Hawaii is the most recent U.S. State to join the Union, making it the 50th state. It join on August 21st, 1959 and is the only state located in Oceania and composed of multiple islands. While it is most widely known as a popular vacation destination, today we're going to explore the geography, climate, culture, and popular locations.
Before we get started, here are some things to know about this state:
The Capital, and largest city, is Honolulu.
There are two official languages: English and Hawaiian.
By the time we're done here, you'll be planning a trip to visit this incredible island paradise. Let's take a trip to the youngest state, shall we?
The Hawaiian Archipelago: Geography and Climate
Geographically, this state is composed of several islands in a chain or cluster known as an archipelago. This name is applied to various island clusters around the world. For example, Scotland has 700 islands surrounding the main landmass which are collectively referred to as an archipelago.
These groups of islands are typically formed by volcanic activity, but they can also result from other types of geographical changes like erosion, deposition, and land elevation. In the case of the 50th U.S. State, the eight main islands were formed through volcanic activity and sit off the west coast of the United States.
These eight islands are spread across 1,500 miles. They each have unique and interesting names:
Island of Hawai'i
The last island there is the biggest one of them all and is commonly referred to as the "Big Island." These islands are located approximately 2,000 miles southwest of the United States, making it the southernmost U.S. State in the Union. Much like Alaska, it does not border any other states and it is the only state to not be a part of the North American continent.
There are various other smaller islands besides the eight main ones. These are typically the remains of what used to be volcanoes. The tallest mountain in the state is actually underwater. It is called Mauna Kea. It rises 13,796 feet above sea level.
If you were to measure it from the base, which is located on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, you would find that it is 33,500 feet tall in total, which makes it taller than even Mount Everest. The volcanic activity that formed these islands originated from an underwater magma source known as the "Hawaii Hotspot."
To this day, those processes are continuing to build upon the islands. The tectonic plate that rests beneath the Pacific Ocean is constantly moving northwest and ensures that the hot spot remains still. This results in new volcanoes being created constantly.
The hotspot's location results in all of the active volcanoes being situated in the southern half of the archipelago. The newest volcano is called Lōʻihi Seamount and it's located off the southern coast of the main island.
The last major eruption occurred prior to the eighteenth century from Haleakalā on the Maui island. Mount Kīlauea exploded, resulting in the deadliest known eruption in the modern era for the United States. As many as 5,405 people were killed in the blast. These volcanoes continue to add land and geographical features to the islands.
The climate is about what you would expect from a location in the tropics. One major difference however, comes from the trade winds that keep the temperatures and humidity in more reasonable ranges than other tropical locations. The average temperatures during the summer range from 88 degrees Fahrenheit in the day, to 75 degrees at night.
During the winter months, the temperatures stay in roughly the same ranges, very rarely going below 65 degrees. While you would assume that tropical locations don't see snow, the mountains here see snow above the 13,800 feet mark.
For the most part, the Hawaiian islands only have two seasons: wet and dry. The former runs from October to April, and the latter runs from May to October.
The Polynesian Culture and Cuisine
The native Hawaiian culture is over 1,500 years old and has roots in the Polynesians who settled the islands. From these origins, the archipelago has grown to showcase a wide variety of religious, culinary, and artistic influences. These influences have been mixed with a wide variety of other cultures in the past 200 years and more so than ever when the territory attained statehood in 1959.
Tourism spiked after it became a state, which resulted in modernization through construction to support the growing tourism sector of the economy. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs was created in 1978 to preserve the indigenous elements of the state's heritage.
This melting pot of cultures has resulted in a wide variety of Hawaiian cuisine options. One unique element of Hawaiian food is the use of Hormel's canned meat product known as Spam. In the world, Hawaiians are the second largest consumers of Spam.
This canned meat originally arrived in the rations of American soldiers who were fighting in World War II. When fishing was banned during the war, Hawaiians were forced to seek out new sources of protein, and Spam was there to fill the void.
Today Spam is most commonly fried and paired with things like rice or eggs. There is a major Asian influence in many of the dishes. Tuna for example is the most important fish in Hawaiian food. It is commonly sold to Japan to be made into sashimi, but it is also prepared in a variety of ways natively.
Another element of the island's Asian influences comes from the fact that teriyaki is the most popular way to treat meats, Spam included. Here are some examples of Hawaiian dishes:
Lau lau - steamed fish and pork wrapped in taro leaves.
Loco moco - hamburgers served with gravy and topped with eggs.
Lomi Salmon - salmon cubed with tomatoes, maui onions, and chili pepper.
Malasada - A Portuguese donut deep fried and coated with sugar.
Major Landmarks in Hawaii
The islands are home to various cultural and historical landmarks. Below are some examples of the various locations that are infused with culture and history:
1. Old Koloa Town
This location in southern Kauai is the location of the first sugar plantation, which was founded in 1835. While sugar is no longer made in Hawaii, you can still visit the resorted buildings and the old sugar mill.
2. Downtown Honolulu
This part of the state is home to some of the most breathtaking architecture on offer in the archipelago. The Lonlani Palace for example is a still-standing symbol of the previous Monarchy that ruled the state. Across the road is the Aliiolani Hale, famous for its King Kamehameha I statue.
3. Pearl Harbor
December 7th, 1941 was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked from the air by Japanese forces. There are several memorials here to visit, including the USS Arizona memorial, and others.
4. Lahaina, Maui
This locations was once known as "Lele" in Hawaiian and today houses the National Register of Historic Places. It was the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom until 1845 and has historic trails to walk for visitors interested in the history of it all.