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Hawaii Facts

The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated inhabited island chain in the world, located 2,390 miles southwest of California.  The flight time is approximately five hours from the West Coast, nine hours from Chicago, and eleven hours from New York.  That may sound like a long time but during the flight we review our vacation plans and anticipate all the things we plan to do.

It surprises many people to learn that the Hawaiian Islands are in the northern hemisphere.  However, they are closer to the equator than to any other land mass.   Each island was formed by a mountainous volcano or group of volcanoes that expelled lava to create land which finally rose above the ocean surface.  Much of the tropical flora growing here is found only in the Hawaiian Islands.  It is a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in winter but temperatures range from 60F to 90F year-round.  Any time is a good time to visit Hawaii, but some times are better than others.  See When to Go for more information.

When you decide to go to Hawaii, you must decide which of the six major islands to visit.  Each island is different from the others.   Each has its own personality, and certain islands will be more appealing to you than others.  Below  is a short profile of each island to help you decide which one(s) suit you best.  For in-depth coverage of an island, click on its paragraph header below or one of the buttons at the right of this page.

Oahu, the Gathering Place: (Oh-WA-who)
Oahu is where Honolulu is located and most of the other sites the average visitor has heard about in Hawaii.  Almost  80% of Hawaii's residents live here, and 90% of visitors stop in Honolulu, the 11th largest city in the U.S.  If you want to "get away from it all" you may want to leave Honolulu off your itinerary.  However, if you do, you will miss many of the famous sites in Hawaii.   Highlights include:
Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach
Diamond Head viewed from Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach -- probably the most famous beach in the world; crowded but great for people watching.
Diamond Head -- Hawaii's most famous landmark.
USS Arizona Memorial -- a sobering reminder of the Japanese air raid on December 7, 1941 that resulted in the U.S. entering World War II.
North Shore --  a string of fabulous beaches such as Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay, and Banzai where surfers and gigantic waves are found in the winter months.

Maui, the Valley Isle: (Mow-ee, rhymes with Now-ee) 
Readers of Conde Nast Traveler named Maui the #1 travel destination in the world in 1997 and the world's best island four years in a row.  It has many characteristics of the mainland and Oahu (it can get crowded) while at the same time having some characteristics of Kauai, which is more remote.  Maui's microclimates include freezing winds and occasional snow on Haleakala, barren lava flows south of Makena, lush rain forests, and numerous golden sand beaches.  Highlights include:  
Haleakala National Park --  an inactive volcano 10,023 feet high with a crater more than seven miles long
The road to Hana -- a beautiful winding 50 mile drive with tropical scenery and waterfalls
Whale Watching -- humpback whales return each year from mid-December through early May

The Big Island, the Orchid Isle:   (ha-Wa-ee or ha-Va-ee) 
Its real name is Hawaii but it's called the Big Island to distinguish it from the entire chain.  It is more than twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined.  It is a land of contrasts with microclimates that include two massive volcanoes that sport snow on their tops in the winter months, the hot and dry west side where the resorts are located, and the east side of the island which is lush and much less populated.  The largest ranch in the U.S. is located in the center of the island where it is expansive and cool.  Highlights include:  
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park -- home of a real-life volcano that has been spewing lava since 1983
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach -- this is the largest black sand beach we've seen in the Islands.  It's easy to get to, other than being about an hour and one-half drive from either Hilo or Kailua-Kona.  There are always a lot of turtles in the bay.
Waimea -- upland, windswept, cowboy country with herds of cattle and home of Parker Ranch

Kauai, the Garden Isle: (ka-Wah-ee)
An ideal place to get away from it all and enjoy tropical lushness and serenity.  As might be expected, Kauai's lushness comes because it rains here more than on the other islands.  The north shore receives fairly steady rain from mid-December through March.  Island population is low, but there are still enough luxuries to help you enjoy your vacation.  Highlights include:
Waimea Canyon -- a colorful gash in otherwise lush greenery; the Pacific's "Grand Canyon"
Na Pali Coast -- beautiful jagged green cliffs accessible only by boat
Poipu Beach -- a dry climate and stretch of golden sandy beaches

Molokai, the Friendly Isle: (mo-lo-Kah-ee)  
Considered the most Hawaiian island, Molokai has a larger native Hawaiian population than any other Hawaiian island.  To many, Molokai has a refreshing lack of tourists but this also means there are very few developed tourist facilities.  This is the Hawaii of 50 years ago before high rise hotels and shopping centers.  It has some lovely uncrowded beaches and plenty of aloha from the local people.  Highlights include:
Kalaupapa -- site of Father Damien's 19th century leper colony.   Tours available are conducted by patients.
Halawa Beach Park -- a drive to east Molokai past deserted golden sand beaches to beautiful Halawa Bay

Lanai, the Pineapple Isle: (la-Nah-ee) 
There is very little development except for two luxury resorts.  Unless you want to spend most of your time relaxing and doing nothing, you should bypass Lanai or stay only two or three days.  With only 33 miles of paved roads, much of the island's diversity can only be reached by 4-wheel drive vehicle, foot, or horseback.  Highlights include:
Garden of the Gods -- erosion formed bare red earth, boulders, pinnacles, and buttes in a dry countryside.
Munro Trail -- an 8.8 mile loop that ascends through a rain forest climbing to the island's 3,500 foot summit.

Interesting facts about Hawaii
State nickname The Aloha State
State song Hawaii Ponoi written in 1874 by King David Kalakaua
State flower Yellow Hibiscus
State bird Nene (Hawaiian goose)
State fish The reef Triggerfish or humuhumunukunukuapua'a
State mammal The humpback whale
State tree The kukui also known as the candlenut tree
State gem Black coral
State team sport Outrigger canoe paddling
State motto Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness


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