List Of Islands Of Hawaii: Uncovered


Rabbit Island


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. Hawaii had been annexed by the United States in 1898 as their territory. 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. That group of islands is also the farthest away from any other body of land in the world. The names of the eight islands are, beginning north and moving to the 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. Hawaii was formed by the eruption of under-sea volcanoes thousands of years ago.

It is thought that the first Polynesians to reach Hawaii sailed from the Marquesas Islands about 750 AD. Heavy migrations from Tahiti came during the 12th and 13th centuries. The voyagers traveled in huge 60-80 feet long canoes and could hold up to fifty people. They did not have compasses. Their map was the sun, birds, fish, stars and moon.   The voyagers’ journey took them over 2000 miles and many were lost at sea or died from starvation. They brought with them pigs, chickens, dogs, and plants. The early Hawaiians introduced many plants to the islands including taro, bananas, breadfruit, coconuts, sugar cane, yams, sweet potatoes, and mountain apples. Taro was their principal food crop similar to our potato.


An English explorer, Capt. James Cooke, discovered the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. On Capt. Cooke’s third expedition to the islands, the natives slay him during a fight. When Capt. Cooke first arrived on the islands, chiefs ruled the territory and in 1782 King Kamehameha was the lone ruler. For seventy-seven years he ruled. Three more rulers followed his reign until the monarchy was overthrown on January 17, 1893. The rulers’ abode was 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 arrived 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.


Whaling was a big industry in the 19th century but when that waned, the natives turned to agriculture. Read more about Hawaii’s whaling history here.  Sugar led the way. They raised some rice that was needed to feed all the Asians who had arrived 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 and it 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 have been converted into a retail center and the Regal theaters state-of-the-art 18 plex. Macadamia nuts are grown on the islands and exported.   Bananas and papayas are also grown.   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. 

Hickam Joint Base, Hawaii

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 ethnicities. 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. So how did all these groups communicate you might ask. They spoke “pidgin English” which combines lots of different sounds and even today you can find people living in Hawaii who speak pidgin. Hawaii’s 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 worshiped idols and had many superstitions. Learn more about the culture and people of the island of Niihau.

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 can be navigated. 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 has sliced a miniature Grand Canyon through the lava slopes. 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.

According to local legend, the sorrowful moaning sound heard each time a geyser shoots skyward is the crying of an unhappy lizard trapped in the tube long ago. The people of Kauai made their living by growing sugar cane and raising cattle on ranches. The first sugar mill for processing the cane into sugar was built on Kauai. They also harvested “sea salt”, scooped from shallow ponds after the seawater had evaporated. Get up close and personal with these images taken in Kauai.

OAHU, 3rd largest island, lies south of Kauai and is known as “The Gathering Place”. Oahu 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.

Honolulu spreads over 25 miles of Oahu’s leeward shore and inland onto the ridges and valleys of the Koolau Range. Oahu has two mountain ranges – Koolau to the windward or eastern side and Waianae Range to the west. Oahu is the island 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.

Other points of interest to visitors 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.

World-renowned beaches surround Oahu, HI.

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

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. Kalaupapa was once home to a leper colony where Father Damien devoted 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.  Learn more about the leprosy colony on Molokai and its future with respect to tourism. Read more.

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 ft deep. It is said that temperatures on the bottom of the crater rise well above 100 degrees.

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

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. For centuries sugar cane was the leading livelihood. 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. 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. Another interesting fact about 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.

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. Of the five volcanoes that formed 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.   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.

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.

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 experiences different climates 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. 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 one was Hurricane Iniki in 1992. She caused more damage than any other hurricane. Iniki hit Kauai on September 11, as a category 4.


The tropical weather is one main reason why people enjoy and love Hawaii so much. Other features loved are the almost daily rainbows viewed, the many waterfalls in the mountains after big rains, and the hundreds of beautiful white sandy beaches. 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 unforgettable hiking trails.

Some of the largest waves have been recorded and surfed on Oahu at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach. Another outdoor favorite of the people is hiking all the beautiful slopes, viewing waterfalls, canyons, beaches, palm trees, flowers, and sunsets. Enjoy this video of the many cool things to see or visit in Hawaii.

Britannica Encyclopedia

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6 replies »

    • 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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