Guest Blog By MFD, Hawaii resident. Hawaii is the fiftieth state of the United States. It is also our youngest state, having joined the Union in 1959. The state of Hawaii is annexed by the United States in 1898 as their territory. This is the rich history, heritage, and culture of the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii is very unique because it is made up of eight islands that lie in the Pacific Ocean 2390 miles west of the California coast. The group of islands is also the farthest away from any other body of land in the world.

Islands of Hawaii Uncovered Rabbit Island
Islands of Hawaii Uncovered Rabbit Island

The islands that make up Hawaii include the following; beginning north and moving south:  

  • Niihau,
  • Kauai,
  • Oahu,
  • Molokai,
  • Maui,
  • Lanai,
  • Kahoolawe, and
  • Hawaii, most often called Big Island so it is not confused with the state of Hawaii.

Hawaiian Early Beginnings

Eruptions of under sea volcanoes thousands of years ago, results in the islands of Hawaii uncovered. It is noted that the first Polynesians to reach Hawaii sailed from the Marquesas Islands around 750 AD. Heavy migrations from Tahiti came during the 12th and 13th centuries. Without compasses, the voyagers travel in huge 60-80 feet long canoes and could hold up to fifty people. They use the sun, birds, fish, stars and moon as their map.

The Long Journey for the Early Hawaiians

The voyagers’ journey takes them over 2000 miles and many end up lost at sea or die from starvation. They take along with them pigs, chickens, dogs, and plants. The early Hawaiians introduce many plants to the islands. These include taro, bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, sugar cane, yams, sweet potatoes, and mountain apples. At that time, Taro is their principal food crop similar to our potato.


The Hawaii History of Captain Cooke

An English explorer, Captain James Cooke, discovers the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. On Capt. Cooke’s third expedition to the islands, the natives slay him during a fight. When he first arrives on the islands, chiefs rule the territory and in 1782 King Kamehameha is the lone ruler, and remains ruler for seventy-seven years.

Three more rulers will follow his reign until the monarchy is overthrown on January 17, 1893. The rulers’ abode is Iolani Palace on the Island of Oahu. This palace is the only royal palace in the United States.  Read more about Capt. Cooke and his death here:

Missionaries from New England arrive on the islands in 1819, led by Rev Hiram Bingham. It took them five months of sailing to reach the islands. They came upon the Big Island first.

Former sugar cane factory

During the the 19th century, Whaling is a big industry but when that waned, the natives turn to agriculture. Read more about Hawaii’s whaling history here.  Sugar led the way.

Rice is another crop in Hawaii and is necessary to feed the Asian population who arrive to work the sugar cane fields.  You will sometimes find former sugar cane factory buildings and land today leased to local businesses such as soap factories and retail stores.


Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee of which is grown on several of the islands. More than one-third of the worlds’ commercial supply of pineapples is grown on the islands. In 1901 James Dole “the Pineapple King” founded the Dole Cannery and it remained active until 1991 when it was closed.

These yellow buildings on Oahu are now converted into a retail center and the Regal theaters state-of-the-art 18 plex. Macadamia nuts, bananas, and papayas are also grown on the islands and exported.

However, Hawaii’s economy is driven by tourism, the military and education. 7.6 million tourists come annually to Hawaii. Eleven military installations are on the islands, most being on Oahu. 


There are no racial or ethnic majorities in Hawaii. Everyone is a minority. Caucasians (Haoles) constitute about 34%; Japanese-American about 32%; Filipino-Americans about 16%; and Chinese-American about 5%. It is very difficult to determine racial identification as most of the population has some mixture of ethnicity.

Brief Hawaii History

In the beginning years of Hawaii’s birth, ethnic groups, besides the Polynesians, came from China, Japan, Portugal, Korea, Philippine Islands, Puerto Rica, New England, and Samoa. You might be asking yourself how did all these groups communicate. By speaking “pidgin English” which combines lots of different sounds and even today you can find people living in Hawaii who speak pidgin.

The Hawaiian alphabet is made up of only twelve letters. The vowels a-e-i-o-u are the same as ours; consonants are h-k-l-m-n-p-w. Some words that you might be interested in learning are KA-NES (man), WA-HIN-ES (woman), KEI-KI (child), ALOHA (love, hello and good-bye), MA-HA-LO (thank you) and HA-LE (house).


There is habitation on seven of the eight islands. We will begin with NIIHAU, the northern most island. This is a privately owned island by the Robinson family and residents are mostly pure Hawaiians who live simply. The population of the island is 230 and the size is 69 square miles.

Their principal industry is raising livestock. Tourists are not allowed on Niihau. Legend says this island was the original home of the goddess PELE. Early Hawaiians have many superstitions and worship idols. Learn more about the culture and people of the island of Niihau.

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KAUAI is the second island of the chain and is the fourth largest. It is referred to as “The Garden Isle” due to all the plush vegetation and beautiful flowers. Kauai receives 488 inches of rain annually and this water falls off Waialeale Mountain, forming the Waialua River. This river is one of five that you can navigate and this area is considered the wettest spot on earth.

Tourists can take a three-mile cruise down this river and end up at the Fern Grotto. Another large river, Waimea River is slicing a miniature Grand Canyon through the colorful lava slopes and canyons. Reds, browns, and greens subtly color the 2,857-foot-deep gorge . Another attraction is Spouting Horn where the sea pushes up through a shoreline lava tube.


Sugar Cane

According to local legend, the sorrowful moaning sound is made each time a geyser shoots skyward is the crying of an unhappy lizard trapped in the tube long ago. During this time, the people of Kauai make their living by growing sugar cane and raising cattle on ranches.

The first sugar mill for processing the cane into sugar is built on Kauai. They also harvest “sea salt,” scooped from shallow ponds after the seawater had evaporated.

Morning sunrise in Kauai


OAHU, 3rd largest island, lies south of Kauai and is known as “The Gathering Place.” The island draws more visitors to Hawaii than any of the other islands. Honolulu is the major city, the capital of Hawaii and has a population of 905,034.   It is the nation’s 11th largest metropolitan area. Honolulu also has a harbor. It is also the sight of Iolani Palace where the kings and queens lived.

View from the Aloha Tower

Honolulu spreads over 25 miles of the leeward shore and inland onto the ridges and valleys of the Koolau Range. There are two mountain ranges – Koolau to the windward or eastern side and Waianae Range to the west. This island is where the well-known naval base Pearl Harbor suffered the surprise Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. The Arizona Memorial rests in the harbor to remember all those who gave their lives that day.

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Other points of interest that visitors enjoy are Diamond Head, a mountain formed from a volcanic eruption and Waikiki Beach, the most visited beach by tourists, which lies within the city of Honolulu.

Waikiki Beach

Get to know Hawaii in and out and visit 100 Best Things To Do In Hawaii

Surrounding the island of Oahu are world-renowned beaches including Waikiki and North Shore.


MOLOKAI, is known as the most Hawaiian Isle as well as “ Friendly Isle”. The island is formed as a result of two major volcanic domes. The tableland called Mauna Loa at the western end, which rises to only 1,381 ft, is the first to build up. The jagged mountains in the northeast, topped by 4,940-foot Kamakou, are formed later by the East Molokai volcano.

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A much younger volcano, Kauhako, created a flat tongue of land that juts out from the north coast, isolated from the rest of the island by fortress-like cliffs. The east end is a tropical rain forest and part of the island receives 240 inches of rainfall annually.

Rural with low tourism

Most of Molokai is still a rural landscape. Not many tourists travel there. Molokai Ranch Wildlife Park is home to rare African and Indian animals. At one time, Kalaupapa was home to a leper colony where Father Damien devotes his life to the victims. The 4 ½- square-mile peninsula is isolated by pounding surf, a rocky coast, and steep lava cliffs. A unique way to visit isolated Kalaupapa is to ride a mule down the steep, switchback trail that is the only land route to the settlement. 


MAUI, known as the “Valley Isle”, was formed by two erupting volcanoes at different times in history.

Maui is the second largest island at 727.2 square miles. Haleakala Crater is on Maui and is the world’s largest dormant volcano.   Haleakala,” House of the Sun”, has the highest elevation of 10,023 ft on Maui. The crater is 7 miles across and 2600 feet deep. It is said that temperatures on the bottom of the crater rise well above 100 degrees.

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The state bird, the Nene goose; almost extinct one time, lives here. You will be most fortunate if you get to see one when you drive to the crater top.  Also protected here is the silversword plant.

Island Attractions

There is so much diversity of beauty on Maui and it is the second most-traveled-to island. Besides the Haleakala Crater, other famous attractions are the old whaling town of Lahaina, Kaanapali Beach and Golfing resorts, and the road to Hana. You have not experienced it all until you have driven that 55 mile winding, narrow, road to the quaint little town of Hana. In early Hawaii times, sugar cane is the leading livelihood for centuries. However, in 2010, the last of all the sugar mills in Hawaii closed on Maui.


LANAI, the small island, just a half-hour flight from Honolulu, was once the “pineapple island”. It is also considered Hawaii’s most secluded island. The island is the remains of an old volcanic peak that rises to more than 3000 ft. It is an island to explore with scenery that ranges from forested ravines to an arid plateau and cliffs that drop steeply to the sea. Norfolk pines are densely planted in areas.

Modern Lanai

Lanai is no longer the pineapple island. Recently, the CEO of Oracle, bought 98% of Lanai. He left the 2% for the locals to live on.   However, he does have good plans to develop the island into a vegetable and fruit producing state.

Fun Fact: Lanai was when the CEO of Microsoft rented the entire island and even the air space above to have his wedding there. Hulope Bay is a marine preserve and considered one of the best diving spots in the world.

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HAWAII, “The Big Island” is the largest island at 4,039 square miles. It is the youngest of the island chain formed 800,000 years ago. However, it was the first island discovered by voyaging Polynesians and also the first reached by the missionaries. Among the five volcanoes that form Hawaii, two are still active. Mauna Loa, largest active volcano in the world, ended a 25-year quiet period with a summit eruption in 1975.

Sourced from

Lively Kilauea, down on Mauna Loa’s southeast flank, puts on fiery shows, sending lava spilling all the way to the sea and adding more land area to an island already almost twice as large as all the other islands combined. It is the world’s most active volcano. The added land has formed the Black Sand Beach. With a recent massive eruption in early 2018, many residents are evacuated and property is destroyed. Here is a current update on Kilauea.

Magnificent Mountains of the Pacific

Two of the tallest mountains in the Pacific – Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa – dominate the center of the island.   Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world (measured from its base at the ocean floor). It rises 13,796 feet above sea level and extends 19,680 feet below for a total of 33,476 feet. On a sparkling day, Mauna Kea is clearly visible from the city of Hilo on the Big Island. On the snow-blanketed Mauna Loa, the world’s biggest telescope is housed. Along with more scientific observatories in one place than anywhere else in the world.

Nuts and Orchids

The Big Island has the largest contiguous ranch in the US with around 480,000 acres of land. The Island of Hawaii is the worldwide leader in harvesting macadamia nuts and orchids. The southern most point in the US is Ka Lae on the Big Island. There is a constant 27 knots per hour wind blowing east to west, 24 hours per day and 365 days per year.

In Summary

The weather on the islands is tropical but the climate can be different depending on altitude and weather. The islands are cooled by northeasterly trade winds.. Rainfall comes with those winds also. October – April are the wettest months with May – September being drier and warmer. A distinctive feature of Hawaiian climate is the small variation in temperature range – winter months average 77 degrees – summer is 83 degrees. Hottest recorded temperature was 100 degrees in 1931; the lowest was 12 degrees on Mauna Kea’s peak.

Perfect Climate

Hawaii is the only state that has never recorded a below-zero temperature. With the drier and warmer temperatures comes more risk for a tropical cyclone. The latest recorded big Hurricane Iniki is in 1992. She caused more damage than any other hurricane. Iniki hit Kauai on September 11, as a category 4.


Why We Love Hawaii

What would you guess are favorite pastimes and sports in Hawaii?    Hawaiians love the water and beaches and on weekends you will find beaches filled with tents where people spend the weekend just to be near the ocean to swim, boogie board, surf or water ski or build sand castles. And don’t forget about the endless number of amazing hiking trails.

Waihee Ridge Trail Maui

Some of the largest waves have been recorded at North Shore beaches. The surfers take full advantage of these waves on Oahu at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach awaiting for The Eddie each year. Another outdoor favorite activity is hiking and exploring all the gorgeous landscapes of the islands. Enjoy this video of the many cool things to see or visit in Hawaii.

Hopefully, you will have the chance to experience Hawaii for yourself too! I highly recommend a visit to one of the islands at least once.

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Britannica Encyclopedia

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  1. As if I wasn’t ready enough to go to Hawaii! Love this – beautiful pics and great article!

    1. I know, right? Ha ha!! Yeah, we’ve been dreaming of going back again too. We were just there in February, and hopefully we will make it back before years’ end. Thank you so much for your kind compliments!

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  3. Very informative! Thanks for the great photos!

    1. I will let her know… she sent me a few more photos that I am working to add to the article. 🙂 Thank you Zanne!

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