The Hawaiian Islands are an amazing place of contrast. 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones are located on Hawaii... from rainforest to desert to temperate... There’s even tundra and snow at the highest elevations. You can actually snow ski in Hawaii. The rainiest spot on earth is Mt. Waialeale, located on the island of Kauai. Of course, there is no hotel at the top of the mountain, but there are hotels in the foothills and along the coast, where dry visitors enjoy the rainbows and countless waterfalls.
Whatever your preferences or travel style, there is something for everyone in Hawaii. You can enjoy a luau where you’ll savor some great exotic cuisine as you enjoy beautiful hula dancing and exciting fire dancing. Shopping opportunities abound from flea markets and hippie fairs to the upscale shopping in Waikiki. You can hike through a rainforest and see towering waterfalls. You can swim in waterfall-fed pools. You can climb Diamond Head and be rewarded with a stunning view of Honolulu. You can ride a horse along the beach or across the mountaintop. You can ride a bicycle down a volcano. There are aquariums, a zoo, museums, plantations... You can enjoy the ocean in many different ways... snorkel, scuba, swim, surf, sail... even swim with dolphins... Or just lay on the beach and soak up the sun.
The state flower is the yellow hibiscus. The state bird is the nene, or Hawaiian goose and the state fish is the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, or reef triggerfish. The official state motto is "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono", translated as "The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness". The state’s unofficial motto is, "Hang loose"... a relaxed, carefree attitude that is lived by locals and shared with visitors. This "aloha attitude" is expressed with the "shaka" sign. The shaka is a raised hand gesture made by extending the thumb and pinky finger with the three middle fingers remaining closed upon the palm. Shaking the hand adds extra emphasis. The shaka is always a positive gesture and is used in many contexts... a friendly "hello", a sign of approval or agreement... even as a signal of thanks to other motorists for a highway courtesy.
Hawaii has a rich history and distinctive culture. Hawaii is the most isolated land on the planet. Knowledge of the first Hawaiian settlers is murky, but it is widely believed that the first Polynesian settlers traveled over 2000 miles in double-hulled canoes from the Marquesas Islands between the 4th and 6th Centuries. A second wave of settlers arrived from Tahiti during the 9th and 10th Centuries. English explorer James Cook arrived on the Big Island in 1778, beginning the entry of westerners into the islands. The Hawaiian Islands were unified under King Kamehameha in the late 19th Century. The Kingdom of Hawaii became a US Territory in 1900 and ultimately a US State in 1959.
There are a total of 137 islands and atolls in the Hawaiian Island chain, but only the 7 largest are inhabited. Oahu, the 3rd largest island, has 80% of the state’s population and is home to Honolulu, the state capital and largest city.
Tourism is the state’s largest industry, followed by the U.S. Military. Early leisure tourists included Mark Twain and Herman Melville in the 19th Century. The tourism industry exploded in the 20th Century and beyond. Tourists come from all over the world, but most are from the North American mainland and Japan. With its endless activities, rich culture and unparalleled scenery, Hawaii truly is a paradise. - Mike Bechtol 2008
Check out these pages for lots of photos and more about Hawai'i:
OAHU BEYOND HONOLULU
They call it "Paradise". But does Hawaii live up to all the high praise? ABSOLUTELY! The scenery is spectacular everywhere. Visitors thrill at the high sheer sea cliffs and palm-tree fringed lagoons overlooking the Pacific. Dramatic green valleys are abundant on all of the islands. The active volcanoes and lava flows are a constant reminder of the island chain’s’ formation. Colorful rainbows occur daily. And then there’s the miles and miles of beautiful beaches. Each beach is unique. Some have soft white sand, ideal for swimming and sunbathing. Some are rocky with coral, ideal for snorkeling and swimming with the sea creatures. There are black sand beaches and even a green sand beach. Famous Waikiki Beach is located in the heart of Honolulu’s popular tourist district. Best of all... state law states that ALL of Hawaii’s beaches and shorelines must be accessible to the public. Hotels may own property on the shore, but they may not restrict access to the beach where they are located... which provides visitors with nearly endless choices.