Hawaii Facts
Hawaii Facts

50 Interesting Facts about Hawaii

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 14, 2017Updated September 4, 2019
  • Hawaii’s nickname is the “Aloha State.” The word aloha is derived from the Proto-Polynesian, alofa, and its meanings include “love,” “compassion,” and “mercy.” Aloha is used both as “hello” and “goodbye.”[5]
  • Hawaii is the only state that is not geographically located in North America, is completely surrounded by water, and does not have a straight line in its state boundary.[1]
  • Born in Hawaii, Barack Obama is the only president from outside the continental United States.[3]
  • Hawaii has two official languages, Hawaiian and English, though Pidgin, Samoan, and Tongan are also spoken.[6]
  • In the 1960s, astronauts trained for moon voyages by walking on Mauna Loa’s hardened lava fields, which resemble the surface of the moon.[6]
  • Interesting Hawaiian happy-face spider Facts
    The "Happy-Face" spider is endemic to the Hawaiian archipelago
  • Hawaii is home to the unique “Happy Face Spider” (Theridion grallator), which bears an uncanny resemblance to a smiling face on the back of its abdomen.[6]
  • One of the earliest cases of AIDS ever recorded in the United States was in Hawaii. In May 1978, a 50-year-old Asian woman was diagnosed with the disease and died in August of that year.[9]
  • The only land snake to be found in the wild in Hawaii is the tiny Hawaiian blind snake, which is thought to have arrived in plant soil brought from the Philippines in 1929 to landscape the Kamehameha School grounds.[6]
  • Hawaii became the first state in the union to legalize abortion on demand in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. (Colorado legalized abortion in 1967, but only in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.)[9]
  • Hawaii 5-0 was the longest-running police drama until Law and Order. While the stars worked for the state police department in the series, in reality, Hawaii doesn’t have a statewide police department or DMV. They are managed by each county government.[9]
  • Only two types of mammals are native to Hawaii: the hoary bat and the monk seal.[6]
  • The word Hawaii is from the Proto-Polynesian hawaiki, meaning “place of the gods” or “homeland.”[4]
  • Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.

    - Paul Theroux

  • The eight horizontal stripes on Hawaii’s flag represent each of the state’s main islands. In the upper-left corner of the flag is a small version of Britain’s flag which honors British captain George Vancouver, who gave Hawaii its first flag in 1794.[9]
  • When written with the English alphabet, Hawaiian uses only 12 letters and a symbol (‘).[6]
  • Day biting mosquitoes first arrived in Hawaii in 1872 as stowaways aboard a merchant ship, bringing with them new diseases such as malaria and the plague.[9]
  • Because of its continuous volcanic eruptions, Hawaii is the only state in the nation to have an increasing land area.[1]
  • Interesting Hawaii Volcano Fact
    Hawaii is the only state in the nation to have an increasing land area

  • Hawaii is America’s youngest state, entering the nation on August 21, 1959.[1]
  • Historically, Hawaiians gave leis to their local alii, or chief, as a sign of affection. Warring chiefs who wanted to make peace sat down to weave leis together.[4]
  • The hula was originally a form of worship performed by highly trained men who were supposedly taught the dance by the Hawaiian god Luka.[7]
  • The island of Maui was named after the demigod who taught Hawaiians to make fire, invented spears, and created a giant fishhook from his dead grandmother’s jawbone. According to the legend, when he fished with the hook, he brought the Hawaiian Islands up from the sea.[7]
  • Ancient Hawaiians believed that the heavier a woman, especially a chieftess, the more beautiful she was.[7]
  • There are just over 7,000 inhabitants on the island of Molokai, probably most famous for its past as a leper colony.[4]
  • Random Hawaii Facts
    Oahu draws more visitors than any other island of Hawaii
  • Oahu draws more visitors than any other island of Hawaii.[6]
  • Everyone is a minority in Hawaii—there are no racial majorities. Haoles or Caucasians, constitute about 33% of the population, Japanese about 33%, Filipino-Americans about 16%, and Chinese-Americans about 5%. Most of the population has mixed ethnicities.[1]
  • The southernmost state in the United States is Hawaii.[1]
  • The second rainiest place on Earth is Mt. Waialeale on the island of Kauai, where the average rainfall is 450 inches per year.[1]
  • When Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii in 1778, he was greeted as the god Lono because he had arrived during a sacred festival. Initially, the Hawaiians thought Cook’s ships were floating islands.[4]
  • Captain Cook initially called Hawaii the “Sandwich Islands” after his English patron, the Earl of Sandwich. In 1819, King Kamehameha renamed the islands the Kingdom of Hawaii.[4]
  • Surfing, or heenalu, was invented thousands of years ago by the Polynesians who first settled Hawaii. Their boards weighed more than 150 pounds and measured up to 20 feet.d[4]
  • Interesting Surfing Hawaii Facts
    Surfing was invented thousands of years ago by Polynesians who first settled Hawaii

  • The first Caucasian foreigner known to have died on the islands was William Watman, a member of Captain James Cook’s gunnery crew who was killed by a paralytic stroke in January 1779 at Honaunau.[4]
  • The average projected lifespan of those born in Hawaii in the year 2000 is 79.8 years (77.1 years if male; 82.5 if female), longer than the residents of any other state.a[1]
  • Because the chiefs were thought to be related to the gods, they claimed to possess powerful mana with which they ruled the common people (maka’ainana) and the lower class (kauwa). To prevent mana from being diluted, members of the elite class often intermarried; in fact, it was not unusual for a high chief to marry his own sister.[4]
  • Hawaiians considered the shark (mano) a god and treated it with great respect.[7]
  • Random Hawaii Facts
    Many modern Hawaiians trace their lineage back to early missionaries
  • Early Christian missionaries to Hawaii (circa 1820) were shocked to find that Hawaiian mothers practiced infanticide if the babies were deformed or diseased or if there were already too many children. They were also shocked by the extreme displays of grief (such as knocking out their own teeth or tattooing their own tongues) after the death of a loved one.[9]
  • Ancient Hawaiian society was divided into social classes. The lowest social group was the kauwa, who may have been prisoners of war or early settlers conquered by later arrivals. They were often the unlucky ones picked for human sacrifices to the gods.[4]
  • Rules called kappa guided daily life. For example, the maka’ainana (common people) could not let their shadows touch the shadow of the alii (upper class), and women could not eat certain food (such as bananas, coconut, or certain fishes) or share meals with men. The punishment for breaking a kappa was often death.[4]
  • While most people play flutes with their mouths, ancient Hawaiians often played flutes (Ohe hano ihn) with the nose. Perhaps the preference for a nose flute stems from the Hawaiian belief that the nose was more innocent or pure than the mouth, which could say many things.[7]
  • The highest sea cliffs in the world are on Moloka’i.[8]
  • Hawaii has lost more species and has more endangered species than any other state in the United States. Nearly all of the state’s native birds are in danger of becoming extinct.[8]
  • Hawaii is the only state in the nation that grows coffee, has tropical rainforests, and is made completely of islands.[1]
  • Interesting Hawaii Fact
    Hawaii is the only U.S. state that has tropical rain forests

  • Hawaii has its own time zone and does not observe Daylight Saving Time.[1]
  • The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was directly responsible for the United States’ entry into WWII. More than 2,400 of Hawaii’s soldiers and residents died in the attack.[1]
  • In 1790, the volcano Kilauea erupted on the Big Island of Hawaii, killing over 5,000 people and making it the most deadly volcanic eruption in the United States. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.[6]
  • Park rangers at Hawaii National Park receive packages every year from tourists who have taken volcanic rocks from Kilauea. The tourists claim that the rocks were bad luck from Pele, the goddess of fire, lightning, dance, volcanoes, and violence.[6]
  • Hawaii is 2,390 miles away from the nearest continent (North America) and is considered the most isolated population center on earth. Early in its history, seeds and plants were brought to the barren island by wind, water, and birds.[6]
  • Interesting Hawaii Fact
    Kamehameha conquered most of the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810
  • Hawaii is the only state to honor a monarch, celebrating King Kamehameha Day on June 11th since 1872. Kamehameha is known for uniting the Hawaiian Islands in 1810.[1]
  • In 1778, the native Hawaiian population was estimated to be nearly 1 million. By 1919, the population declined to an astounding 22,600, due in large part to war and disease. The current population of Hawaii is over 1.3 million.[2]
  • Because their society was largely an oral rather than a written culture, ancient Hawaiians would learn values and history through trained storytellers. Because the stories were considered sacred, listeners were not allowed to move once a story began.[4]
  • The popular T.V. series Lost is shot in Hawaii. At the end of the credits is a note thanking the “people of Hawaii and their Aloha Spirit.”[10]
  • The oldest Catholic Cathedral in continuous use in the United States is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, built in 1843.[9]

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