ISLAND HISTORY: Here are some notable accounts of early Hawaiian, Kaua‘i history

Beginning circa 400 AD and continuing over a number of succeeding centuries, Polynesian sea voyagers from the Marquesas and Tahiti became the first people to inhabit the Hawaiian islands.

Yet, visitors besides Polynesians likely also visited Hawai‘i during the interval of time between the initial Polynesian settlement and the final Polynesian settlement by Tahitians some 800 years ago.

In fact, a Hawaiian legend refers to three people of an unknown race being brought to Hawai‘i by Hawaiians during the late 1000s, and Japanese seafarers are mentioned as having been shipwrecked on Maui and integrating themselves with Hawaiians perhaps 100 years later.

Also, speculative evidence exists — a Spanish map, a document and an artifact found in Hawai‘i — indicating that Spaniards may have visited Hawai‘i during the 1500s.

This is within the realm of possibility, since Spanish galleons had been sailing between Acapulco and Manila on trade routes north and south of Hawai‘i for over 200 years before Captain James Cook’s arrival in 1778.

Then there is the account of Kaua‘i’s King Kukona commanding an army that defeated a seaborne invading army led by Kalaunui, the king of Hawai‘i, in battles at Maha‘ulepu and Lawa‘i in 1260 AD.

At dawn on Jan. 18, 1778, an event of momentous historical consequence to Hawaiians occurred when Captain Cook sailed into the midst of an unknown group of islands.

Of his discovery of Hawai‘i, Cook wrote, “…in the Morning of the 18th when an island was discovered bearing NEBE and soon after we saw more land bearing North and entirely detached from the first; both had the appearance of being high land.”

Likewise, Hawaiians first sighted Cook’s ships on Jan. 19, 1778, when they observed the “Resolution” and “Discovery” off Kipu Kai, Kaua‘i.

Furthermore, on that day, William Ellis aboard the “Discovery” sketched Kipu Kai, the first drawing of the Hawaiian islands made by a Westerner.

Finally, a 1820 census revealed that 65 of the 2,000 residents of Wainiha, Kaua‘i, identified themselves as Menehune — not the little people of mythology, but the descendants of Marquesans who’d settled in Hawai‘i prior to the Tahitians.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: and here Hank can be reached at

  1. BlairJ April 26, 2021 10:20 am Reply

    Who were the first Hawai’ians to discover the mainland?

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