10 Interesting facts about Hawaii

Hawaii Trip Planning Guide

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10 Interesting facts about Hawaii

Here's some basic information and fun trivia about Hawaii—the 50th State.


Above: Waianapanapa Beach located just off Hana Highway is known for its black sand beach and freshwater caves.

  1. Say “Hawaii” and people usually think of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, Kahoolawe and Hawaii. In actuality, the state also encompasses the northwestern Hawaiian islands, a group of islets, seamounts and shoals that extends 1,350 miles northwest of the “main” islands. Harboring an amazing diversity of seabirds and marine life, they are collectively known as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a World Heritage Site and the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area under the U.S. flag. Papahanaumokuakea covers 582,578 square miles of the Pacific and is bigger than all of America’s national parks combined.


Above: The Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean. Photo credit:

  1. On February 14, 1779, Captain James Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii island in a skirmish with Hawaiians (he is the British sea captain who is credited with discovering the Hawaiian Islands a year earlier). In 1877, Hawaiian Princess Miriam Likelike deeded a 5,682-square-foot parcel near the spot where Cook fell to England for $1 with the stipulation that it be used “to keep and maintain...a monument in memory of Captain Cook.” Walk up to the 27-foot white obelisk, and you’ll be on British soil.


Above: Captain Cook, thought to be the first Westerner to set sight on the Hawaiian Islands, died at Kealakekua Bay in 1779.

  1. English and Hawaiian are the official languages of Hawaii. Prior to the arrival of Christian missionaries in 1820, Hawaii had no written language; births, deaths, genealogy, battles, stories of powerful chiefs, descriptions of nature’s beauty and more were passed from generation to generation orally via songs, chants and poems. The missionaries developed the written Hawaiian language, which has just 12 letters: the 5 vowels and 7 consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p and w). It also has an ‘okina symbol, represented in written form as the grave accent (`) or a left single quotation mark (‘). Meaning “separation,” it is a glottal stop that’s considered a consonant.
  2. Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth: It’s about 2,400 miles from the Mainland U.S., the closest landmass. Because of that, it has its own time zone, Hawaii Standard Time, and does not observe daylight saving time. Beginning the second Sunday in March, Hawaii is three hours behind the Pacific Time Zone (i.e., West Coast of the U.S.); starting on the first Sunday in November, it is two hours behind.
  3. Hawaii’s state flower is the yellow hibiscus (pua mao hau hele); state bird: nene (Branta sandvicensis); state fish: humuhumunukunukuapuaa (Rhinecanthus rectangulus); state mammal: Hawaiian monk seal; state marine mammal: humpback whale; state land mammal: Hawaiian hoary bat; state tree: kukui (Aleurites moluccana); state song: “Hawaii Ponoi” (King Kalakaua wrote the lyrics); state motto: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono (“The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”).


Above from top (clockwise): Hibiscus (state flower), Nene goose (state bird), Hawaiian hoary bat (state land mammal), humuhumunukunukuapua`a (state fish), Hawaiian monk seal (state mammal), humpback whale (state marine mammal).

  1. Celebrities who were born in Hawaii include former President Barack Obama; AOL co-founder Steve Case; dancer/choreographer Carrie Ann Inaba; singer/actress Aulii Cravalho; vocalists Bruno Mars, Bette Midler and Nicole Scherzinger; actors Jason Momoa, Don Stroud and Timothy Olyphant; actresses Nicole Kidman, Maggie Q, Kelly Preston, Tia Carrerre, Kelly Hu, Janel Parrish and Lauren Graham; and sports stars Michelle Wie, Marcus Mariota, Shane Victorino, Sid Fernandez, Kolten Wong, Benny Agbayani, B.J. Penn, John Florence and Max Holloway.
  2. Dozens of movies have been filmed in Hawaii, including these Academy Award winners: From Here to Eternity (1953), South Pacific (1958), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Jurassic Park (1993), Avatar (2009) and The Descendants (2011). Among the luminaries who own property in Hawaii are Oprah Winfrey, Roseanne Barr, Mark Zuckerberg, Mick Fleetwood, Pierce Brosnan, Ben Stiller, Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Alex O’Loughlin and Charles Schwab. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh loved Kipahulu, Maui, so much, he chose to be buried there at Palapala Hoomau Church, in the shade of a Java plum tree.
  3. Kilauea means “spewing,” an appropriate name for the shield volcano that is regarded as one of the most active in the world. Its current eruption began on January 3, 1983 and shows no signs of letting up. Lava flows from early May through early August 2018 added 875 acres to the island’s eastern coastline.
  4. Only in Hawaii can you tan at the beach in the morning and make a snowball in the afternoon (atop Maunakea Volcano on Hawaii island). It’s the only U.S. state where coffee, cacao and vanilla are grown commercially. Hawaii’s black coral is the only state gem that’s not a mineral; it’s actually an animal related to the sea anemone whose skeleton is used to make beautiful jewelry. Hawaii is the only state to claim a royal history and palaces—three of them, in fact: Hulihee Palace in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island, Queen Emma Summer Palace in Nuuanu on Oahu and Iolani Palace in Honolulu, which was wired for electricity in 1886, five years before the White House.


Above: Maunakea's altitude and isolation make it the perfect place to view the stars.

  1. Finally, a roundup of superlatives: The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, founded in downtown Honolulu in 1843, is the oldest Catholic Church in continuous use in the country.

    Sea cliffs on East Molokai’s northern coast rise 3,315 feet above the ocean, earning distinction as the highest on Earth.

    Established in 1831, Lahainaluna High School on Maui is the oldest school west of the Rocky Mountains.

    Ka Lae on Hawaii island is popularly known as South Point—apropos, considering it’s the southernmost point in the United States.

    Maunakea reigns as the tallest mountain in the world, more than 33,000 feet high when measured from its submarine base.