Hawaii (Hawaiian: Hawai‘i) is a group of volcanic islands in the central Pacific Ocean. The islands lie 2,397 miles from San Francisco, California, to the east and 5,293 miles from Manila, in the Philippines, to the west. The capital is Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu. The islands were annexed by the United States in 1900, and as a U.S. territory saw population expansion and the establishment of a plantation system for growing sugar cane and pineapples. On the morning of December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor near Honolulu. The surprise attack destroyed nearly 20 vessels, killed more than 2,000 American soldiers and propelled the United States into World War II. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state on August 21, 1959.
Date of Statehood: August 21, 1959
Population: 1,360,301 (2010)
Size: 10,926 square miles
Nickname(s): Aloha State
Motto: Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono (“The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”)
Tree: Kukui (Candlenut)
Flower: Pua Aloalo (Yellow Hibiscus)
- Before the arrival of British Captain James Cook in 1778, the Hawaiian language was strictly oral. Natives were taught by missionaries to read their language so that they could communicate the scriptures of the Bible. Banned in 1898 when Hawaii became a U.S. Territory and then resurrected as the official language in 1978, Hawaiian contains only 12 letters: five vowels and seven consonants.
- In 1866, after leprosy had begun to swiftly spread among the Hawaiian population without a cure, more than 100 victims were forcefully shipped to Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai to live in complete isolation. At its peak in 1890, more than 1,000 people resided in the colony.
- Mount Waialeale on Kauai is one of the wettest places on earth. It receives an average of around 460 inches of rain each year.
- With rich volcanic soil and ideal farming conditions, Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee. In 2006, Kona coffee was named by Forbes.com as one of the world’s top 10 most expensive brews at around $34 per pound.
- Standing 13,796 feet above sea level, Mauna Kea is Hawaii’s tallest volcano. But it stretches an additional 19,680 feet below the surface of the water, making Mauna Kea the tallest mountain in the world at 33,476 feet. Mount Everest’s elevation, measured from sea level, is 29,035 feet.
- Hawaii’s population center is the most isolated on Earth—more than 2,300 miles from the United States, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.
- Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on earth, with a height of over 30,000 feet from its base—on the floor of the Pacific Ocean—to its peak.