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What Hawaii is Known For & Famous For

When you think of Hawaii you probably think of beautiful beaches, sunbathing, surfing, and eating pineapple and you wouldn’t be wrong! But there’s more to Hawaii than the touristy beach vibes listed above.


Hawaii is known for the Big Island, Maui, and Oahu as well as its tropical climate and diverse flora and fauna. The islands are famous for their stunning views and beaches as well as water sports like surfing and kite surfing. It’s also known for the Pearl Harbor attack of WWII.


Read on to learn more about what Hawaii is known for.



The 50th State

Hawaii was the 50th and last state to join the United States of America. It is a United States territory in the Pacific ocean, southeast of Japan.


In 1959, Hawaiians voted to join the US instead of becoming a sovereign nation again. It was not an easy process for Hawaii to become a state – there were several attempts before finally succeeding. Listed below are some milestones in Hawaii’s quest to become a state.


In 1820 the first American missionaries arrived in Hawaii and were welcomed by King Kamehameha II. In 1893, Queen Liliuokalani was dethroned as monarch of Hawaii by businessmen with US ties.


On July 7th, 1898, Japan and the USA signed a treaty that made Hawaii a territory of the USA.


On August 12th, 1898, the Hawaiian Organic Act was passed by Congress and signed by President McKinley making Hawaii an official US Territory.



The Hibiscus Flower

The Hibiscus Flower is Hawaii’s state flower. It can be seen all over the islands of Hawaii and is the perfect plant, the one plant that represents everything about Hawaii


The Hibiscus flower is also called “Hawaiian Rose.” It has a red flower with five petals which are very large in size. It only lives for one day or maybe two, but it makes up for this by growing rapidly and having many buds at once. Hibiscus is the official flower of the city of Honolulu on Oahu, Hawaii’s capital island.



Hawaiian Language

Hawaii is the only state with its own language. The Hawaiian alphabet consists of only 12 letters. A, E, I, O, U H, K, L, M, N, P, and W.



Made up of Volcanic Islands

Hawaii is made up of multiple volcanic islands.


Hawaii is made up of multiple volcanic islands. It’s the only state that doesn’t have a continental land mass. There are eight main islands and they include Hawaii (the Big Island,) Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.



The Big Island

The Big Island is an island of many firsts. It is the youngest island in the Hawaiian archipelago, although it does not look like it. Visitors can find examples of subaerial volcanism on top of Mauna Kea and Kohala mountains, along with lava fields that extend to the coastline. The Big Island was also one of the last islands to be settled by Polynesians, who arrived in Hawai’i roughly 1200 years ago. It is also known for its highly active volcanoes which are continuously shaping the landscape of the island.




Maui is known for its beaches, landscape and culture. It was once the basis of the world’s oil industry with oil rigs still visible around the island. Tourism is also a large industry in Maui because of its tropical climate and notable surfing spots. The majority of residents live on the southwestern end of the island.


Located in the northwestern corner of the island, Kaanapali is one of the most famous beaches in all of Hawaii. It has a clear view of the island of Lanai and the Haleakala volcano.


Related: Top 21 Thing Maui is Known For



Honolulu on Oahu

Honolulu is the capital and largest city of Hawaii. Since the beginning of modern history, Honolulu has been an important and popular shipping port for all of Hawai’i; second to Hilo on the island of Hawai’i. Today, it is second to only Utah in total revenue generated from tourism.


Honolulu’s name literally means “sheltered bay” or “place of shelter.” It is named for the ancient Hawaiian chiefdom (Hawaiian: ʻili) of that name, which was originally set up around present day Honolulu Harbor.


Related: Top 22 Thing Honolulu is Known For




Waikiki is a neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is known for being a tourist destination and being home to many hotels and resorts primarily catering to tourists.


The area was reportedly named after Waialeale, a mountain in Kauai; however, the neighborhood of Waikiki itself includes numerous mountains and hills

Volcanic Activity

The Hawaiian Islands are home to many active volcanos. The volcanoes on the islands attract visitors because of their beauty and for recreational purposes, like hiking. Hawaii has multiple active volcanoes that are constantly changing, providing new scenery for tourists to explore.



Mauna Kea

is a dormant volcano that is located on the island of Hawaii and stands at an elevation of 13,802 ft (4,207 m) above sea level. It is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from base to summit. This makes it an ideal location for telescopes since there is very little air and moisture to distort incoming light waves.


The summit of Mauna Kea hosts numerous astronomical observatories and is the home to the largest reflector telescope in the world.




Kīlauea is a volcano in the southeastern region of the Island of Hawaii, more commonly known as Big Island.


The name Kīlauea actually means “spewing” or “much spreading” in reference to its high state of activity.


Kīlauea is a shield volcano, one of the most active types in the world and has been erupting nearly continuously since 1983. The volcano’s top contains a caldera (collapsed crater) with walls about 186 meters (610 ft) high, and a lava lake in Halema’uma’u Crater is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.


Kīlauea is one of five volcanoes that form the island, and is the current focus of the Volcano Research Center and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.




Haleakalā is a volcano on the island of Maui in Hawaii.


It last erupted in 1790 when it formed ʻĪao Valley, just west of the current summit. Haleakalā has been erupting from its east rift zone since about 200,000 years ago.


Haleakalā is the largest dormant volcano in the world by volume and has been generating magma for at least 700,000 years. It erupts basaltic lava flows that run down its sides from its two shield volcanoes, forming new land on Maui Island. The volcano has a large crater, or caldera, which measures in width and is open to the southwest.


Haleakalā means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian. The name is cognate with Savāi’i, the traditional name of the main Hawaiian Island.



Dole Plantation

The Dole Plantation is a 10-acre tourist attraction in Hawaii owned by the Dole Food Company. It is located at 4401 West Kamehameha Highway in Wahiawa, Oahu.


The plantation was founded by James Drummond Dole for whom it’s named after. He bought the land with his father Sanford B. Dole in 1899, who was the first Governor of the Territory of Hawaii. The plantation grew pineapple until 1992 when it became a fruit-themed amusement park.


Today, the plantation is known for its extensive gardens which include more than 100 varieties of fruit trees and exotic plants, including pineapples, bananas, orchids and heliconias. It holds multiple festivals a year including a Harvest Festival, Pineapple Festival and Star Wars weekends.



Kona Coffee

Kona coffee is coffee grown in the Kona District on the Big Island of Hawaii.


It has a refined taste and is considered one of the best gourmet coffees in the world.


The aroma, flavor, balance and aftertaste are what coffee tasters look for when tasting Kona Coffee.


Kona coffee is the only coffee grown in the United States.



Spam Musubi

Spam Musubi is a popular snack that is commonly sold at the many farmer’s markets in Oahu, Hawaii. It’s made with Spam luncheon meat—which became popular in Hawaii during WWII—combined with rice and seaweed, held together by an elastic band (it’s not always held together by an elastic band).


The dish dates back to when there were sugar plantations in Hawaii. The plantation workers were often given Spam because it was cheap and lasted a long time, so they would eat it for lunch. Over time, the locals made their own dishes with Spam including this one that takes only 5 minutes to make.




Pineapples are eaten in many countries but are most closely associated with Hawaii.


Pineapples are one of the only “exotic fruits” native to North America. They’re tangy, sweet, and delicious!


They have become a symbol of Hawaii and its culture.


In Hawaii, pineapples are a major agricultural crop. Many people think of Hawaii as a tropical paradise that consists of nothing but sun, sand, and surf. However, more than 75% of the land in Hawaii is now used for agriculture, with pineapple being one of the most popular crops grown in the state, and is produced on thousands of acres across the islands. Hawaii’s climate provides ideal growing conditions for pineapples.




Poke is a Hawaiian food. It is a raw fish salad that has been marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, chili pepper water and chopped kukui nut meat. The dish has become quite popular throughout the world as being well known for its simplicity and healthiness.


In Hawaii however, poke’s significance is much more significant than just being a mere dish. Poke has been an important part of Hawaiian culture for the last 1,000 years. It was originally used as a way to preserve fish by Hawaiians back in times before refrigerators were invented. Hawaiians would cut fish into little chunks and then put it in a bowl with seasonings and mix in kukui nut meat.


The popularity of poke grew immensely during the 20th century, when Japanese and other Asian immigrants migrated to Hawaii. They brought their love for eating raw fish dishes with them which contributed to the creation of poke’s modern form.



Honolulu Cookie Company

The Honolulu Cookie Company is a local Hawaiian bakery that specializes in freshly baked cookies and other desserts.


The Honolulu Cookie Company employs three bakers, each with their own title: Baker of the Month, whom is responsible for creating a fantastic new cookie every month; Cookie Master Chef, who is a part of many community events and loves to engage with his customers; and Cookie Specialist, who’s responsible for filling reorders and making sure all cookie orders are prepped, baked, cooled, packaged, and shipped out on time.


The company has many locations throughout the Hawaiian Islands as well as two stores off island. One in Las Vegas, the honorary 9th island, and one on the island of Guam.



Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts, also known as king nuts or bauple nuts, are native to Australia and grown in Hawaii. They grow on large evergreen trees that can reach 50 feet tall.


The Macadamia species is named after the Scottish botanist, John Macadam.


Macadamia Nuts are often referred to as “Hawaii’s gift to the world.” Hawaii grows over 90% of all macadamia nuts in the United States. They were first discovered by Europeans back in 1857, on a tour around Oahu.


The first macadamia nut farm opened in Hawaii in 1881, and today Hawaii is the only state that grows them commercially.



Aloha Shirts

This popular floral, button-up shirt can be seen being worn all over the Hawaiian islands by both men, women and even children alike. Typically, these shirts are brightly colored with flowers all over them. Although they can be worn to casual occasions, they are mostly associated with formal events such as weddings. Many Hawaiian natives wear these shirts to their own ceremonies when they tie the knot. The shirt is especially popular and even required for invited guests and wedding participants to wear to said events.


The shirts’ true origin is unclear, however we know the Aloha Shirt first started appearing in the early 1900s. This shirt was introduced to Hawaiians by Japanese immigrants who would adapt kimono fabric into the shirts.




Luaus are a popular event in Hawaii. They are often held in huge, outdoor tents with traditional food and dance shows. Many of the people who attend Luaus are dressed in colorful Hawaiian garb or grass skirts. The luau is a very popular event for tourists to attend while they are visiting Hawaii.


The word “Luau” comes from the Hawaiian word “Hale”, which translates to home. The luau is believed to originate from the time of Polynesian discovery and settlement in Hawaii. It was a celebration type of event that was held in honor for the island spirits.


The luau became more popular in Hawaii when King Kamehameha II married Queen Kamamalu and invited several guests to celebrate with them. King Kamehameha III also made the luau an official event, and ever since it has become a traditional Hawaiian tradition. It is now held pretty much everywhere in Hawaii during fair weather.



The Lei

Lei making is an ancient tradition of the Hawaiian people that has been passed down through generations. A lei can be made from any kind of natural element that is abundant in nature like flowers, leaves, seeds, nuts and shells. Lei makers begin by choosing what they want to make their lei out of and how they want to decorate it.


There are many different ways a lei can be made depending on what natural element is being used and what part of the plant is being used, if any at all. The leaves, petals and flowers from various plants can be braided together or wrapped around each other. Some flowers may be strung together with string or twine, while others can simply be shaped into larger circular forms and worn the way they are. Lei makers will also use leaves to decorate their lei, by plaiting them together or just folding them down the middle and securing at the top.


Traditionally, it was believed that leis were only worn by the elderly or royalty in Hawaiian culture. However, this has changed over time and today anyone is free to wear a lei when they want to. It is considered very rude not to accept a lei when one is offered.



The Hula Dance

The Hula Dance is the national dance of Hawaii. It is an ancient form of storytelling through dance, song, and chant. While originally performed exclusively by women, it has come to incorporate men too, so both sexes are now seen dancing Hula in Hawaii. The focus is on expression rather than steps or figures which are less abstract than modern square or ballroom dances. The Hula dancer’s feet barely leave the ground, and when they do they never touch the same ground twice with the same foot.




Ukuleles are a type of instrument that is native to Hawaii. They are made from the wood of an acacia tree, which is also often referred to as “Hawaiian koa”, and have four strings.


The ukulele history began when Portuguese immigrants came to Hawaii from Madeira around 1879. The immigrants brought with them a small guitar-like instrument. The Portuguese influence created the first four-string ukulele.


The original name of the ukulele is the machete. The machete was actually a four-stringed guitar, and it had no frets like modern ukuleles do.


The word ukulele is a Hawaiian word that when translated means “the gift that came here”.




Tourism is Hawaii’s number one industry by far, bringing in over $14 billion dollars every year.


The tourism industry is important for the state of Hawaii because it provides jobs and brings new visitors into the state that will spend money on local businesses like restaurants and hotels. It also helps bring revenue to the government of Hawaii. Tourism provides almost 140,000 jobs to Hawaii alone.



The Road to Hana

The Road to Hana, on Maui island, is one of the most famous and picturesque driving trails in the world. For over 50 miles, it winds its way along sinuous cliffs and through lush rainforest, past dozens upon dozens of waterfalls, pools for swimming and an abundance of native flora and fauna (including wild chickens).


Hana is a small town on the east side of Maui, known for its black sand beach, 7 pools of wonder, and bamboo forest.



Water Sports

Water sports are the most popular form of activity in Hawaii by far. From surfing and sailing to swimming and boogie boarding, there’s an endless amount of fun to be had in the Hawaiian waves.


Surfing is the most popular water sport in Hawaii, but other sports like kite surfing are becoming more and more common. The islands also offer ample opportunities for ocean kayaking which can be good fun for those who prefer something slightly less physically demanding than surfing.


Snorkeling is another popular water sport in Hawaii. Many people take snorkeling trips to small offshore islands where the water is very clear. Bigger island tours are also available for experienced snorkelers who are seeking actual scuba dives which can be arranged very easily in Hawaii.



Tropical Climate

Hawaii is well-known for its tropical climate.


The state of Hawaii contains the only tropical rainforest in the United States, and it is an important habitat and natural treasure.


It makes perfect sense that Hawai’i would have a tropical climate- it’s part of the Pacific Ring of Fire! The Pacific Ring of Fire is a string of volcanos and earthquakes encircling the Pacific Ocean. The majority of all earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur along the Ring, which makes sense because it’s home to some 75% of the Earths’ surface!


Tropical climates are seen in most Pacific islands, which have been shaped by volcanic activity from the Ring of Fire.



Beautiful Scenery

Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. From volcano craters to sunsets at the beach and stunning rainforest waterfalls, there is so much to see on each of the Hawaiian islands. Some of the most amazing views are mentioned higher up in the post like the Road to Hana and the volcano craters, but there are so many more views to see.


For example:

  • Iao Valley, Maui
  • Diamond Head, Oahu
  • Waipio Valley Lookout, Big Island
  • Nāpali Coast, Kauai
  • Kīlauea Point, Kauai




Hawaii has diverse wildflife, due to the many different microclimates of the islands.


There are about 113 species of native birds in Hawaii, with another 109 introduced species found only on the most populated island, Oahu.


Hawaii hosts over 100 unique species of land snails and slugs, 30 new species that were discovered in 2011 alone. The majority of this unique species are restricted to the island of Kaua’i.


The islands also host over 3,000 types of fish and 1,500 different types of reef coral that live in the waters around Hawaii.


There are only two mammals native to Hawaii: a hoary bat and a monk seal. Two species of feral pigs, one of which was introduced by the Polynesians, and one cat species are also found on the islands.


There are over 100 recorded types of marine mammals that can be seen across all of Hawaii’s major islands, including at least 20 different species of whales and dolphins.


Hawaii hosts many endemic species like the nene (also known as the Hawaiian goose) and the Hawaiian monk seal, both of which are endangered animals.



Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor is known for its historical significance. In 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor without warning, which led to the United States’ involvement in World War II.


In 2000 a new memorial was opened that honors all military veterans of Pearl Harbor. The memorial includes a wall for each branch of service and lists the name of all the men and women who were killed or wounded during the attack.


Pearl Harbor is located in Oahu, Hawaii. The harbor provides a natural protective barrier for ships against storms. It was considered an ideal location to build up the American Pacific fleet prior to World War II.



USS Arizona

The USS Arizona Memorial in Hawai’i is a memorial which was built over the sunken ship, the USS Arizona. President Franklin D Roosevelt declared this day to be one of mourning throughout all of America for this loss. It was said that 2,403 lives were lost in this explosion. This event took place December 7th, 1941, which was also the date that marked the commencement of World War II in the Pacific.



USS Missouri

The USS Missouri Memorial is the first battleship on the national register of historic places. It is docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii right next to (and dwarfed by) the USS Arizona Memorial.


The ship was manufactured at the New York Naval Shipyard and was commissioned in June 1944. She won five battle stars during World War II, became known as “Mighty Mo,” and fought in several battles including Iwo Jima and Okinawa.


In the end of World War II, Japan sent a surrender demand on August 10 to Admiral Chester Nimitz on board the Missouri. It was there that Japanese officials surrendered on September 2 marking an end to World War II.


Expensive Hawaii

Hawaii is expensive. There’s no way around it. Many tourists don’t realize just how much they are spending during their trip to Hawaii, especially if they are coming from outside the United States. The first things that come to mind when someone thinks of Hawaii are likely sun, sand, sea, and surfing. While this may be part of the tourist experience in Hawaii, this is not the only thing that tourists experience. The cost of living and travel expenses can be quite high in parts of Hawaii, which may discourage visitors from coming back to the islands again and again.


Almost everything on the island like groceries and household staples has to be imported to the island, driving the price of goods way up.



King Kamehameha I 

King Kamehameha I was the first king of Hawaii. He came to power in 1795 after conquering the majority of the Hawaiian islands. During his reign, he created a code of laws by adapting guidelines from various sources including Biblical law, British law, and other beliefs in which Hawaiians held true. Though Kamehameha I is known for being a great warrior and a fierce leader in battle, he is also known for being a peaceful and just king who created a legal system with the welfare of the people in mind.


Kamehameha I was born to a chief of a small part of the island of Hawaii, and was later given in an “hāna pio” ceremony to be raised by King Kalani’ōpu’u of Hawaii island.



Iolani Palace

Iolani Palace is the only royal palace on US soil. It had more than 100,000 visitors in 2016 and was built at a cost of $300,000 – over $5 million in today’s money. The construction of Iolani Palace took two years to complete and once finished, it became the private residence for King Kalākaua and Queen Kapiʻolani for just eight years before the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893.


Barack Obama

Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was raised in a middle-class household and is the first president of the United States whose heritage is from East Africa.


He was born to a white American mother and a black Kenyan father. His family moved to Indonesia in 1967 where he lived for a few years before returning to Hawaii. After graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles and attended Occidental College in 1979.


He then transferred to Columbia University, graduating with a degree in political science. He then moved back to Chicago, attending Harvard Law School where he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review.



Final Thoughts

Hawaii is a beautiful island paradise that you shouldn’t go a lifetime without seeing for yourself. The tropical climate, delicious fruit, and stunning views should be enough to draw the average person to see these islands. But there is so much more to this magical place than just those things. Endless fun in the water, meaningful history, and Luaus, just to name a few!


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