Kauai Real Estate in Perspective
The state of Hawaii consists of eight (8) main islands and is comprised of approximately 6,422 square miles of real estate, divided as follows:
- Hawaii – 4,028 square miles
- Maui – 727 square miles
- Oahu – 597 square miles
- Kauai – 552 square miles
- Molokai – 260 square miles
- Lanai – 141 square miles
- Ni’ihau – 70 square miles
- Kaho’olawe – 4 square miles
According to the State of Hawaii Office of Planning, Land Use Division, real estate in Hawaii is divided into four district boundaries: urban, rural, agricultural and conservation, according to the following percentages:
- Conservation – 48%
- Agricultural – 47%
- Urban -5%
- Rural – Less than ½ of 1%
Kauai County, consisting of the islands of Kauai and Niihau, is only the third largest of all of the counties of Hawaii, and is the least populous. Hawaii County, consisting only of the island of Hawaii, is the largest, and is almost twice the size of all the other islands combined. Maui County, which consists of three islands – Maui, Molokai and Lanai – is second largest, and Honolulu County, consisting solely of the island of Oahu, is the smallest of all four counties, though it represents more than 75% of the state’s population.
Kauai Real Estate History
The system of private ownership of Kauai real estate, as we know it today, did not always exist. Relatively speaking, it was not that long ago that private individuals were disallowed from taking legal ownership of land anywhere in Hawaii. Hawaii originally existed and operated under the traditions of a feudal system, where the kings owned all of the land in the kingdom of Hawaii. Land was controlled by the Ali’i nui, or high chiefs, and was maintained and farmed by the Kanaka, or commoners.
Back in ancient times, the lands of Hawaii were divided and referenced in different ways. Moku-Puni was the term for an entire island, which was the largest division of land, and each island was further divided into large wedge-shaped sections, called Moku, that spanned regions from the central mountains down to the sea. Examples of the Moku on Kauai are the five distinct regions, or zones, by which we reference properties today.
Ahupua’a represented narrower pie-shaped wedges that divided Moku into smaller sections, and which also extended from the top of the mountain down to the sea. The intention behind the shaping of the Ahupua’a was to provide relatively equal tract of land that benefitted similarly from the natural resources of the shore, plains, inland valleys and mountainous regions alike. The next, smaller divisions were known as ‘Ili, which could have been made up of either several contiguous parcels or non-contiguous parcels, which were termed Jumps.
The Great Mahele
In 1848, the Great Mahele, or division of lands, started the process that would change land ownership rights in Hawaii forever. At that time, the King released his rights of ownership to the majority of the lands in the kingdom, giving them to the chiefs and to the people, for the use and benefit of the Hawaiian Government. Title began to be conveyed by way of numerous different documents, including Land Commission Awards, Royal Patents and Land Patents (LP). The King retained certain estates for his own estate exclusively, which became known as the Crown Lands. Later, when the Crown lands would be sold by the King to raise funds, they were conveyed by way of a Kamehameha Deed (until 1865). Title to all lands in Hawaii today can be traced back to the Great Mahele.
Kauai Real Estate Today
The land reform process started by the Great Mahele took nearly 50 years to complete, but gradually land ownership in Hawaii has converted to the allodial system of absolute ownership that exists today. When pulling title reports and examining chain of title for property in Hawaii, one only needs to go back as far as the Great Mahele. All official documentation of real estate ownership today is a part of the public records at the Bureau of Conveyances located in Honolulu.