Geography and Landforms:

Hawaii, the only state not part of the mainland of North America, and the only U.S. state located in the tropics, is located approximately 2100 miles southwest of San Francisco.

The state is comprised of eight major islands: Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niiahu. All of the islands were formed by volcanoes that rose from the ocean floor.

The island of Hawaii, often called "Big Island" is the largest and youngest of the eight islands and covers 4,038 square miles. Five huge volcanoes including, Mauna Loa and Kilauea, two of the world's most active volcanoes, dominate its land area. These volcanoes are also the two highest points in the state.

Cliffs rim the northeastern and southeastern coasts of the Big Island. Hilo, the island's largest city and chief port, is located in the northeast. Ka Lae or "South Cape" is the southern most point of the United States.

Seventy-five percent of the people in the state of Hawaii live on the island of Oahu. The island consists of two mountain ranges separated by a wide valley. This valley is a fertile farming area in which pineapple and sugarcane plantations thrive. The capital of Hawaii, Honolulu, is located here.

Pearl Harbor is on the southern coast of Oahu. It is one of the largest natural harbors in the Pacific and home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Kauai, also known as the "Garden Island," is circular in shape with the 5,170 foot Kawaikini Peak in the center. It is a lush island that contains one of the world's rainiest spots. Mount Waialeale receives 460 inches of rain annually. Sugarcane and pineapple thrive on Kauai as well as on the island of Maui. Maui, the state's second largest island, is made up of two mountain masses connected by an isthmus. The island is a popular spot for tourists.

Kahoolawe, the smallest of the eight islands, is uninhabited. Its land is low and is not very fertile. At one time it served as a prison and military target range. The island of Niihau, just west of Kauai, has been privately owned since 1864 when it was purchased from the Hawaiian kingdom by an American family. It is comprised of arid lowland and is suitable for cattle grazing.

Lanai is the smallest of the eight islands and is dependent on pineapple production and tourism for most of its income and employment. Lanai City, the island's main settlement, is a unique village of quaint plantation houses originally built by the Dole Pineapple Company.

Molokai Island lies between Oahu and Maui islands. Molokai is generally mountainous. A rocky mountain wall separates the north coast from the rest of the island. The soil is unfit for sugarcane production, but cattle ranches and pineapple plantations have been established here. Agricultural products are shipped out of the island's chief port, Kaunakakai, to Honolulu for export.


Captain James Cook of the British navy was the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands. He landed there on January 18, 1778 and was received warmly by the Hawaiians. Cook named these Islands the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, the first lord of the British admiralty.

After Cook's discovery, other traders and explorers began sailing to the islands. These visitors from Europe and America traded livestock, plants, and manufactured goods from other parts of world with the Hawaiians for the islands' highly valued sandalwood.

During this period of time, the islands were under the rule of local warring chiefs. King Kamehameha I united the islands and became their ruling chief in 1810. A time of peace followed, during which agriculture and commerce flourished. But problems began to develop. Visitors to the islands had brought with them many infectious diseases that sickened and killed large numbers of native Hawaiians. Cultural traditions began a steady decline as Western ways were introduced. Even the native Hawaiian religion, characterized by idol worship and the belief in many gods and goddesses, began to break down. King Kamehameha II abolished these religious practices in 1819 shortly after assuming the throne. A period of religious unrest followed.

When Hiram Bingham came to Hawaii in 1820 with his group of Protestant missionaries, he found a much less idyllic culture than that originally discovered by Captain Cook. Bingham and his missionaries set up schools, established the Hawaiian alphabet, and translated the Bible into the Hawaiian language. Protestantism became the official religion. Roman Catholic priests and missionaries were forced out of the islands, and many Hawaiians who had converted to Catholicism were imprisoned. Religious freedom was eventually established 1839 under the rule of King Kamehameha III.

A constitutional monarchy was established in 1840. It included a supreme court and a legislature made up of a council of chiefs and a house of representatives The United States formally recognized Hawaii as an independent government in 1842.

Until 1848, all land in Hawaii was owned by the King. Various areas were granted or leased to chiefs or people from other countries. This feudal land practice was abolished with a law known as the Great Mahele (Great Division). All of Hawaii's land was divided between King Kamehameha III and the chiefs, who subsequently gave most of it to the government. Individual Hawaiians began to buy this land and private ownership was established.

The sugar industry was founded in Hawaii in the 1830s. Large sugar cane plantations required many workers and there were not enough native Hawaiians to provide the labor. During reigns of Kamehameha IV and V (1854-1872), plantation owners began to bring workers from China, Polynesia, and Japan. Hawaiian sugar became an important commodity in trade with the United States.

When King Kalakaua came to the throne in 1874, he revived the traditional Hawaiian culture. The Christian missionaries who came to the islands in the early 19th century had prohibited native music and dancing. Under Kalakaua's reign, these customs were revived. Under the King's leadership, the sugar-cane industry grew, the pineapple industry was established with plants imported from Jamaica, and the United States was granted exclusive rights to establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor (1887) in exchange for certain trading privileges.

When Kalakaua died in 1891, his sister Liliuokalani began her rule. But a desire for a more stable government and for constitutional reform led to a revolution that removed her from power in 1893. A provisional government was established and the Republic of Hawaii was formed in 1894. Sanford B. Dole served as its president.

In 1898, with pressure from the sugar plantation owners, President McKinley agreed to annex Hawaii as a possession. The islands became a U.S. territory in 1900 and all Hawaiians were granted American citizenship but as territorial citizens, they could not vote in presidential elections. Dole became the territory's first governor.

Although statehood for Hawaii was proposed many times, Congress repeatedly rejected the idea. There were concerns about the territory's distance from the mainland and its mixed population.

On December 7, 1941, a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States abruptly into World War II. The Hawaiian Islands became the primary Pacific military base for United States forces during the war and the territory was placed under martial law from 1941 and 1943.

After the war, Hawaii experienced great economic growth. Workers on plantations and along the waterfront organized under the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union. The tourist industry, already significant to the territory's economy, expanded with advances in air travel. Luxury hotels, resorts, and housing developments were constructed.

Movement toward statehood progressed rapidly. Hawaii was finally admitted to the union as the 50th state on August 21, 1959.


The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most desirable vacation destinations in the world. Each year millions of tourists come to enjoy the natural beauty of the islands. As a result, Hawaii's economy has become greatly dependent on service industries, retail trade, and transportation.

Hawaii's pleasant climate provides an ideal environment for a strong agriculture industry. Large company-owned plantations produce sugarcane and pineapples, two of Hawaii's leading agricultural products. Coffee beans, papayas, and macadamia nuts are important crops, and commercial tuna fishing is a significant source of income. Food processing is Hawaii's principal industry.

Nearly one Hawaiian worker in four is an employee of the military and military personnel and their families represent more than 10 percent of Hawaii's population. The armed forces are the largest civilian employer in the state.

First Inhabitants:

The earliest inhabitants of what is now Hawaii were two distinct groups of Polynesian voyagers. The first wave of settlers came between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago. The second arrived about 400 years later.

These travelers came from the South Pacific, across 4,000 miles of open ocean, with only the stars and knowledge of the currents to guide them. They brought livestock, seeds, tools, food, and fresh water, along with a rich culture, lyrical language, and well-established way of life. As many as 300,00 Hawaiians may have lived on the islands when the first Europeans arrived in the 18th century.

The name "Hawaii" is a form of Hawaiki, the legendary name of the Polynesian homeland.

Books Related To Hawaii

A is for Aloha: A Hawai'i Alphabet - U'ilani Goldsberry
(978-1585361465) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Hawaii.

The Bottle Imp - Robert Louis Stevenson
(978-1409930594) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, ESL level: 3 - 4
In this classic version of a folktale, Keawe purchases a bottle with magical powers, but he has to sell the bottle for less or he will lose its benefits; he also has to get rid of it before he dies.

A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor - Harry Mazer
(978-0689841606) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 530, ESL level: 2 - 3
Adam has some stressful days searching for his naval officer father after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Breathless - Pam Withers
(978-1551434803) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 610, ESL level: 3 - 4
This high-interest (for teens) book with easy vocabulary portrays Beverly trying to lose weight and, as a result, having problems with keeping up with her scuba diving interest.

Dumpling Soup - Jama Kim Rattigan
(978-0316730471) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 500, ESL level: 2 - 3
An Asian American lass living among Hawaii's multitudes of Asians of different backgrounds tries to learn to make dumplings for her contribution to her family's traditional holiday meal.

Eyes of the Emperor - Graham Salisbury
(978-0440229568) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 630, ESL level: 3
Despite a Japanese-American's having volunteered to serve in the army during WWII, he experiences racism and separation from the rest of the troops; the final blow comes when he receives training to hunt other Japanese.

Healing Water: A Hawaiian Story - Joyce Moyer Hostetter
(978-1590785140) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 620, ESL level: 3 - 4
Pia, ravaged with leprosy, arrives at Molokai's leprosarium full of anger and independence, but the kindness of other patients and staff soften his resolve of revenge.

House of the Red Fish - Graham Salisbury
(978-0440238386) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 610, ESL level: 3 - 4
Tomi and his friends try to rescue his dad's ravaged fishing boat just a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the increase in anti-Japanese sentiments on the island.

Kula and the Old Ukulele - Lance Wheeler
(978-1566478441) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-3, ESL level: 2 - 3
Kula practices very hard on the new (to him) old ukulele his grandfather gives him for a birthday gift so that he can do well in the local talent contest and please his grandfather.

Lord of the Deep - Graham Salisbury
(978-0440229117) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 540, ESL level: 2 - 3
Mikey learns a lot about fishing but even more about important life lessons like risk taking while he works for his stepfather on a charter in Hawaii.

Luka's Quilt - Georgia Guback
(978-0688121549) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-6, Lexile: 360, ESL level: 2
Luka's grandmother, Tutu, makes her a colorful flower lei after Luka expresses disappointment about the plainness of the traditional quilt her grandmother had proudly made her.

Lydia and the Island Kingdom: A Story Based on the Real Life of Princess Liliuokalani of Hawaii - Joan Holub
(978-0689871993) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, ESL level: 2 - 3
Princess Lydia Liliuokalani decides she must write down the traditional lore of her people as part of a Restoration Day celebration in 1846.

The Million Dollar Putt - Dan Gutman
(786-836415) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-8, Lexile: 620, ESL level: 3
Although Birdie is blind, the 13-year-old hopes to win the Angus Killick Memorial Golf Tournament in Hawaii.

Strange Relations - Sonia Levitan
(978-0440239635) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-10, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 4 - 5
Marne is not used to the strict beliefs of her aunt's Chasidic family when she goes to spend her summer off with them in Hawaii.

To Hawaii, with Love - Michael Spradlin
(978-0060594107) , Fiction
Interest level: 7-10, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 4 - 5
Spy master Rachel and her friends from Blackthorn Academy find themselves in Hawaii in pursuit of an artifact that disappeared.

Famous Citizens:

Hiram L. Fong
Hiram L. Fong, the first Chinese-American Senator, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was the seventh of eleven children of poor, illiterate immigrants from China. Fong graduated from the University of Hawaii and Harvard Law School, founded a law firm, served 14 years as an elected representative of the Hawaii Territorial Legislature, and represented the state of Hawaii as a US Senator from 1959 to 1977.

George Parson Lathrop
George Lathrop, journalist and poet, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lathrop married Rose Hawthorne, daughter of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, in 1871. He served as assistant editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1875-1877 and founded the American Copyright League in 1883.

Queen Lydia Liliuokalani
The last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Queen Liliuokalani was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. She ascended the throne in 1891 when her brother, King Kalakaua died; she was dethroned in 1893 when a provisional government was established. She formally renounced her royal claims to the Islands in 1895.

Ellison Onizuka
Ellison Onizuka was born in Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii. He was a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force, was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1978, and flew as a mission specialist on the first Space Shuttle Department of Defense mission in 1985, becoming the first Asian-American and first person of Japanese heritage in space. He died in 1986, while serving on the crew of the ill-fated Space Shuttle Orbiter Challenger.

Merlin Tuttle
Merlin Tuttle was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is an ecologist, an award-winning wildlife photographer, and leading conservationist. In 1982 he founded Bat Conservation International to promote a positive image of bats and encourage their preservation, and has led research into the deadly White Nose Syndrome in bats.

Capital: Honolulu
Entered Union: August 21, 1959
Population: 1,419,561
Area 10,931
Bird Nene
Flower Pua Aloalo
Nickname: Aloha State
Governor David Ige

Places to Visit in Hawaii: (Click the links to learn more.)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - Hilo (Hawaii)
Covering nearly 400 square miles, this park includes Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world's most active volcanoes, many cultural and historic sites, and one of the largest significant ecosystems on the Hawaiian Islands.

USS Arizona Memorial - Honolulu (Oahu)
This memorial was built in 1962 to honor the 1,177 crewmen who died aboard the USS Arizona during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Polynesian Cultural Center - Laie (Oahu)
The Polynesian Cultural Center is dedicated to bringing the customs and cultures of ancient Polynesia to life. The Center features seven Polynesian "villages" representing Samoa, New Zealand ,Fiji, Hawaii, Tahiti, the Marquesas, and Tonga.

Mauna Loa Factory - Keaau
See how macadamia nuts are processed, roasted and packaged, or made into chocolate confections at the world's largest macadamia nut factory.