Boy, do we love Hawaii!
But then again… who doesn’t?
You’ve got the Big Island’s volcanoes, stunning scenery in Maui and Kauai, incredible beaches, breathtaking nature and laid-back surf culture. And there are tons of awesome things to do in Hawaii, from snorkeling with turtles to exploring volcanoes.
There are also lots of fun facts about Hawaii that we’re sure you’ll find as fascinating as we do.
In fact, here’s a list of 82! So sit back, relax and have a read through these cool Hawaii facts.
Top 5 facts about Hawaii
Fun facts about Hawaii in general
1) Hawaii is the largest island chain in the world
Hawaii is made up of eight main islands:
- Hawaii (Big Island of Hawaii)
But the state officially recognizes 137 islands. These include four islands of the Midway Atoll.
So, is Hawaii a state or an island? It’s actually both.
Hawaii is the moniker for the Aloha state as well as for its largest island, the Big Island.
The new “official” name for the Big Island is “Hawaii” – but that gets confusing. So many people still call this Hawaiian island the “Big Island” to tell it apart from its state namesake.
2) Hawaii has a “forbidden island”
Its name is Niihau. One of Hawaii’s eight main islands, it’s privately owned and has only 170 residents!
3) Niihau has no running water or electric lights
It’s as unspoiled as an island with inhabitants (all 170 of them) can get.
And talk about living off the grid! Electricity is produced by the sun or generators, and there’s no running water, shops, restaurants or paved roads.
4) It’s not always sunny and hot in Hawaii
Among the things to know before going to Hawaii is that, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have perfect beach weather all of the time.
One of the, ahem, cool facts about Hawaii is that it’s often below freezing on the summit of Mount Haleakala on Maui. Year-round temperatures at this popular high-elevation tourist attraction average 41 to 50 degrees F.
It actually snows every year on the summits of Hawaii’s three tallest volcanoes (Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa)!
Hawaii also gets a lot of rain – especially during the winter months between October and April – averaging about 25 to 30 inches of rain per year.
That’s why you should toss in a light rain jacket when packing for Hawaii.
5) Pineapples are not native to Hawaii
Though most of us associate pineapples with Hawaii (and they are indeed one of the most delicious fruits of Hawaii!), they actually originated in South America.
6) The Hawaiian alphabet only has 12 letters
When visiting Hawaii, you may quickly notice how difficult many local words and names are to pronounce. Some are alarmingly long.
Case in point: Papahanaumokuakea (small Hawaiian atolls with the world’s deepest reefs and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (a Hawaiian reef trigger fish).
So we were surprised by this fun fact about Hawaii: There are only 12 letters in the entire Hawaiian alphabet. The alphabet is made up of all 5 vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and just 7 consonants (H, K, L, M, N, P, W).
7) Hawaii is the only U.S. state that commercially grows coffee, cocoa and vanilla beans
Among the most unique facts about Hawaii is that it’s the one and only state in the United States that grows and commercializes all these three very popular crops.
It’s the only state with the right tropical climate and rich soil to grow coffee beans, as well as cocoa and vanilla beans too!
And, yes, coffee is indeed a uniquely Hawaiian souvenir to give to loved ones.
8) Hawaii is run by tourists!
While Hawaii has many profitable industries, tourism is the king of them all.
More than 9 million visitors flock to the Hawaiian islands every year, and tourism makes up over 20% of the state’s economy. It’s what keeps the other industries going.
Since Hawaii’s resident population is just over 1,447,000, it’s no lie to say that the state is run by tourists! (Okay, to be accurate, we really mean that tourists drive the economy of Hawaii.)
9) One of Hawaii’s main islands, Kaho’olawe, is only 11 miles long
Another one of the many interesting things to know about Hawaii is that Kahoolawe (its smallest main island) and its land and waters can, by law, only be used by native Hawaiians for their own purposes. No commercial activity is allowed.
10) There are no snakes on the Hawaiian islands
Yep. No snakes. No doubt you like this fact about Hawaii!
And you better not get caught trying to snuggle a snake into Hawaii because you’ll be looking at paying a fine of up to $200,000 or serving a 3-year jail sentence.
Hawaii takes this offense seriously. The “no-snake” law was put in place to protect the endangered bird species on the islands.
Well, it can mean “hello” and “good-bye.” But the true meaning of “Aloha” is so much more than that.
You’ll find many definitions of aloha, including love, peace, compassion and a way of life. In many ways, Aloha is not so much a word as it is a feeling.
In fact, many Hawaiians believe that the word “Aloha” should not be used lightly.
It’s a greeting and expression that must come from the heart. This sentiment runs deep in the state of Aloha.
12) All forms of gambling are illegal
Hawaii is ideal for lots of things, but gambling is definitely not one of them.
Only two U.S. states have outlawed gambling: Utah and Hawaii.
The only way that Hawaiians can scratch that gambling itch is to hop over to the mainland. Vegas, baby!
13) Hawaii was the first U.S. state to ban plastic bags
Between 2011 and 2013, bans took effect in Kauai, Maui and the Big Island, pleasing both responsible tourists and locals.
Honolulu approved a ban on plastic bags in 2015.
14) Everyone in Hawaii is a minority
Another one of the fun facts about Hawaii is that there is no racial or ethnic majority in Hawaii.
Hawaii’s racial composition looks like this:
- Asian: 37.79%
- White: 24.95%
- Two or more races: 23.89%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 10.06%
- African American or Black: 1.83%
- Other: 1.23%
- Native American: 0.26%
15) Surfing and SUP were invented in Hawaii
It’s impossible to visit the Hawaiian islands and not see prominent references to its deep-seated surfing roots – from the clothing and souvenirs to the laid-back lifestyle.
One of the most interesting facts about Hawaiian culture and the hang loose attitude is that surfing was actually invented on the islands!
The first surfing references we know of date back to 12th century cave paintings in Polynesia. And the first written references to surfing were found in the journal of British explorer, Captain James Cook, and his crew in the late 1700s.
Stand-up paddleboarding is also said to have had its beginning in Hawaii.
Local Hawaiian surfer, John Ah Choy, is credited for inventing SUP in Waikiki in the 1940s. Duke Kahanamoku (see #16 below) also stood up on his board when teaching tourists how to surf.
16) The “Big Kahuna,” a native Hawaiian, made surfing popular around the world
Though surfing can be traced back several centuries, local Hawaiian champion swimmer and legend, Duke Kahanamoku, is the man who gets credit for making it a popular worldwide sport.
There’s also a popular restaurant chain called Duke’s Restaurant, with several locations throughout Hawaii and California. By the way, their Mai Tai’s are delicious!
It’s located almost 2,400 miles (3,862 km) away from the U.S. mainland and over 4,000 miles (6,437 km) from Japan. Living in Hawaii is as remote as you can get!
18) The Hawaiian flag is a hybrid of the U.S. and UK flags
When you look at Hawaii’s state flag, it’s hard not to notice its British influence with the prominently-designed Union Jack.
But its overall design – the horizontal stripes and top left rectangle – is unmistakably American.
As it turns out, the flag is a hybrid of both nations.
The story goes that the Union Jack in the upper left corner memorializes the friendship between the UK and the Hawaiian islands.
Meanwhile, the eight red, blue and white horizontal stripes represent the eight major islands in Hawaii.
19) Hawaii is the only state in the USA with two official languages
20) The Nene goose is Hawaii’s state bird
Hawaii facts for kids? Here’s a good educational one. A goose is Hawaii’s state bird – not a pretty parrot or bird like Costa Rica’s beautiful birds.
But the Hawaiian goose is endemic to Hawaii and only found in the wild on the islands, making it a true local.
21) There isn’t a billboard to be seen in all of Hawaii
If you’re visiting Hawaii for the first time, you may be surprised not to see any billboards.
That’s because Hawaii banned billboards back in the 1920s. It was the first U.S. state to do so, followed by Vermont, Maine and Alaska.
This is one of those Hawaii facts you’ll particularly appreciate when you’re there, as there aren’t any billboards to mess with the breathtaking natural beauty all around you.
22) Hawaii has a state flower – plus an official flower for each of its 8 main islands
Like all the U.S. states, Hawaii has a state flower, which is the yellow hibiscus.
But one of the lesser-known facts about Hawaii is that each of its eight main islands also has a signature flower, commonly used for leis and local decor.
- Oahu: Ilima (yellow-gold hibiscus flower)
- Big Island: Lehua Ohia (red flower from a myrtle tree)
- Maui: Lokelani or Damask rose
- Kauai: Mokihana (green berry)
- Molokai: White kukui blossom
- Lanai: Kaunaoa or air plant (yellow and orange vine)
- Niihau: Pupu shell (not a flower)
- Kahoolawe: Hinahina or Beach heliotrope
23) Each of the 8 Hawaiian islands has a nickname and a signature color
- Oahu (Yellow): the Gathering Place
- Big Island (Red): the Orchid Isle
- Maui (Pink): the Valley Isle
- Kauai (Purple): the Garden Isle
- Molokai (Green): the Friendly Isle
- Lanai (Orange): the Private Isle
- Niihau (White): the Forbidden Isle
- Kahoolawe (Grey): the Target Isle
For many outsiders, Hawaii’s obsession with SPAM® products is considered one of the weird facts about Hawaii.
The origin of Hawaiians’ love for SPAM® dates back to World War II, when this pork-and-ham-based meat product was served to the GIs. From there, it became a staple in local cuisine.
Fried SPAM® Classic and rice is now recognized as a popular local dish.
25) Hawaii has 2 native mammals
Because they’re so remote, the Hawaiian islands boast several endemic species, of which only two are mammals.
One is the Hawaiian monk seal. It’s one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals – and Hawaii’s state animal.
We were a little surprised to learn that the second native mammal is the Hawaiian hoary bat.
Brown and furry in appearance, with an approximate wingspan of around 12 inches (30 cm), it too is an endangered species.
If you’re a film buff, movie facts about the Hawaiian islands may not surprise you. But for many of us, it’s cool to find out just how many blockbuster hits were filmed there.
Among the biggest are Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Pearl Harbor, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blue Crush, South Pacific, The Descendants and 50 First Dates.
The first season of the surprise HBO hit series White Lotus was also filmed in Hawaii (on Maui).
27) Hawaii is the U.S. state with the 2nd highest number of shark attacks
Between 2013 and November, 2023, Hawaii recorded 90 shark attacks. It ranks second in the U.S. for shark bites after Florida (which is the “shark attack capital of the world” – see the International Shark Attack File.)
Before you chalk this up at the top of the most scary facts about Hawaii, keep in mind that your chance of getting bitten by a shark in Hawaii is less than one in 1 million.
And your chance of getting killed by a shark is one in 3.75 million.
You’re actually more likely to die from a flying champagne cork.
28) Hawaii is the only U.S. state where humpback whales mate
And it’s the only U.S. state where they calve and nurse their young too!
Humpback whales are also the only single species that can boast having their own sanctuary in the U.S., the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Sports nuts will find this one of the most fun Hawaii facts.
One of the official Hawaii sports is surfing (the official state individual sport). The other is outrigger canoe paddling (the official state team sport).
It’s not surprising that they’re both water sports, as Hawaii has the best water activities ever!
30) Hawaii’s Kure Atoll is the world’s northernmost coral atoll
The coral reef is shaped like a six-mile ring, with two islands lying within – Sand Island and Green Island.
Of the 24 time zones that exist in the world, Hawaii has one all of its own. There’s officially a Hawaiian Standard Time (which doesn’t include daylight savings time).
32) You won’t experience a more authentic luau anywhere else in the world
Hula is performed at luaus. As the birthplace of hula, Hawaii is the only place where you’ll find the real thing!
Fun facts about Oahu
As of 2023, Honolulu facts reveal that the state’s capital city has an estimated population of around 377,000.
The Iolani Palace is located in Honolulu on Oahu, and it’s the only royal palace in the United States.
What’s a palace doing on the islands, you ask?
The answer to this intriguing bit of Hawaii trivia is that there once existed the Kingdom of Hawaii, which was ruled by a monarchy.
In 1893, a U.S.-backed coup d’etat overthrew the then-reigning queen, Lili’uokalani, Hawaii’s first and last queen.
35) Oahu is Hawaii’s most visited island
Hawaii is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but Oahu takes the biggest slice of the Hawaiian Islands’ tourism pie – almost twice as much as the next visited island, Maui.
The number of Oahu visitors in 2022 was 4.8 million people. (In 2019, Oahu received a whopping 6.1 million visitors.)
It’s one of those good things to know before visiting Hawaii – because you need to not only make your Oahu vacation plans well in advance, but you should be prepared to share the island with lots of other tourists, especially the hot spots like Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.
36) Oahu is Hawaii’s most populated island
Geographical Oahu facts: The island is 597 square miles (1,546 sq. km) in size.
It’s much smaller than the Big Island and Maui, but it’s the largest Hawaiian island in terms of population, with almost 1 million inhabitants.
37) Honolulu has a hotel with a pool made from 1.25 million glass tiles
We have nothing but great things to say about the Halekulani Hotel, quietly nestled at the end of Waikiki Beach.
One of the most glorious features of this little slice of heaven is its pool, displaying a gorgeous mosaic made of 1.25 million glass tiles. It’s a sight to behold!
38) Elvis Presley was a frequent guest at Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki
If you’re an Elvis fan, you probably know of the star’s love for Hawaii, as reflected by his many Hawaiian-themed films and music.
And if you’re a diehard Elvis fan, you can book the King Suite at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, a 2,000 sq. ft. suite on the 14th floors where the King himself stayed on multiple occasions!
39) Pearl Harbor is the most visited historic site in Hawaii
40) The Dole Plantation features a record-breaking pineapple labyrinth
Dole’s amazing maze stretches over three acres on Oahu and was built using over 14,000 Hawaiian plants.
Though no longer the largest maze in the world, this pineapple-shaped labyrinth at the Dole Plantation was named the “World’s Largest Maze” by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008.
41) Honolulu is home to the oldest Catholic Church in the U.S. that’s still in use
The Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace was founded in 1843 in downtown Honolulu, with masses still open for public worship.
Fun facts about Maui
Geographically speaking, that is… At 727 square miles, one of the interesting facts about Maui is that it’s larger than Oahu, but much smaller in terms of population.
43) Lahaina was once the capital of Hawaii
Before the 1850s, when Honolulu took the title, Maui’s Lahaina town was recognized as the state capital.
Tragically, Lahaina was destroyed in August, 2023 when wildfires ripped through the town. The site is currently closed to the public. (For updates, see this Maui Recovery page on the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s website.)
Hawksbill (honu’ea), Green (honu), Leatherback, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley sea turtles make their home in Maui’s waters.
If you love sea turtles, one of the most exciting Maui facts is that the island has some of the best snorkeling spots for swimming with these awesome marine wonders!
Turtle Town on South Maui offers particularly promising opportunities.
45) The Road to Hana is 45 miles long and has 59 bridges
There’s no doubt that the famous Hana Highway is one of Maui’s top attractions. You just need to take your time in order to safely navigate its 59 narrow bridges and 600 hairpin turns.
But don’t worry, some of Maui’s best waterfalls are found along this road, so the long drive is well worth it. Be sure to stop and splash along the way!
46) Lahaina’s famous banyan tree is the largest in the United States
Standing more than 60 feet high and bigger than a city block, Maui’s banyan tree is over 150 years old.
It’s not as big as India’s (the largest in the world). But it stands proud as the largest in the United States!
Even the terrible 2023 wildfire that razed the buildings in Lahaina couldn’t destroy it. The banyan tree is now sprouting new green leaves – this is seen as a sign of hope for the rebirth of the town.
47) Maui features the largest surf break in all of Hawaii
If the name of Maui’s infamous surf break – Jaws – doesn’t intimidate you, the waves that are over 60 feet high might. This is stuff that only the bravest of surfers will consider one of the most fun facts about Maui!
The notorious surf spot is found a few miles east of Paia on Maui’s North Shore.
Fun facts about Kauai
It’s the fourth largest, both in physical size (552 square miles) and population (just over 72,000).
50) Kauai has the most beaches of all the Hawaiian islands
With 111 miles of coastline, the Garden Isle has a lot of beaches! It’s one of the interesting facts about Kauai that excites beach lovers the most.
Be aware, though, that several beaches are only safe for surfing. Only some of Kauai’s beaches are good for swimming and snorkeling.
Still, of all the free things you can enjoy on Kauai, hanging out on the beaches is probably the most popular.
51) Kauai is the only Hawaiian island with navigable rivers
The placid waters of Kauai’s navigable rivers make for ideal SUP conditions, especially for beginners.
Stand-up paddleboarding in Kauai is especially fun (as it’s not “fall-down” paddleboarding on a calm river).
52) The island of Kauai is home to the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”
One of Kauai’s most magnificent geographic wonders is Waimea Canyon. Though not as large as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Waimea is certainly huge – it’s about 10 miles long, over one mile wide and 3,500 feet deep.
Of course, one of the must-do Kauai activities is to gawk at the views and go hiking in the yawning red-colored canyon.
53) Four Hollywood hits were filmed at Kauai’s Allerton Garden
One is that Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, South Pacific and Donovan’s Reef were all filmed there.
Jacqueline Kennedy and Georgia O’Keefe were also big fans of the gardens. Although, isn’t everybody who visits?
54) The Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort Lihue houses Hawaii’s largest pool
There’s no shortage of excellent hotel choices in Kauai.
But if you’re looking for one of the most impressive pools, you’ll find the largest outdoor pool in all of the Hawaiian islands at the Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort Lihue – measuring 210 feet in length!
Mount Waialeale has an average rainfall of 450 inches a year, making it one of the wettest spots on the planet.
Fun facts about the Big Island of Hawaii
56) The Big Island is twice as big as all the other main Hawaiian islands combined
The island of Hawaii is called the “Big Island” because, well, it’s really big! It covers 6,424 miles.
58) Most of Hawaii’s volcanoes are on the Big Island
How many volcanoes are there in Hawaii? Five. And four of them are on the Big Island!
Many of the most interesting facts about the Big Island involve volcanoes.
Mauna Loa is the largest, rising to almost two miles above sea level. It also covers over half the entire island.
60) Hawaii’s Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world
When you think about Hawaii’s volcanoes, it’s natural to wonder which are the ones to worry about.
Kilauea Volcano is described as “near-constantly erupting” from vents either on its summit or on its rift zones.
61) Mauna Loa and Kilauea are neighbors in the same park
To visit both of these volcanic giants, you just need one entry into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
How big is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park? The park encompasses around 523 square miles. To give you an idea of how big that is, Oahu is 597 square miles!
62) The Big Island gets bigger every year
Okay, we know you want more interesting facts about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Big Island…
How about this? Because the Kilauea Volcano has been erupting for over 30 years, the Big Island grows by 42 acres every year!
All of the new land created from molten rock flowing offshore belongs to the Hawaii state government.
With its peak standing at almost 14,000 feet above sea level, the Big Island’s Mauna Kea is Hawaii’s tallest peak.
But when measured from the ocean floor base to peak, Mauna Kea is actually the tallest mountain on earth. It extends another 19,700 feet below the ocean!
64) The island of Hawaii is the world’s leader in macadamia nut harvesting
And here’s one of those Big Island facts you may not have known. Most of the world’s deliciously creamy crunchy macadamias are grown in Hawaii – but the nuts are in fact indigenous to Australia!
Sitting high up at over 13,700 feet above sea level is the world’s largest telescope, at the Mauna Kea Observatory.
66) The highest lake in the U.S. is on the Big Island
Lake Waiau is Hawaii’s only alpine lake, located at an elevation of 13,020 feet – making it one of the highest lakes in all of the United States.
Located in the south of the Big Island, Pahala reached 100 F in 1931.
68) One of the world’s 4 green sand beaches is found on the Big Island
Among the curious facts about Hawaii beaches is that the Aloha state boasts one of the most diverse ranges of sand colors in the world – white, pink, black, green, red and glass.
And the Big Island’s Papakolea is one of only four beaches in the entire world that has green sand.
The sand gets its green coloring from the abundant presence of olivine, Hawaii’s only naturally-produced gemstone.
69) The Big Island has 4 of the 5 world’s major climate zones
Based on the Koppen climate classification system, the Big Island has almost every climate zone in the world, which is impressive for one island!
As for the world’s climate sub-zones, Hawaii has a whopping eight out of 13.
70) Hawaii has experienced 4 glacial periods in its history
Glaciers are one of the last things about Hawaii we’d associate with the state. But, as fun facts about Hawaii would have it, Mauna Kea has undergone four glacial episodes over the last 300,000 years.
Fun facts about Lanai
Measuring just 13 miles wide and 18 miles long, Lanai ranks 6th in size of the Hawaiian islands, at 141 square miles. It has a small population of just over 3,000.
72) The Garden of the Gods is one of Lanai’s top tourist attractions
According to Hawaiian legend, this fascinating red lava formation was created by gods dropping rocks from the sky while they tended to their gardens, thus earning its name – Keahiakawelo or Garden of the Gods.
Needless to say, visiting it is on the list of top things to do in Lanai!
73) Lanai has no traffic lights
It’s true. Lanai has no traffic lights (and only one stop sign).
One of the lesser-known facts about Lanai is that the island is primarily (98%) owned by Larry Ellison, co-chair and founder of the multinational computer technology corporation, Oracle.
The other 2% is owned by the state of Hawaii and private home owners.
For such a small island, it’s absolutely delightful that there are options when it comes to staying at a Four Seasons Resort on Lanai!
76) Lanai was once owned by Dole
The famous pineapple tycoon, James Drummond Dole, purchased Lanai for $1.1 million in 1922. There, he built a plantation that produced 75% of the world’s pineapples.
77) Hawaii is the only U.S. state where pineapples are grown
More Lanai facts: Dole closed its operations in the early 1990s and competitor Del Monte moved its production out of Hawaii in 2008.
But pineapples are still grown in Hawaii on a small scale, mainly for local consumption.
Facts about Molokai
One of the most poignant facts about Molokai and its history is that Kalaupapa is a former leprosy colony. It’s still home to former sufferers of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), who were exiled there in the 1960s.
79) Father Damien is Molokai’s patron saint
Belgian Catholic priest, Father Damien, cared for the leper colony residents in Kalaupapa for 11 years until he too contracted leprosy. He died on Molokai in 1889.
Father Damien was canonized in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.
80) You can mail a coconut to the U.S. mainland from the post office
Through the “Post-a-Nut” program, you can mail a real Hawaiian coconut from the Hoolehua Post Office on Molokai. The post office sometimes has free freshly fallen coconuts, but you’d be wise to bring your own.
No box and no envelope needed. But you can use permanent markers to color and decorate your coconut. Then all you have to do is pay for the shipping.
About 3,000 coconuts are mailed each year.
81) Molokai is home to the highest sea cliffs in the world
What’s formed when an earthquake causes a volcanic crater to crash into the ocean? The world’s tallest sea cliffs, standing at almost 4,000 feet high.
The view makes for a stunning helicopter ride!
The Olo’upena Falls tumble down from an impressive height of nearly 3,000 feet, making them the tallest waterfall in Hawaii and the fourth tallest in the entire world.
Now you know all about Hawaii!
Okay, not everything. But hopefully you know a lot more after reading these interesting Hawaii facts.
Having a greater understanding will help you better appreciate all the ways Hawaii is unique when you visit.
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