Is it Kaui, Kaua`i or Kauai?
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Is it Kaui, Kaua`i or Kauai?

In the case of the spelling and pronunciation for Kaua`i, use of the okina between the ‘a’ and the ‘i’ is considered the most correct way of spelling and it designates the correct way of pronouncing our island’s name. Kauai, spelled without the okina, is often used on web sites so that search results are more successful. Kaui is a misspelling. This is a common mistake as its similar to the spelling for Maui. Those who have never been to Kaua`i often use the term kaui when they are first searching for Kauai real estate or other Kaua`i related information.

How do you pronounce Kaua`i?

The right pronunciation of Kaua`i, is similar to pronouncing the sounds ‘cow-wa-ee’ with the ‘cow’ and the ‘wa’ flowing together and a glottal stop before pronouncing the ‘ee,’ which is why the okina is included. Some islanders pronounce Kaua`i as ‘cow-eye’ with an accent on the second syllable.

Our staff at Bali Hai Realty can help you with pronunciation of Kaua`i’s place names and colloquialisms. Don’t be afraid to ask. As you come to know and love Kaua`i you’ll recognize the beauty and flow of Hawaiian words and names.

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  • Catherine


    The first syllable is not cow. In Hawaiian, the sound “cow” would be spelled as KAO. The U in Hawaiian is pronounced as OOH.

    The KAH blends into OOH.
    The OOH blends into WAH.
    The ‘Okina glottal stops and then pronounce EE.

    The ‘okina matters in Hawaiian, because it is a consonant in the alphabet. To leave it out means to misspell the word and changes the meaning of the word.

    Like Poʻipū. This word means a fierce and piercing wind.
    Misspelled, like it always is (Poipu) means to fart…like a wet juicy fart.

    Kaoa’i: Goat parts
    Kaoai: Have “relations” with a goat.

    Spelling matters. Pronunciation really matters.

  • Bob Milne


    I was wondering what the proper spelling is for the word Kauaian (as in “coming from or of Kauai,similar meaning or use as the word Hawaiian) is if there is such a thing. Thanks

  • Blabla


    So it’s basically the same as kawaii. Alrighty!

  • Thomas W


    I believe the “au” in the polynesian word “kauai” is meant to sound like “ah-hoo”. So “kauai” should sound like kah-hoo-high or kah-hoo-ah-ee, allowing for dialect differences.

    I’m not Hawaiian but I am native speaking polynesian.

    • Kane Burleigh


      No, “au” diphthong in Hawaiian. The au sound is pronounced like “ow” as in “ow, I hurt myself”.

  • Vlad Brown


    That’s too cute

  • John Bonner



    I am writing a novel that takes place in Hawaii. Chiefly on Oahu but some of it also takes place in Kauai. The spellings I just used are the ones I use in my novel.

    That being said, I understand what a glottal stop is and because I have studied linguistics, I also understand that in some languages, including Hawaiian, the glottal stop is a true phoneme. Of course in Standard English it is not. So the correct Hawaiian spelling of the three examples I used above are Hawai’i, O’ahu, and Kaua’i.

    However the average reader is not going to know what a glottal stop is and (I believe) might be confused by the apostrophe (okina). Hence I have not used it. But I don’t want to insult an Hawaiian who does know the Hawaiian language.

    What is your recommendation in this situation?

    Thank you.

    Kirk Bonner-Author

  • Elisabeth Studd Deline


    I knew how to spell Kaua’i and I write Mau’i. Am I right? I am learning `oleo hawai`i; I must be the only one in Corsica!
    Mahalo nui loa!


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