A Private Island Dedicated To Preserving Hawaiian Culture & Way Of Life. Ni’ihau is a private island. Access to the island is limited to Ni’ihau residents. Only official visitors and invited guests are permitted. Half-day helicopter and beach tours are available, although contact with permanent residents are avoided.
The Island of Ni’ihau is located 17.5 miles southwest of Kauai, across the Kaulakahi Channel. Ni’ihau is the westernmost island of the eight Hawaiian major island chain. It is the smallest inhabited island, having a land area measuring approximately 70 square miles. The island’s climate is dry, almost arid with little rain.
Ni’ihau has an approximate population of 130 permanent residents [Another source claims a population of 250] nearly all of whom are Native Hawaiians; Kanaka Maoli who live in the island settlement of Puʻuwai on the west coast of the island. All residents live rent/mortgage-free. A N’iihau dialect of ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i (Hawaiian language) is spoken as their first & main language. Island residents support themselves largely by subsistence fishing and farming. There is a barge service which deliver groceries from Kauaʻi, often purchased by relatives, with free shipping.
Modern amenities of life are extremely limited on Niʻihau. There is no telephone service, no paved roads, no hotel or general store. There is no plumbing or running water on the island. Water comes from rainwater catchment. There is no conventional electricity or power lines; solar power provides necessary power. Horses and bicycles are used as the main form of transportation. Some residents have television, but with limited antenna reception.
The settlement of Puʻuwai has a one-room K-12 schoolhouse. Academic subjects and computer literacy are combined with teaching students to thrive from the land. The number of students varies from 25 to 50 since families often travel between Niʻihau and Kauaʻi. Residents have access to a church for worshiping.
King Kamehameha IV put Ni’ihau up for sale sometime between 1863 – 1864. Kauai resident Elizabeth Sinclair bought the island for $10,000 passing up the chance to own real estate in Waikiki and Pearl Harbor; to focus on the preservation of Ni’ihau. Today, Sinclair’s descendants, the Robinson family, continue her commitment to maintain Niihau’s Hawaiian culture.