Hawaii is an archipelago of over 137 islands located about 3200 km southwest of the mainland United States. The main islands are located just south of the Tropic of Cancer nearly halfway between the Americas and Asia, at about the same latitude as central Mexico and Vietnam.
Honolulu, the state capital, is located on Oahu and is the largest city with about 377,000 people. Other large cities include Kapolei (84,000), Hilo (47,000), Kailua (37,000), and Kaneohe (35,000).
Climate and Geography
Hawaii is the northernmost archipelago in Polynesia. Most people have only heard of the 8 major islands, but the archipelago is actually made up of numerous islands, atolls, and islets. The state of Hawaii officially includes 137 islands with a total land area of 16,636 km2 and 1210 km of coastline spread across 2400 km. The oldest (and therefore smallest because of erosion) are in the northwest. The eight main islands, located at the southeast end of the archipelago, are all relatively new with Hawai’i, also known as the big island, being the youngest and biggest at 10,400 km2.
The eight main islands, from northwest to southeast, are called Ni’ihau, Kaua’I, O’ahu, Moloka’i, Lana’I, Kaho’olawe, Maui, Hawai’i. The island chain is actually the top of a string of volcanoes that rise from as deep as 6000 m below sea level. The Big Island is made up of 5 volcanoes. The tallest is Mauna Kea, which stands 4205 m above sea level, but is actually 10,200 m from the ocean floor to the peak, making it taller than Mount Everest. Mauna Loa is the second tallest point on the archipelago at 4170 m above sea level and is the largest volcano on earth in terms of volume and area.
The islands of Hawaii are covered with lush vegetation, most of which is endemic owing to the geographic isolation of the islands, and Hawaii is also home to many endemic animal species endangered by human activities.
Hawaii’s climate is tropical, but there is a great deal of climactic variation in some areas because of the extreme difference in altitude. Hawaii’s climate can be summarized this way. At sea level the temperature ranges from 29-32 °C in the summer and 26-28 °C in the winter. The ocean temperature ranges from 25°C to 28°C throughout the year. Light rain showers are common year-round. October to March is the stormy season and, although they rarely hit Hawaii, June to November is considered hurricane season. Despite the tropical climate, the tallest peaks, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala, receive snow in the winter.
Hawaii is arguably one of the best all-round destinations in the world for outdoors adventure seekers. With two National Parks, three National Historical Areas, and 53 state parks on five islands there is no shortage of untouched wilderness. It hardly needs to be pointed out that Hawaii is a world-class destination for ocean-related sports; Hawaii is the home of surfing, and has some of the best waves in the world, and wrecks, caves, and reefs are all nearby for scuba divers. Less well known, though, is the variety of sporting opportunities created by the steep and rugged volcanoes. Trekking and mountain climbing in Hawaii are excellent. Mountain biking is epic. And, with the rise of ecotourism, the popularity of ziplining above the canopy and across deep chasms has been growing in popularity.
Tourism is the largest sector of the Hawaii’s economy and accounted for 24.3% of the GNP in 1997. This means that rental equipment, guides, and tours are for almost anything you want to do are readily available. Unfortunately, Hawaii is also quite pricey—and not just for tourists. Honolulu ranks among the most expensive cities to live in in the US. In twenty-first century America, you can be sure that paradise comes with a price.
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Scuba diving (wreck, reef, and cave)
- Surfing (epic)
- Hang gliding
- Sky diving
- Bungee jumping
- Whitewater rafting
- Kayaking (river, lake, and ocean)
- Canoeing (river, lake, and ocean)
- Caving and spelunking
- Hiking/trekking (all levels)
- Rock climbing (all levels)
- Mountain Biking (novice to expert)
- Horseback Riding
- Skiing and snowboarding (backcountry or by helicopter)
On a Budget?
- As one would expect, hotels in Hawaii can be a bit pricey. Dorm beds start around $20 USD per person per night. A campsite at a campground in a state park is between $15 and $20 USD per night, and private campgrounds charge $10+ USD per person per night for a site.
- Eating in Hawaii tends to slightly more expensive that most US cities because everything is imported. You can bet on paying at least $5 USD for breakfast or lunch, and a bit more for dinner. Supermarkets are definitely the way to go if you are trying to pinch your pennies.
Images (in order) courtesy of aftab., /\ltus, PKMousie, JPhilipson, Sunova Surfboards, vissago, kmoliver, tommydavis209, Chad Podoski, 0xFCAF, KTesh, and JPhilipson on Flickr.
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The information on this page was provided by My Hawaii Info. If you want to know more about Hawaii they are the people to ask.