The Most Amazing Facts About Hawaii

Written By: The Planet D

One of the most geographically isolated and unique places on Earth is found 2,500 miles out in the Pacific Ocean. From surfing and snorkeling to hiking and dining, there is something for everyone in Hawaii. That is why it is one of our favourite travel destinations.

The remote location of this island chain has created a unique and unforgettable landscape that has to be experienced first-hand. Its fascinating culture and role in world history is something everyone can appreciate! 

Are you ready for some incredible facts about Hawaii? Then read on for more and start planning your dream trip to a place like no other. 

Fun Facts about Hawaii

1. Hawaii’s Human History Dates Back as Early as 400 C.E. 

Facts about Hawaiian History

While Hawaii didn’t become a state until 1959, its history dates back many centuries. Even before humans arrived, geological forces were at work to create the islands now known as Hawaii. Some of the best facts Hawaii involve the history of its people!

Polynesian Culture

The earliest humans made their way to what we now call Hawaii back in 400 C.E. These explorers were Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands and traveled 2,000 miles in canoes. 

The first intrepid settlers were resourceful, navigating by the stars, fishing, and farming. They lived in small communities, ruled by chieftains, but were often at war with one another over territory. 

Captain Cook

Fact  Captain Cook Discovered Hawaii

On January 20th, 1778, the first European explorer arrived on the shores of Kauai. The native Hawaiians were fascinated by the use of iron on the British ships and even believed the Europeans were gods.

Captain Cook named the island chain the Sandwich Islands after one of his benefactors, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. He ended up visiting the islands again in 1779 when the visiting Europeans were again welcomed and treated as deities. 

But after a crew member died (exposing the explorers as mere mortals), the relationship between Hawaiians and Europeans deteriorated. Eventually, a battle broke out and Captain Cook was killed in the fray.

Leper colony

In 1866, King Kamehameha V created a leper colony at Kalaupapa on Molokai. Now known as Hansen’s Disease, Hawaiians had no immunities and the king decreed that the best way to isolate those affected was to exile them to an isolated peninsula.

One of the few sad Hawaii facts is that even young children were taken from their families if infected. They traveled to the leper colony by boat, and supplies were only brought in once a year. Once there, patients were there for life.

Today, you can go visit the colony, which is run by the National Park Service

King Kamehameha

Fact: King Kamehameha united Hawaii

One of the most famous and revered Hawaiians is King Kamehameha. He is most famous for his success at uniting the islands of Hawaii and serving as the first monarch. 

Between 1782 and 1810, Kamehameha the Great conquered first the island of Hawaii (his home), followed by the rest of the big eight islands. Under his rule, there was relative peace, international trade, and unity. 

Queen Liliuokalani

The last monarch of Hawaii was Queen Liliuokalani. She was overthrown in 1893 by American businessmen who were invested in the Hawaiian sugar industry.

Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned in the Iolani Palace, the only palace in the United States, for eight months after being forced to abdicate her throne. In 1898, the U.S. officially annexed Hawaii and organized it as an official territory two years later. 

2. Each Island Has Its Own Lei

Fact: Leis are native to each island of Hawaii

Contrary to popular belief, leis are not always made out of flowers. They can also be made out of shells, nuts, leaves, and even feathers, bones, and animal teeth. 

It’s one of the little-known and amazing facts Hawaii that each of the eight major islands has its own lei. These were historically used to identify one’s rank and status, as well as where someone was from. When visiting any of Hawaii’s islands, you can take a lei-making workshop to try your hand at this cultural icon!

Lei Etiquette

There are a few cultural rules and customs associated with wearing leis. The first, and most important, is to never refuse a lei. It’s a signal of affection and welcome, and its refusal is considered rude. 

The only exception to this rule is for pregnant women. A closed lei is considered bad luck and an ill omen, so pregnant women wear an open lei draped around their neck. 

Other interesting facts Hawaii and its leis are that it’s considered offensive to remove a lei in the presence of the person who gave it to you. Wear it loosely draped over your shoulders, not hanging straight down from your neck. 

3. The Hawaiian Alphabet Has Only Twelve Letters

Hawaiian Alphabet

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. with two official languages: English and Hawaiian. And while the Hawaiian language has undergone a revival in the last fifty years, it was once banned in schools and the government. 

The letters of the Hawaiian alphabet are A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, and W. There is also another letter, called the ?okina, which represents a break in a word. It’s depicted as a backward apostrophe and is why you’ll sometimes see the state’s name written as “Hawai’i.”


It’s one of many fun facts about Hawaii, but many travelers know that “aloha” in the Hawaiian language means both hello and goodbye. It also has a deeper, richer meaning that can help you to understand more about Hawaiian culture. 

“Aloha” also means love, respect, compassion, mercy, and love. It’s a way of being in harmony with the land and others in a way that creates relationships, kindness, and affection. 

4. Hawaii Has Incredibly Diverse Geography and Nature

Hawaii has a diverse landscape

Hawaii is unique among the states of the U.S. Not only is it the farthest west, but also contains the southernmost tip of the country. Some other amazing facts about Hawaii are: 

It’s Made Up of 137 Islands

Yes, there are the major eight islands that we’re all (more or less) familiar with: Hawaii (or the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. But there are additional atolls and islets in the island chain. All told, it stretched 1,500 miles!

Hawaii Is Growing

Hawaii is growing fast

Until recently, K?lauea Volcano was the world’s most active volcano. Hawaii’s islands are made from millennia of volcanic activity, and the near-constant eruptions from this volcano had been occurring since 1983!

As the lava hit the Pacific Ocean, it cooled, creating additional land. Approximately 70 acres have been added to Hawaii’s Big Island in recent decades. 

The Halema?uma?u Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also said to be home to the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele. Many visitors from the mainland take home illegal souvenirs of lava rocks each year, which are said to carry a curse. It’s not uncommon for Park rangers to get these mailed back to be replaced where they belong!

Hawaii Is Home to the World’s Tallest Mountain

No, it’s not Mount Everest! While, yes, the towering Himalayan peak is the tallest above sea level, the world’s tallest mountain is actually found on the island of Hawaii. 

This dormant volcano’s summit is 13,796 feet above sea level but extends an additional 19,000 feet underwater to the base of the ocean floor. The total height? 33,500 feet, or nearly a mile taller than Mount Everest.

There Are Only Public Beaches in Hawaii

All beaches are public in Hawaii

You read the correctly! Even the most private-looking beaches are open to the public. This concept, also known as aloha aina (or love for the land), demonstrates a connection with nature that is key to Hawaiian culture. 

So that means you can stroll along Kauai’s Barking Sands Beach, go snorkeling in Maui at Turtle Town, or even try your hand at surfing on Oahu’s south shore. And no one can tell you you’re not allowed!

However, in fragile reef areas, certain sunscreens are banned. The chemicals they contain are damaging the health and wellbeing of the reefs and other marine life. Be sure to check what’s allowed before you go!

5. Hawaii Has Amazing Agriculture

Rich Agricultural land in Hawaii

Hawaii’s tropical climate and rich volcanic soil mean that it is one of the only places in the United States that grows certain crops. 

For example, Hawaii is the only U.S. state to grow coffee beans. Kona coffee is produced only in a small part of the Big Island. It’s also prized for its smooth taste and full-bodied flavor. 

Cacao is also grown on the islands and is used to create rich, decadent Hawaiian chocolate. Which pairs great with the macadamia nuts Hawaii is so well known for producing!

And while pineapple and the Dole company are what we often think of when Hawaii comes to mind, sugarcane played a much bigger role in the state’s history. 

The introduction of sugarcane is what brought many immigrants to the islands, creating one of the most diverse populations in the United States. Its profitability is also what led to the eventual dethroning of the Hawaiian monarchy and annexation of the islands. 

Hawaii’s last sugar mill closed down in 2016, after almost 150 years. 

Interested in Learning More Facts About Hawaii? 

No one can deny that Hawaii is a fascinating and captivating place to spend any amount of time. From the beaches to the waterfalls, fields, towns, and activities, you will never find a dull moment in the Aloha State. There are so many more cool facts Hawaii waiting for you to discover!

Are you ready to book your ticket? Don’t forget to check out our travel tips to help you enjoy every moment of your time without worry. And happy travels!

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

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Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
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Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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