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The Hawaiian island of Kauai is a popular vacation destination known for its lush green mountains, pristine beaches, and island culture. But for many visitors, pronouncing the name of the island can be tricky. This comprehensive guide will teach you step-by-step how to pronounce Kauai like a local.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Kauai is pronounced “kah-WYE-ee”. The emphasis is on the middle syllable.

Breaking Down the Syllables

Pronouncing the name “Kauai” correctly may seem challenging at first, but breaking it down into its syllables can make it much easier. The word “Kauai” is composed of three syllables: Ka-u-ai.

The first syllable “Ka” makes a “kah” sound

The first syllable of “Kauai” is pronounced as “kah.” It is a short and crisp sound, similar to the “ca” in “cat.” So, when pronouncing “Kauai,” you would start by saying “kah.”

The middle syllable “u” makes a “WYE” sound

The second syllable in “Kauai” is “u,” and it is pronounced as “WYE.” This sound is similar to the long “i” sound in the word “wise.” So, when saying “Kauai,” the middle syllable would be pronounced as “WYE.”

The last syllable “ai” makes an “ee” sound

The final syllable of “Kauai” is “ai,” and it is pronounced as “ee.” This sound is similar to the long “e” sound in words like “see” or “tree.” So, when pronouncing “Kauai,” you would end with the “ee” sound.

Putting it all together, the correct pronunciation of “Kauai” would be “kah-WYE-ee.” Remember to emphasize the “WYE” sound in the middle syllable for an accurate pronunciation.

Observing Proper Vowel Sounds

The “a” vowel in Kauai makes an “ah” sound, like in “father”

When it comes to pronouncing the vowel sound in the name “Kauai,” it is important to remember that the “a” makes an “ah” sound, similar to the sound in the word “father.” This means that instead of pronouncing it as “cow-eye” or “kaw-eye,” it should be pronounced as “kah-ah-ee.”

The “u” vowel makes a diphthong “WYE” sound, like in “white”

The letter “u” in the name “Kauai” is pronounced as a diphthong, which means it has two vowel sounds combined. In this case, the “u” in “Kauai” makes a “WYE” sound, similar to the sound in the word “white.” So, instead of pronouncing it as “kaw-eye,” it should be pronounced as “kaw-wye.”

The “ai” vowel pairing makes a long “ee” sound, like in “bee”

Lastly, the vowel pairing “ai” in the name “Kauai” creates a long “ee” sound, just like the sound in the word “bee.” Rather than pronouncing it as “kaw-eye,” it should be pronounced as “kaw-ee.” This combination of letters gives the name its unique and melodic sound.

Putting the Syllables Together

Now that we have broken down the pronunciation of Kauai into its three syllables, let’s put them together. When pronouncing Kauai, it is important to remember that the emphasis is on the middle “WYE” syllable. This means that you should slightly stress the “WYE” sound when saying the word.

When you put all 3 syllables together, Kauai is pronounced “kah-WYE-ee”

So, the correct pronunciation of Kauai is “kah-WYE-ee.” It’s important to note that the “kah” and “ee” syllables are not emphasized as much as the “WYE” syllable. When saying the word, try to make the “WYE” sound a little stronger to ensure you are pronouncing it correctly.

Pronouncing Kauai correctly is not only respectful to the Hawaiian language and culture, but it also helps you communicate effectively when discussing this beautiful island. Whether you are planning a trip to Kauai or simply want to impress your friends with your pronunciation skills, mastering the correct pronunciation of Kauai will certainly come in handy.

For more information on the pronunciation of Kauai, you can visit, a website dedicated to teaching the correct pronunciation of Hawaiian words. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to practice saying Kauai out loud until you feel comfortable with the correct pronunciation.

Listen to Native Speakers

One of the best ways to learn the proper pronunciation of Kauai is by listening to native Hawaiian speakers. Native speakers have grown up speaking the language and their pronunciation is typically the most accurate. By listening to them, you can train your ear to recognize the correct sounds and intonation.

You can find audio clips online of Hawaiians saying Kauai, which can be a valuable resource for learning the correct pronunciation. Websites like or often have audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing words, including Kauai. These clips can help you familiarize yourself with the correct pronunciation and improve your language skills.

Practice out loud and mimic what you hear

Once you have listened to native speakers and familiarized yourself with the correct pronunciation, it’s time to practice out loud. Repeat the word Kauai while mimicking the pronunciation you heard. Pay attention to the sounds and intonation and try to replicate them as accurately as possible.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – practice makes perfect! The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with the pronunciation. You can even record yourself saying the word and compare it to the audio clips you listened to earlier to see if you’re getting closer to the correct pronunciation.

Remember, learning a new language takes time and effort, and pronunciation is an important aspect of it. By listening to native speakers, finding audio clips online, and practicing out loud, you’ll be on your way to mastering the pronunciation of Kauai in no time!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Pronouncing the “u” vowel as “oo”, like in “food”

One of the most common mistakes people make when trying to pronounce “Kauai” is mispronouncing the “u” vowel sound. Many people mistakenly pronounce it as “oo,” like in the word “food.” However, the correct pronunciation of the “u” in Kauai is more similar to the “oo” sound in “put” or “book”. So, next time you find yourself saying “Koo-why” instead of “Kah-why,” remember to emphasize the correct vowel sound.

Not emphasizing the middle syllable enough

Another mistake people often make is not emphasizing the middle syllable enough when pronouncing “Kauai.” The correct pronunciation is “Kah-why-ee,” with the emphasis on the second syllable. Some people tend to rush through the middle syllable, making it sound more like “Kah-wee.” To avoid this mistake, try to pay attention to the rhythm and stress of each syllable and make sure to give the middle syllable its proper emphasis.

Slurring the syllables together instead of pronouncing each one clearly

When it comes to pronouncing “Kauai,” it’s important to pronounce each syllable clearly and avoid slurring them together. Some people may mistakenly pronounce it as “Kway” or “Kwhy,” skipping over the individual sounds of each syllable. To pronounce it correctly, break it down into three distinct syllables: “Kah-why-ee.” Take your time and ensure that each syllable is enunciated properly for a more accurate pronunciation.

Remember, it’s completely normal to make mistakes when learning to pronounce unfamiliar words. Practice, listening to native speakers, and paying attention to the correct sounds will help you improve your pronunciation of “Kauai” and other words in the Hawaiian language. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time – keep practicing and you’ll be saying “Kauai” like a pro in no time!


In summary, pronouncing Kauai like a local is easy once you break it down syllable-by-syllable. Remember that it’s pronounced “kah-WYE-ee” with emphasis on the middle syllable. Listen to native speakers, practice out loud, and avoid common mistakes. With a little time and effort, you’ll be pronouncing Kauai flawlessly in no time.

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