Aloha, fellow Hawaii enthusiasts!
I must confess, there’s something irresistible about the enchanting islands of Hawaii that keeps drawing me back every year. With each visit my boyfriend and I share, we discover more fascinating facts about this unique paradise that leaves us craving another adventure. So buckle up and prepare to be amazed as I’m going to guide you through some seriously fun and quirky tidbits about Hawaii that you need to know.
As a self-proclaimed lover of all things Hawaiian, I’ve dedicated countless hours to poring over stories from its royal past, studying its traditions, and learning secrets even locals may not fully appreciate. Every time we return home from our island getaways, friends swarm around us begging for intriguing tales they won’t find on your average travel blog. And trust me – Hawaii never disappoints!
So whether you’re an old pro at navigating these vibrant islands or a complete newbie dreaming of sandy beaches and luau feasts, stick with me because these peculiarities are sure to surprise even the most seasoned travelers.
Warning: After reading this article, you might just find yourself packing your bags for a spontaneous trip to the Aloha State – don’t say I didn’t warn ya!
Without further ado, let’s dive headfirst into the extraordinary world of Hawaii’s lesser-known gems!
Fun Facts About the State of Hawaii
Below you can read about facts that make the 50th US state a unique place to live. From having two official languages, 100+ islands, and being the longest island chain in the world, the state of Hawaii has many lesser-known facts that you’ll love to find out.
Hawaii is known as the Aloha State
When you visit Hawaii, prepare to be showered in hospitality, love, and a welcoming atmosphere all around. That’s because Hawaii and its people have embraced the ‘Aloha spirit’, which offers everyone respect and a warm welcome.
In addition, Aloha in the Hawaiian language means both hello and goodbye, so the entirety of your stay will offer generous hospitality.
A great example of the Aloha spirit in Hawaii is that travelers are greeted with fresh flower leis on arrival at the airport, in their hotels, at traditional luaus, and in many other places, which is a way to make guests feel welcome.
My boyfriend and I frequent Hawaii for this very reason, as you spend days among breathtaking scenery and are guaranteed a stay filled with love and respect.
Extra Fun Fact: Hawaii became the fiftieth US state in 1959, which is also when it earned the nickname ‘Aloha State.’
Hawaii is the only state with two official languages
Hawaii has a history that dates back centuries and a culture separate and distinct from the US, which is apparent from its native language. So when Hawaii became a US state, it had two official languages: English and Hawaiian.
However, you won’t have to learn Hawaiian to get around the islands, as most people speak English fluently. There are also some Hawaiian language immersion schools on the islands where you can learn to speak and write Hawaiian fluently.
We’ve often come across sign boards in Hawaii written in Pidgin, such as ‘We Stay Close,’ which means Closed, and with most words written without the letter D at the end.
Extra Fun Fact: Pidgin is widely spoken by locals in Hawaii and is a combination of slang and different cultural tongues.
Hawaii consists of 132 islands
If you thought till now that Hawaii was only a few islands, think again because the state encompasses 132 islands, islets, reefs, and shoals in total. However, the major islands are only eight; the Big Island, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Ni’ihau, and Kahoolawe (this island is largely uninhabited.)
From the four main islands, the Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, are frequented by tourists as holiday destinations and serve as residences for locals and those looking to move to Hawaii.
However, you can also visit Lanai and Molokai for a day trip by taking a boat from Maui. Since these islands are much smaller and underdeveloped, there isn’t a lot to do besides sightseeing and exploring, and the accommodations are also limited.
Extra Fun Fact: Ni’ihau is the only island native Hawaiians still inhabit, and they’ve resided there for centuries.
Hawaii is the only US state that grows coffee commercially
Hawaii’s climate and rich soil make it perfect for growing coffee, and the state has coffee farms on the four major islands. However, Kona on the Big Island is the largest coffee producer, making Kona coffee the most famous beverage in Hawaii.
Since Hawaii is the only US state to grow coffee commercially, there are nearly 10,000 acres of coffee farms on the islands. So that makes coffee the second largest crop grown in Hawaii, which brings millions of dollars to the state from supplying coffee worldwide.
In addition, you can tour the coffee farms in Hawaii to see the coffee-growing process, plus roasting and brewing methods. My boyfriend and I love to visit the Kona Coffee Farms when we visit the Big Island, and we always grab a few bags of their rich blends from the on-site gift shop.
Extra Fun Fact: Hawaii is also the only US state to grow vanilla beans and cacao commercially.
The Hawaiian island chain is the longest in the world
Hawaii has a lot of superlatives attached to it, and being the longest island chain in the world is just one of them. Going from the West to the East, the Hawaiian Isles spread from Ni’ihau to the Big Island, encompassing 130+ islands in the chain for 1,532 miles.
But only seven of these islands are inhabited, with the remaining accessible for sightseeing through cruises, snorkeling tours, kayaks, and from helicopter tours.
In addition, Hawaii is also the second widest US state, with the first being Alaska which spans 2,700 miles.
Extra Fun Fact: The Hawaiian island chain also includes four islands of the Midway Atoll, which brings the total island count to 137.
Fun Facts About Hawaiian History
Hawaiian history is diverse and has changed drastically over the years. What people now know as a state in the US was once a collection of independent islands. So below you can read fun facts about Hawaiian history, its role in the second world war, and local anecdotes.
Hawaii is the only US state with a history of monarchy
Hawaii’s rich history has seen an evolution in leadership; from tribal leaders and chieftains in the early centuries, to a monarchy in the 1800s, and now a democratic government.
The famous Hawaiian ruler, King Kamehameha I, united the Hawaiian islands and established a monarchy in 1810, with Lahaina in Maui as its capital.
The Hawaiian royal family continued its rule until 1893, when the last monarch, Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown by a coup. Much later, Hawaii was made an official US state in 1959.
So you can find palaces and royal family homes on different islands in Hawaii. The most famous one is the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, which housed the last monarchs, and serves as a museum today with their possessions on display.
We’ve taken a guided tour of the Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu, which takes you through each room in the giant compound as a guide narrates the royal history in detail.
Extra Fun Fact: Hulihee Palace in Kona on the Big Island and Queen Emma Summer Palace in Oahu are also some royal homes in Hawaii.
Pearl Harbor in Oahu played a major role in World War II
Among Hawaii’s most historically significant events was the attack on Pearl Harbor in Oahu, which took place on the morning of December 7, 1941. Japanese forces launched a premeditated attack to overtake this military base in World War II but were unsuccessful since armed forces deployed at the Harbor were able to counter the attack.
Today Pearl Harbor serves as a memorial, with a visitor center displaying exhibits, galleries, and documentaries commemorating the heroic people who gave their lives to protect the state.
You can visit the Harbor to experience this piece of history and take a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial with a guided tour.
Extra Fun Fact: Pearl Harbor gets nearly one million tourists yearly and is the most visited site in Oahu.
Surfing originated in Hawaii
It may not come as a surprise that surfing as a sport originated in Hawaii, but you’ll be amazed to know it’s been around for hundreds of years. Old Hawaiians who inhabited the islands were fond of surfing and called the sport He’e Nalu.
Surfing was also a favorite sport among Hawaiian royalty, who had special boards made for them which were longer in length than commoner’s boards.
The sport became world famous in 1912 when Duke Kahanamoku, dubbed the king of surfing, won an Olympic gold medal in the sport. Since then, big wave surfers in Maui and Oahu have made surfing mainstream, and you can attend surfing schools on the islands to learn the sport.
My boyfriend and I love surfing in Hawaii and always take classes from the terrific surf schools in Oahu and Maui to refresh our skills.
Extra Fun Fact: Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is also said to have originated in Hawaii.
Only natives in Hawaii are called Hawaiians
If you’re a first-timer in Hawaii, you’ll be inclined to think of locals as Hawaiians, just like people living in Canada would be called Canadians. However, it’s not the case in Hawaii, as only people with Hawaiian ancestry who can trace their roots to the islands are called Hawaiians.
So what do you call people that have lived in Hawaii for decades but aren’t natives? They’re simply referred to as locals.
Since Hawaiians have inhabited the islands for much longer than most colonies in the world, their ancestry and heritage are something of immense pride for them. So it’s important to respect their values and refrain from calling every inhabitant of Hawaii as Hawaiian.
Extra Fun Fact: Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders make up 300,000+ of the population in Hawaii, and nearly 1 million reside in the whole US.
Fun Facts About the Hawaiian Islands
Each Hawaiian island is distinct from its neighbor, having unique landmarks, historical significance, and natural wonders. From erupting volcanoes to an island without traffic lights and a forbidden isle, you can learn fun facts about Hawaiian islands below.
Each island in Hawaii has an official flower
As a state lush with gorgeous flowers, exotic plants, and dense forestry, it makes sense for Hawaii to have a state flower, but it goes a step ahead with an official flower for each island.
The national flower for the state of Hawaii is the yellow hibiscus, used in leis and decorations and can be seen in abundance around the islands.
Each island’s flowers were used in the past to denote a person’s roots and to indicate which island they belonged to.
The best way to remember each island’s flower is by taking a lei-making workshop led by locals who demonstrate the process from fresh flowers. We usually take these at our hotels, but you can also attend them at malls and luaus.
Extra Fun Fact: Ni’ihau doesn’t have an official flower but a Pupu shell, a white-colored, rare, and expensive shell that’s only found on the island.
Hawaii has a Forbidden Island
One of the lesser-known Hawaiian islands is Ni’ihau, which has always remained shrouded in mystery to new visitors to Hawaii. Located off the coast of Kauai, Ni’ihau is dubbed the Forbidden Isle because, unlike other islands, it is privately owned by the Robinson family and does not come under governmental control.
The island earned its forbidden status in the 1900s when the Robinson family banned outsider entry to protect the native Ni’ihauians from diseases and exposure to the outside world.
So Ni’ihau has retained Old Hawaii’s untouched, natural face as the island is free from modern development efforts.
My boyfriend and I have taken cruise tours from Kauai, which sail close to Ni’ihau shores and allow incredible snorkeling with the island’s native marine life.
Extra Fun Fact: The population of Ni’ihau is nearly 200, and they live sustainably by growing their own food, and building their accommodations.
Haleakala in Maui is the largest dormant volcano in the world
The Haleakala Mountain is located in East Maui, and its towering 10,000-foot height looms over the island. Although Haleakala could easily be the largest volcano in the world, its major height falls below sea level, making up more than seventy percent of Maui’s area.
The volcano’s slopes are also the site of the Haleakala National Park, which spreads over 30,000 acres and is home to lush vegetation, botanical gardens, and wildlife residing in the mountain.
Visitors to Maui love driving to the mountain’s peak to experience one of the world’s most breathtaking sunrise and sunset views.
My boyfriend and I always take a road trip to the volcano’s tip for the epic sunrise views but make sure to get a reservation with the National Park beforehand.
Extra Fun Fact: Haleakala is dormant for now, but it’s expected to have one final eruption left, with the last one being in the 1700s.
Big Island grows in size each year from the Kilauea volcano’s eruptions
Located on the Big Island in Hawaii, the Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It began erupting in 1983 and has been flowing since, adding nearly 42 acres to Hawaii’s surface area each year.
The lava erupts and flows to the base, building up at the end of the islands, which is how the Big Island keeps increasing in size. Until now, 800+ acres of land have been added to Hawaii, with the lava flowing regularly from early May to April.
You can see the Kilauea volcano at Volcanoes National Park near Hilo, which is open to visitors year-round and allows them to explore the live lava flow and formations.
Extra Fun Fact: Kilauea’s eruptions release vog – a volcanic haze that resembles smog but is otherwise harmless.
No building on Kauai island can be taller than a palm tree
As one of the four main islands, Kauai is well-developed and an ideal tourist destination. However, Kauai’s charms are in its rustic appearance and abundance of natural beauty, from stretches of white sand beaches to the stunning Na Pali Coast and lush rainforests.
So to maintain this island’s natural look, by law, no building in Kauai can be built taller than a palm tree height (approximately 30 feet for residences and 50 feet for commercial buildings.)
Extra Fun Fact: This initiative has helped keep Kauai’s appearance distinct from the other islands, as you won’t see high-rises or skyscrapers and enjoy the feel of authentic Hawaii.
There are no traffic lights in Lanai and Molokai
Among Hawaii’s more secluded, smaller islands which are open to the public include Lanai and Molokai. Located off the coast of Maui, these two islands maintain a laid-back environment and display the rugged beauty of Hawaii, as they’ve had minimal development.
With less than ten thousand people residing on each island, there’s no traffic on the roads, and hence no traffic lights. And with an absence of highways or proper road systems, there isn’t a need for any either, so people travel on foot or in cars on paved pathways instead.
So Lanai and Molokai are gorgeous islands to visit if you want to explore the untouched beauty of Hawaii and get away from areas steeped in urban development.
Extra Fun Fact: Only 2% of Lanai is inhabited, as billionaire CEO Larry Ellison owns the rest.
Lanai once produced 75% of the world’s pineapples
Lanai’s claim to fame was its pineapple plantation, which once produced and supplied 75% of the world’s pineapples. This is no small feat for an island as small as Lanai and earned it the nickname ‘the Pineapple Isle’ of Hawaii.
James Dole, a famous tycoon, gave Lanai this status when he purchased the island for $1.1 million in 1922, and built the lucrative pineapple plantation.
Extra Fun Fact: Today, Hawaii produces less than 10% of the world’s pineapples, with plantations only in Oahu and Maui.
Fun Facts About Hawaiian Laws and Wildlife
Hawaii has strict laws that ban gambling and entering with animals, especially snakes, hamsters, gerbils, and squirrels. Below you can read about these interesting laws, plus facts about Hawaiian wildlife.
It’s illegal to gamble in Hawaii
If you thought everything was possible in paradise, think again because Hawaiian state authorities have banned all forms of gambling. So don’t plan your trip to Hawaii with any dreams of casinos or even casino cruises in mind.
However, Hawaii also has a partner state in this law, as it’s illegal to gamble in Utah too!
But the law doesn’t restrict people in Hawaii from gambling, as they head to Las Vegas to fulfill their casino crazes.
Extra Fun Fact: Locals in Hawaii frequent Las Vegas so often for gambling that it’s referred to as the 9th Hawaiian island!
There are no snakes in Hawaii (and it’s illegal to bring one)
Folks that can’t stand snakes should head to Hawaii, as the state has imposed strict bans on bringing snakes to the islands, and possessing them is illegal.
Since snakes aren’t native to Hawaii, they don’t inhabit the islands, but their presence on the islands threatens the native wildlife. That’s because they take over the habitat and food of land animals and can cause the endangerment of species.
Aside from zoos, the government doesn’t allow snakes in Hawaii and can impose fines of up to $200,000, and jail time for their illegal possession.
Extra Fun Fact: Hawaii does have a native snake species, which is worm-sized and harmless to other animals.
Hawaii has the most endangered wildlife species in the US
An unfortunate truth about Hawaii is that it has lost more wildlife than any other US state. Nearly 70% of the state’s tropical bird species have gone extinct, with the remaining being endangered and at risk of extinction in the coming years.
Hawaii’s native wildlife includes the Hawaiian monk seal, one of the world’s most endangered species, and is also the state animal. However, conservation efforts in the last decade have successfully protected the seals from further harm, providing a safe habitat for them.
Extra Fun Fact: Monk seals are only found in Hawaii, with a majority on the northwestern islands and the rest on the main islands.
Bonus Fun Fact: You can mail a coconut from Hawaii
There’s no better Hawaiian souvenir than a coconut, and you can mail one directly to anyone in the world from the post office. What’s even better – the coconut is sent whole, with no packaging, just your mailing address and a postage fee ($12-20.)
There are coconuts ready for mailing easily available in most hotels, restaurants, and gift shops on the islands, which are unhusked and dried out to avoid any inspections.
In addition, you can customize your coconut by painting on it or writing a personalized message and sending it to your friends, family, or even yourself.
Extra Fun Fact: The Hawaiian post office mails some 3,000 coconuts worldwide each year.
What are interesting facts about Hawaii for kids?
The Hawaiian islands are just as amazing for kids as they are for adults, and each one holds interesting finds for them. For example, children will love learning about the Disney resort in Oahu, where they can meet their favorite characters, that Hawaii has a range of native marine life species like sea turtles and monk seals, and that it’s the only US state made up entirely of islands.
What are 3 things Hawaii is famous for?
Hawaii is famous for its gorgeous beaches, relaxed lifestyle, and delicious local food. From the world’s best surfing beaches in Oahu to the beach dubbed the ‘windsurfing capital’ in Maui, Michelin star restaurants in the main islands, and generous Aloha spirit, you’re in for a treat on your trip to Hawaii.
What is an unusual fact about Hawaii?
Although Hawaii has many unusual aspects to it, the most unique one has to be the lack of traffic lights on Lanai and Molokai, despite the islands having paved roads. Since Lanai and Molokai have very few residents, the cars here are even fewer, so there isn’t any traffic for lights to regulate.
Wrapping Up Fun Facts About Hawaii
If you’ve made it this far in the article, you’ll know that Hawaii has some incredible facts about its islands, wildlife, laws, and locals, which are pretty much unknown to the rest of the world. So if you plan to visit Hawaii, it’s important to know these facts, as they’ll help you associate with the islands much better.
Most facts about Hawaii are standard to the island, such as its abundance of coffee farms and old pineapple plantations. However, others have developed with time, such as bans on gambling and bringing snakes to the islands.
So if you want to become well-versed in Hawaiian trivia for general knowledge or for your next game night, make sure to read the fun facts about Hawaii mentioned in this article.
Last Updated on April 3, 2023 by Brigitte