50 Facts About The 50th State
While it’s one of the smallest states in the country, Hawaii packs a powerful punch for fun facts that definitely distinguish the only island state from its 49 mainland counterparts.
Here’s a look at 50 unique facts that make Hawaii one of a kind.
Facts about Early Hawaii
- The Hawaiian Islands were one of the last places on Earth discovered and occupied by humans. The first people to live in the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian navigators from French Polynesia, Tahiti, and the Samoan Islands who sporadically discovered the islands between 300 and 800 BC. Hawaii doesn’t celebrate Columbus Day. The second Monday in October is known as Discoverers' Day, in recognition of the Polynesian discoverers of the Hawaiian Islands.
- The English explorer Captain James Cook made his first visit to the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. The Captain named the group of islands the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich. Cook was attacked and killed in 1779 during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific while attempting to kidnap the Island of Hawaii's monarch.
- The Republic of Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898. It was organized into Hawaii Territory in 1900, and admitted as a state in 1959. The Republic’s only president, Sanford B. Dole, later became the first territorial governor.
- Statehood Day or Admission Day (August 21) is an official state holiday in Hawaii. President Dwight Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as America's 50th state on August 21, 1959.
Hawaii State Symbols
- The Hawaii State Flag: Symbolizing the friendship between the Hawaiian Kingdom and Britain, Hawaii’s state flag features the British Union Jack in the corner and eight stripes representing the eight Hawaiian Islands.
- The unofficial state slogan is “The Aloha State.” Hawaii’s official state motto is, "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka `A ina i ka Pono", which translates to “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” This can be found written at the bottom of the official state seal.
- The Hawaiian hoary bat is the state land mammal. It's also the state's only native land mammal. It's truly a miracle that it was able to travel 2,390 miles across the ocean to get here. The monk seal is the state marine mammal, which is the only other native mammal. Both are endangered species.
- The nene or Hawaiian goose is the state bird (another endangered species).
- The yellow hibiscus is the state flower. Each island also has an official flower:
Oahu: Yellow Ilima
Maui: Pink Lokelani
Hawaii Island: Red Lehua Ohia
Molokai: White Kukui Blossom
Niihau: White Pupu Shell
- The kukui nut tree is the state tree.
- The humuhumunukunukuapuaa (triggerfish) is the state fish.
- The state stone is black coral, although it is actually an animal.
Facts about Hawaii’s Volcanoes
- The Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanic activity. The oldest of the eight islands, Kauai was formed some five million years ago. The youngest island, the Big Island of Hawaii, was formed more than 600,000 years ago.
- The island of Maui is home to Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano. The name Haleakala translates to “House of the Sun.”
- Kilauea, which is located on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the world’s most active volcano with documented eruptions since 1823. It’s been continuously erupting for over 30 years. The lava flow from Kilauea causes the Big Island to increase in size by about 42 acres per year.
- Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on earth, spanning 75 miles. Mauna Loa means “Long Mountain.”
- Mauna Kea is the world’s tallest volcano, measuring from the bottom of the ocean floor to its peak above land. It would also be tallest mountain in the world if measured from its base at the ocean floor).
- Hawaii is forming a new island 20 miles off shore of the Big Island. It’s being spawned by an undersea volcano called Lo`ihi (Low-Ee-Hee). It already measures 10,000 ft tall from the ocean floor. It’s 400,000 years old but is not scheduled to break the surface for another 100,000 years.
Other facts about the Hawaiian Geography
- Hawaii is comprised of eight islands, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Kahoolawe and the Big Island of Hawaii. However, the Hawaiian Archipelago consists of over 130 scattered points of land stretching some 1,600 miles in length from the Kure Atoll in the north to the island of Hawaii in the south.
- Nicknamed the Forbidden Island, Niihau is privately owned by the Robinson family, descendants of Elizabeth Sinclair. In 1864, Sinclair purchased the island from King Kamehameha IV.
- The island of Kahoolawe is the smallest of the eight main islands at 44.6 square miles. It became a training ground and bombing range for the U.S. military after World War II. Live-fire exercises ended in 1990, but the island is still off limits to the public.
- The Big Island of Hawaii is twice the size of all seven of the other Hawaiian Islands combined and covers 4,038 square miles.
- Ka Lae on the Big Island is the southernmost point in the United States.
- Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is the most isolated population center on earth, being some 2,390 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan.
- Honolulu is the capital city of the State of Hawaii and the nation's 11th largest metropolitan area. The state’s four counties are Honolulu (Oahu), Maui (Maui, Lanai, Molokai), Kauai (Kauai) and Hawaii (island of Hawaii).
Facts About Hawaii’s Weather & Climate
- Hawaii is home to 10 out of the world’s 14 climate zones, according to the Koppen Climate Classification System. The only Koppen categories not occurring on Hawaii Island are the main Cold Continental Climates and the Polar Ice Cap subcategory.
- All 10 of those climate zones can be found on the Big Island of Hawaii.
- Hawaii is the only state with a tropical rainforest.
- Hawaii is home to one of the wettest places on Earth. Mt. Waialeale on the island of Kauai, whose name literally means "rippling water" or "overflowing water", averages a whopping 373 inches (over 31 feet) of rain a year.
- There are really only two seasons in Hawaii: summer (kau) from May to October and winter (hooilo) from November to April. The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85°, while the average daytime winter temperature is 78°. The average water temperature is 74° F with a summer high of 80° F.
- Hawaii has almost as much coastline as the state of California. Hawaii has 750 miles of combined coastline, while California has 840 miles.
- From the Kure Atoll in the north to the Big Island in the South, the entire Hawaiian Islands archipelago measures 1,523 miles, making it the longest island chain in the world.
- The Kalaupapa Cliffs on Molokai are the world’s highest sea cliffs. Hawaii’s longest waterfall and largest white sand beaches are also on the island of Molokai.
- During the reign of King Kamehameha V, people afflicted with leprosy were banished to the island of Molokai. The leper colony in Kalaupapa was administered by Father Danian, who was was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday, October 11, 2009, and is now known as “Saint Damien of Molokai”.
Facts about Hawaiian Royalty
- King Kamehameha the Great conquered and united the eight major Hawaiian Islands in 1810. He ruled the kingdom until his death in 1819. A lifelike statue of King Kamehameha stands prominently in the historic Capital District of downtown Honolulu.
- In 1874, King Kalakaua wrote the lyrics to “Hawaii Ponoi ,” the state song. The song was composed by Henry Berger, leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band. Today, the band is the oldest and only full-time municipal band in the U.S.
- Queen Liliuokalani, last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, was a talented musician who composed “Aloha Oe” (Farewell to Thee). She attended the Chiefs’ Children’s School, which is now Royal Elementary School in Honolulu.
- The only royal palace on American soil, Iolani Palace was built by King David Kalakaua and later occupied by his sister, Queen Liliuokalani.
Other Interesting Facts About Hawaii
- To protect the island habitat, some animals are prohibited in Hawaii, such as snakes, hamsters and ferrets. Hawaii is the only state that is rabies-free.
- Hawaii is the endangered species capital of the world. Hawaii is home to more than 400 endangered species. Not only does Hawaii have more species than any other state, but over 25% of species found on the nation’s endangered species list are endemic to Hawaii.
- By law, a building on Kauai can be no taller than a palm tree. There are no freeways on Kauai and the maximum speed limit on the island is only 50 mph.
- Hawaii is one of only four states that have outlawed billboards. The others are Alaska, Maine, and Vermont.
- Hawaii has its own time zone known as Hawaii Standard Time (HST). Hawaii and Arizona are the only two U.S. states that don't observe daylight saving time.
- Hawaii is the only state with two official languages, English and Hawaiian. In 2015, U.S. Census Bureau added Pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English) to its list of official languages in the state of Hawaii as well.
- Parker Ranch on the Big Island is the largest contiguous ranch in the U.S. It sits on approximately 130,000 acres. The ranch was founded in 1847, so it’s also one of the oldest ranches in the United States.
- The people of Hawaii consume the most SPAM per capita in the U.S. We consume approximately 7 million cans of the incredibly delicious and surprisingly versatile product a year, according to the SPAM website. Many fast food restaurants like McDonald's, Jack in the Box, and Burger King have SPAM on the menu. In fact, almost every restaurant that serves breakfast will have it on the menu and why wouldn’t they?
- Hawaii has the longest life expectancy in the United States. The average Hawaii resident lives to be 81.3 years (Maybe it’s the SPAM?). Mississippi had the lowest life expectancy for any American state at 74.7 years.
- There are only twelve letters in the Hawaiian language - five vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and 7 consonants: H, K, L, M, N, P, W. The ‘okina mark (similar to an apostrophe) and kahako mark (line above a vowel) are used to clarify pronunciation. The word "aloha" uses 1/3 of the entire Hawaiian alphabet.
- In 1879, Portuguese immigrant Joao Fernandez introduced the braginho, a four-string musical instrument, to the Hawaiians. The Hawaiians in turn renamed it the ukulele, which translates as jumping flea ("uku" = flea + "lele" = jumping).
- A lei is a traditional Hawaiian gift made with flowers, leaves, seeds or nuts. It is a symbol of love, friendship, gratitude, appreciation and honor, often used as greetings or at celebrations.
- Visitors from the Mainland need to get vaccinated. This consists of approximately 25 injections which are administered in the stomach and kidney areas of the body (Just Kidding! We made that last one up!).
We hope you enjoyed our little taste of Aloha! If you ever have any questions or story ideas, please e-mail us at [email protected]!
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