Kauaʻi as Census Tracts 401 through 409 of Kauaʻi County, Hawaiʻi, which is all of the county except for the islands of Kaʻula, Lehua, and Niʻihau. The 2000 census population of Kauaʻi (the island) was 58,303. 
During the reign of King Kamehameha, the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau were the last Hawaiian Islands to join his Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. Their ruler, Kaumualiʻi, resisted Kamehameha for years. King Kamehameha twice prepared a huge armada of ships and canoes to take the islands by force and twice failed; once due to a storm, and once due to an epidemic. In the face of the threat of a further invasion, however, Kaumualiʻi decided to join the kingdom without bloodshed, and became Kamehameha's vassal in 1810, ceding the island to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi upon his death.
The city of Līhuʻe, on the island's southeast coast, is the seat of Kauaʻi County and the second largest city on the island. Kapaʻa, on the "Coconut Coast" (site of an old coconut plantation) about 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Līhuʻe, has a population of nearly 10,000, or about 50% greater than Līhuʻe. Waimea, once the capital of Kauaʻi on the island's southwest side, was the first place in Hawaiʻi visited by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1778. Waimea town is located at the mouth of the Waimea River, whose flow formed one of the most scenic canyons in the world. At 3,000 feet (914 m) deep, Waimea Canyon has been called "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific".
1992's Hurricane Iniki may have caused an indirect change in Kauaʻi's ecosystem. Some say a chicken farm was destroyed, causing all of the chickens to roam free that one may see today. Others say that sugarcane plantation laborers in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought and raised chickens (for eating and cockfighting) and many got loose over the years and multiplied. Whatever their original source, Kauai is now home to thousands of wild roosters and hens, roaming the island with few natural predators. Wild roosters have been known to disturb evening quiet time at odd hours with their crowing. Currently, the Humane Society is investigating the death of large numbers of Kauai chickens. The deaths are most likely due to bacterial infections caused by over-population. 
The island of Kauaʻi has been featured in more than 70 Hollywood movies and television shows, including the musical South Pacific and Disney's 2002 animated feature film and television series Lilo & Stitch. Scenes from South Pacific were filmed in the vicinity of Hanalei. Waimea Canyon was used in the filming of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Parts of the island were also used for the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Other movies filmed here include Six Days Seven Nights, the remake of King Kong and John Ford's 1963 film Donovan's Reef. Coco Palms Resort is a famous resort located on this island and many of Elvis' films including Blue Hawaii were filmed here. The resort was damaged in the Hurricane in 1992, but is set to reopen by 2010.
Kauaʻi is home to the U.S. Navy's "Barking Sands" Pacific Missile Range Facility, on the sunny and dry western shore.
Kauaʻi was known for its distinct dialect of the Hawaiian language before it went extinct there. Whereas the standard language today is based on the dialect of Hawaiʻi island, the Kauaʻi dialect was known for pronouncing /k/ as /t/. (In fact, Kauaʻi retained the old pan-Polynesian /t/, while Hawaiʻi has innovated and changed it.) Therefore, the native name for Kauaʻi was Tauaʻi, and the major settlement of Kapaʻa would have been called Tapaʻa.