Hawaii is the most recent of the 50 U.S. states (August 21, 1959), and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. Hawaii’s diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of public beaches and oceanic surrounding, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Due to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vibrant native culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu.
The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian Island chain, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles. At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight "main islands" are (from the northwest to southeast) Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi,Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi. The last is by far the largest and is often called "The Big Island" to avoid confusion with the state as a whole. The archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian sub region of Oceania.
Hawaii is the 8th-least extensive, the 11th-least populous, but the 13th-most densely populated of the 50 United States. Hawaii's coastline is approximately 750 miles long, which is fourth in the United States after Alaska, Florida, and California.
Hawaii is one of two states that do not observe daylight saving time, the other being Arizona.
An archipelago situated some 2,000 mi southwest of the North American mainland, Hawaii is the southernmost state of the United States and the second westernmost state after Alaska. Only Hawaii and Alaska do not share a border with another U.S. state.
Hawaii is the only state of the United States that is not geographically located in North America, grows coffee, is completely surrounded by water, is entirely an archipelago, has royal palaces, and does not have a straight line in its state boundary.
Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, stands at 13,796 ft. but is taller than Mount Everest if followed to the base of the mountain, which, lying at the floor of the Pacific Ocean, rises about 33,500 ft.
The eight main islands, Hawaiʻi, Maui, Oʻahu, Kahoʻolawe, Lanaʻi, Molokaʻi, Kauaʻi and Niʻihau are accompanied by many others. Kaʻala is a small island near Niʻihau that is often overlooked. The Northwest Hawaiian Islands are a series of nine small, older masses northwest of Kauaʻi that extend from Nihoa to Kure that are remnants of once much larger volcanic mountains. There are also more than 100 small rocks and islets, such as Molokini, that are either volcanic, marine sedimentary or erosional in origin, totaling 130 or so across the archipelago.
All the Hawaiian Islands were formed from volcanic activity initiated at an undersea magma source called a hotspot. As the tectonic plate beneath much of the Pacific Ocean moves to the northwest, the hot spot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes. Due to the hotspot’s location, the only active volcanoes are located around the southern half of the Big Island. The newest volcano, Lōʻihi Seamount, is located south of the Big Island’s coast.
The last volcanic eruption outside the Big Island occurred at Haleakalā on Maui before the late 18th century, though it could have been hundreds of years earlier. In 1790, Kīlauea exploded with the deadliest eruption (of the modern era) known to have occurred in what is now the United States. As many as 5,405 warriors and their families marching on Kīlauea were killed by that eruption.
Volcanic activity and subsequent erosion have created impressive geological features. The Big Island has the third highest point among the world’s islands.
Slope instability of the volcanoes has generated damaging earthquakes with related tsunamis, particularly in 1868 and 1975. Steep cliffs have been caused by catastrophic debris avalanches on the submerged flanks of ocean island volcanoes.
Because the islands are so far from other land habitats, life before human activity is said to have arrived by the “3 W’s”: wind (carried through the air), waves (brought by ocean currents), and wings (birds, insects, and whatever they brought with them). This isolation, and the wide range of environments (extreme altitude, tropical climate) produced a vast array of endemic flora and fauna (see Endemism in the Hawaiian Islands). Hawaii has more endangered species and has lost a higher percentage of its endemic species than any other U.S. state.
Several areas in Hawaii are under the protection of the National Park Service. Hawaii has two national parks: Haleakala National Park near Kula, on Maui, includes Haleakalā, the dormant volcano that formed east Maui; and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the southeast region of the island of Hawaiʻi, which includes the active volcano Kīlauea and its various rift zones.
There are three national historical parks: Kalaupapa National Historical Park in Kalaupapa, Molokaʻi, the site of a former Hansen’s disease colony; Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park in Kailua-Kona on the island of Hawaiʻi; and Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, an ancient place of refuge. Other areas under the control of the National Park Service include Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail on the Big Island and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor on Oʻahu.
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was proclaimed by President George W. Bush on June 15, 2006. The monument covers roughly 140,000 square miles of reefs, atolls and shallow and deep sea out to 50 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean, larger than all of America’s National Parks combined.
Hawaii’s climate is typical for the tropics, although temperatures and humidity tend to be a bit less extreme due to near-constant trade winds from the east. Summer highs are usually in the upper 80s °F, (around 31 °C) during the day and mid-70s, (around 24 °C) at night. Winter day temperatures are usually in the low to mid 80s, (around 28 °C) and (at low elevation) seldom dipping below the mid-60s (18 °C) at night. Snow, not usually associated with the tropics, falls at 13,796 ft. on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island in some winter months. Snow rarely falls on Haleakala. Mount Waiʻaleʻale, on Kauaʻi, has the second highest average annual rainfall on Earth, about 460 inches (11.7 m). Most of Hawaii has only two seasons: the dry season from May to October, and the wet season from October to April.
Local climates vary considerably on each island, grossly divisible into windward (Koʻolau) and leeward (Kona) areas based upon location relative to the higher mountains. Windward sides face cloud cover, so resorts concentrate on sunny leeward coasts.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Hawaii was 1,374,810 on July 1, 2011, a 1.07% increase since the 2010 United States Census.
As of 2005, Hawaii has an estimated population of 1,275,194, an increase of 13,070, or 1.0%, from the prior year and an increase of 63,657, or 5.3%, since 2000. This includes a natural increase of 48,111 people (that is 96,028 births minus 47,917 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 16,956 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 30,068 people, and migration within the country produced a net loss of 13,112 people. The center of population of Hawaii is located between the two islands of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi.
Hawaii has a de facto population of over 1.3 million, due to large military and tourist populations. Oʻahu, nicknamed "The Gathering Place", is the most populous island (and has the highest population density), with a resident population of just under one million in 597 square miles, about 1,650 people per square mile (for comparison, New Jersey, which has 8,717,925 people in 7,417 square miles (19,210 km2) is the most-densely populated state with 1,134 people per square mile.) Hawaii's 1,275,194 people, spread over 6,423 square miles (including many unpopulated islands), results in an average population density of 188.6 persons per square mile, which makes Hawaii less densely populated than Ohio and Illinois.
The average projected lifespan of those born in Hawaii in 2000 was 79.8 years (77.1 years if male, 82.5 if female), longer than any other state.
U.S. military personnel make up approximately 1.3% of the population in the islands.
Race and Ethnicity
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hawaii had a population of 1,360,301. In terms of race and ethnicity, the state was 24.7% White (22.7% Non-Hispanic White Alone), 1.6% Black or African American, 0.3% American Indian and Alaska Native, 38.6% Asian, 10.0% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 1.2% from Some Other race, and 23.6% from Two or More Races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 8.9% of the population.
Hawaii is demographically unique because it has the highest percentage of Asian Americans and Multiracial Americans, as well as the lowest percentage of White Americans. Hawaii's Asian population mainly consists of 198,000 (14.6%) Filipino Americans and 185,000 (13.6%) Japanese Americans. In addition, there are roughly 55,000 (4.0%) Chinese Americans and 24,000 (1.8%) Korean Americans. Indigenous Hawaiians number over 80,000, which is 5.9% of the population. Over 120,000 (8.8%) Hispanic and Latino Americans make Hawaii their home. Mexicans number over 35,000 (2.6%); Puerto Ricans exceed 44,000 (3.2%). Multiracial Americans form almost one-quarter of Hawaii's population, exceeding 320,000 people. Eurasian Americans are a prominent mixed-race group; there are roughly 66,000 (4.9%) Eurasian Americans in Hawaii. The Non-Hispanic White population numbers at 310,000 and forms just over one-fifth of the population. The multiracial population outnumbers the non-Hispanic white population by about 10,000 people.
The five largest European ancestries in Hawaii are German (7.4%), Irish (5.2%), English (4.6%), Portuguese (4.3%), and Italian (2.7%).
Approximately 82.2% of Hawaii's residents were born in the United States. Roughly 75.0% of the foreign-born residents hail from Asia.
Hawaii is a majority-minority state. Non-Hispanic whites do not form a majority. Hawaii was the second majority-minority state. Both Hawaii and New Mexico have been majority-minority since the early 20th century.
The largest ancestry groups in Hawaii as of 2008 are in the table at right. The third group of foreigners to arrive upon Hawaii's shores, after those from Polynesia and Europe, was from Han China. Chinese workers on Western trading ships settled in Hawaii starting in 1789. In 1820 the first American missionaries came to preach Christianity and teach the Hawaiians Western ways. They were instrumental in convincing the Hawaiian Chiefs to end human sacrifice.
A large proportion of Hawaii's population is now of Asian ancestry (especially Chinese, Japanese and Filipino.) Many are descendants of those immigrants brought to work on the sugar plantations in the 1850s and after. The first 153 Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii on June 19, 1868. They were not "legally" approved by the Japanese government because the contract was between a broker and the Tokugawa shogunate, by then replaced by the Meiji Restoration. The first Japanese government-approved immigrants arrived on February 9, 1885 after Kalākaua's petition to Emperor Meiji when Kalākaua visited Japan in 1881.
Almost 13,000 Portuguese had come by 1899. They too worked on the sugar plantations. By October 17, 1901, 5,000 Puerto Ricans had made new homes on the four islands.
The State of Hawaii has two official languages recognized in its 1978 constitution: English and Hawaiian. Article XV, Section 4, specifies that "Hawaiian shall be required for public acts and transactions only as provided by law" [italic added]. Hawaii Creole English (locally referred to as 'Pidgin') is the native language of many born-and-raised residents and is a second language for many other residents.
As of the 2000 Census, 73.44% of Hawaii residents age 5 and older speak only English at home. According to the 2008 American Community Survey, 74.6% of Hawaii's residents over the age of five speak only English at home.
In addition, 2.6% of the state's residents speak Spanish; 1.6% speak other Indo-European languages; 21.0% speak an Asian language; and 0.2% speak a different language at home.
After English, other popular languages are Tagalog (most are bilingual in Filipino), Japanese, and Ilokano. Significant European immigrants and descendants also speak their native languages; the most numerous are Spanish, German, Portuguese and French.
Tagalog speakers make up 5.37% (which includes non-native speakers of Filipino language, the national co-official Tagalog-based language), followed by Japanese at 4.96%, Ilokano at 4.05%, Chinese at 1.92%, Hawaiian at 1.68%, Spanish at 1.66%, Korean at 1.61%, and Samoan at 1.01%.
The Hawaiian language has about 2000 native speakers, less than 0.1% of the total population. According to the United States Census, there were 27,160 total speakers of the language in Hawaii in 2005.
Hawaiian is a Polynesian member of the Austronesian language family. It is closely related to other Polynesian languages, such as Marquesan, Tahitian, Māori, Rapa Nui (the language of Easter Island), and less closely to Samoan, and Tongan.
According to Schütz (1994), the Marquesans colonized the archipelago in roughly 300 A.D. followed by later waves of immigration from the Society Islands and Samoa-Tonga. Those Polynesians remained in the islands, thereby becoming the Hawaiian people. Their languages, over time, became the Hawaiian language. Kimura and Wilson (1983) also state, "Linguists agree that Hawaiian is closely related to Eastern Polynesian, with a particularly strong link in the Southern Marquesas, and a secondary link in Tahiti, which may be explained by voyaging between the Hawaiian and Society Islands."Before the arrival of Captain James Cook, the Hawaiian language had no written form. That form was developed mainly by American Protestant missionaries during 1820–1826. They assigned letters from the Latin alphabet that corresponded to the Hawaiian sounds.
Interest in Hawaiian increased significantly in the late 20th century. With the help of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, specially designated immersion schools were established where all subjects would be taught in Hawaiian. Also, the University of Hawaii developed a Hawaiian language graduate studies program. Municipal codes were altered to favor Hawaiian place and street names for new civic developments.
Hawaiian distinguishes between long and short vowels. In modern practice, vowel length is indicated with a macron (kahakō). Also, Hawaiian uses the glottal stop as a consonant (ʻokina). It is written as a symbol similar to the apostrophe or opening single quote.
Hawaiian-language newspapers published from 1834–1948 and traditional native speakers of Hawaiian generally omit the marks in their own writing. The ʻokina and kahakō are intended to help non-native speakers.
The largest denominations by number of adherents were the Catholic Church with 240,813 in 2000 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 68,128 in 2009.
According to data provided by religious establishments, religion in Hawaii in 2000 was distributed as follows:
- Christianity: 351,000 (28.9%)
- Buddhism: 110,000 (9%)
- Judaism: 10,000 (0.8%)
- Other: 100,000 (10%)*
- Unaffiliated: 650,000 (51.1%) **
"Other" is religions other than Christianity, Buddhism, or Judaism; this group includes Baha’i Faith, Confucianism, Daoism, the Hawaiian religion, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and other religions.
"Unaffiliated" refers to people who do not belong to a congregation; this group includes agnostics, atheists, humanists, and the irreligious.
A 2009 Gallup poll found religion was distributed as follows, excluding those of other non-Judeo-Christian religions and those who had "no opinion":
- Protestant/Other Christian: 37.8%
- Roman Catholic: 22.8%
- Mormonism: 3.3%
- Judaism: 0.7%
- Irreligious, Agnostic, Atheist: 21.0%
A special case is Hoʻoponopono, an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, combined with prayer. It is both philosophy and way of life. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻauamong family members of a person who is physically ill.