Facts About Hawaii to Know Before You Visit
Have plans to visit Hawaii or simply thinking about visiting? There are many facts about Hawaii that you will want to know before you go!
Since my family has lived there for over 60 years, I consider myself local(ish) and constantly get asked for recommendations. But when I inquire for more information about the trip of whoever is asking, I often find they don't know much of anything about Hawaii — not even which island(s) they'll be going to.
So below I've compiled a high level overview of Hawaii facts that I think will help you get more acquainted with America's most beautiful state prior to visiting!
Facts About Hawaii
Hawaii is a U.S. state — the 50th and most recent. It became a state in 1959.
It is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands.
There are eight main islands — Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii. Yes, there is an island in the state of Hawaii called Hawaii. But in total there are 137 islands!
Honolulu, the state capital, is on Oahu, as is famous Waikiki. Two-thirds of all Hawaii residents live on the island of Oahu.
More than one-third of the world's commercial supply of pineapples comes from Hawaii. If you go to Oahu, you MUST try Hawaiian Crown!
Hawaii has it’s own timezone (HST) and does not observe daylights savings. HST is two hours behind PST.
There are only two royal palaces in the US and both are in Hawaii — Iolani Palace on Oahu and Huliheʻe Palace on the Island of Hawaii.
Of the eight main islands, the majority of visitors go to four of the islands: Oahu, Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai (in order of most to least according to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority).
Oahu, which means “the gathering place”, is my favorite of them all and the most diversified. It is also where all of my family lives so I might be a bit biased. Although it is the third largest island, over half of all Hawaii residents live on Oahu.
Oahu is home to Honolulu, which is the state’s capital and a city you’ve likely heard of before. In Honolulu is Waikiki, famous for Waikiki beach and being a tourist hot spot!
Also on Oahu is Pearl Harbor, the famous North Shore, Diamond Head, and much more. It is my preferred island because you are able to find whatever you want — you can be at a club in the heart of Waikiki if you want some city life or you can rent a house in Kailua or the North Shore and stay fairly remote.
The island of Maui is the second largest and also the second most visited of Hawaii. It is a nice happy medium between the hustle and bustle of Oahu and the incredibly laid back nature of Kauai.
Maui, called the “Valley Isle”, is home to popular Lahaina (including Kaanapali and Kapalua) where many resorts are located and Kahului which is the business hub of the island. It has beautiful, world-famous beaches and the Road to Hana, a 68-mile scenic route.
ISLAND OF HAWAII
The Island of Hawaii, also commonly known as the Big Island, is both the youngest and biggest of them all. It is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea) is. Note: this is the one that is currently erupting, sadly.
Aside from volcanoes, the Big Island is home to snow-capped mountains (really), black sand beaches, and tropical jungles with endless amounts of hiking trails.
Kauai, the “Garden Island”, is my second favorite island and arguably the most beautiful! Stepping onto Kauai is like stepping into what my Hawaiian mother often refers to as "old Hawaii”. Much of the island is only accessible by plane or sea and it remains relatively undeveloped.
Kauai is incredibly laid back and made up of nothing but small towns. It’s famous for it’s Na Pali Coast (the most jaw-dropping coastline you can imagine), Waimea Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”), Poipu Beach (great for snorkeling), and more!
Weather in Hawaii
Before my grandpa passed away we would email each other regularly. In these emails he reminded me basically constantly to “come on over to Hawaii, the weather is always great!”.
He was right — it’s basically 80°F and absolute perfection year-round. January, on average, is the coolest with temps from 65-81°F, and July the hottest with temps from 73-88°F.
The wettest month is usually December but you should expect to see rain on your trip regardless of month as it often sprinkles daily.
All of the above of course can differ by location. For example, Kauai is the wettest island so you should expect to see more rain there than you would on the Big Island.
Language in Hawaii
English and Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of Hawaii. Locals commonly speak something called “Pidgin” which is different than Hawaiian though sometimes confused for it.
All Hawaiian words end in a vowel.
Sometimes you will see what looks like an apostrophe used through words in the Hawaiian language, such as Hawaii`i or O`ahu. This is actually not an apostrophe, but an `okina which faces the opposite direction of an apostrophe. Because many fonts do not support `okina’s you will likely see this replaced with an apostrophe often.
“Aloha” is one of the most largely known Hawaiian words - you likely know it as meaning “hello”. But in addition to “hello”, it also means “goodbye” and, my favorite, “love” :)
Other common Hawaiian words to know:
Mahalo - thank you
Wahine - women (often used on restrooms so important to remember!)
Kane - male
Lei - a flower necklace
Mauka - towards the mountain
Makai - towards the ocean (kai is ocean, you’ll see that everywhere)
Ohana - family, but not just blood relatives!
Kama’aina - Hawaii local
Keiki - children
Lanai - balcony
Shaka - a hand symbol
A hui hou - until we meet again
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a - the state fish (really)
Ku’uipo - sweetheart. You’ll likely see this engraved onto jewelry everywhere
Haole - a foreigner, though usually used to describe someone caucasian (sometimes derogatory)
Pupu - snacks or appetizers
Wikiwiki - fast or speedy
Other Hawaii Facts to Know
SHAVE ICE - shave ice is a very popular and delicious Hawaiian dessert! It is made by shaving a block of ice very finely into a snow-like consistency and then topped with flavored syrup and sometimes other things.
It is called SHAVE ICE not SHAVED ICE (no “d”). If ever you find a place advertising “shaved ice”, you’ll know it is inauthentic and to avoid it!
PIPELINE - Banzai Pipeline is one of the most famous surf spots in the world! It’s located at Ehakai Beach Park but you can type either into Google Maps to find it.
Surfing here can be very dangerous and isn’t recommended if you aren’t an expert. Either way, it’s worth a visit especially if there is a surf competition going on.
NOTE: Pipeline is not the road you drive on to get here, nor is it the name of the big surf competition that is famously held here (that’s Billabong Pipe Masters). It is a beach.
SPAM - locals LOVE spam. You’ll even see it on the menu at McDonalds!
MALASADA - a deep-fried Portuguese donut. Do not leave without trying one!