Hawaii is known for its stunning beaches, lush tropical rainforests, and diverse culture. From the majestic Na Pali Coast on Kauai to the white sand beaches of Waikiki on Oahu, Hawaii offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. The Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the world’s most active volcanoes, such as Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
This 50th US state is also known for its vibrant Polynesian culture, which is still celebrated by locals today. From traditional luaus featuring Hawaiian cuisine to hula dancing, visitors can experience a range of activities that explore this unique heritage.
In terms of geography, no other US state rivals Hawaii’s sheer beauty and variety. That is why we have written this article on the 21 things Hawaii is famous for, so that we can showcase one of our favorite destinations in the United States.
What is Hawaii Known For?
1. Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor is one of the most famous landmarks in Hawaii due to the role it played in World War II.
On December 7th, 1941, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese Navy Air Service approached the military base and attacked the US Navy Battleships to prevent the US from interfering in Japanese plans in Southeast Asia.
The US casualties of this attack were high: multiple battleships were sunk, nearly 200 aircraft were destroyed, and 2,403 Americans were killed.
This attack forced the US to leave behind its neutral status in World War II and the next day the country entered the war.
One of the delectable foods that Hawaii is famous for is Poke. This is a traditional Hawaiian food made of diced raw fish, usually tuna or octopus.
There are many different variations of poke, which is served as an appetizer or main dish. The fish is often seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, chili pepper, and green onion.
Poke is often served in the form of ‘poke bowls’ which include poke, rice, and a variety of topping such as avocado, edamame, and siracha mayo.
Poke dishes have gained widespread popularity over the years and the Hawaiian dish is enjoyed by people all over the world.
3. Aloha Shirts
Aloha Shirts, also known as Hawaiian shirts, are a form of colorful collared shirts that originated in Hawaii.
An aloha shirt is typically a button-down, short-sleeved shirt printed with bright tropical patterns worn by men and women.
This style of shirt exploded in popularity following the conclusion of World War II when servicemen and women returned to the United States from serving in the pacific islands, where these shirts were popular.
Now Aloha Shirts are worn around the world in flashy patterns that usually include palm trees, flowers, and marine animals.
4. Beautiful Beaches
There is no question that the Hawaiian Islands have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In Hawaii, you’ll find beaches with soft golden sand, palm trees, and coral reefs all set on a backdrop of deep green, tropical mountains.
One of the most stunning beaches in Hawaii is Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. It’s Hawaii’s most iconic beach due to the endless golden sand, the sky-blue water of the Pacific Ocean, and all the nearby hotels like the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
The Punalu’u Beach on the big island is a very unique beach. Hawaii is home to many active volcanoes which can be seen in stunning black-sand beaches like this one.
Punalu’u Beach also provides visitors with the opportunity to swim with sea turtles under the shadow of nearby volcanoes.
The island of Maui has many beaches that are world-famous for surfing like Ho’okipa Beach, where experts like to surf the wild waves.
5. Epic Volcanoes
Black sandy beaches are not the only place where you can take in the majesty of Hawaiian volcanoes.
The Aloha State is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the premier destination for seeing volcanoes on the islands.
The park extends from sea level to 13,680 feet and includes two of the most active volcanoes in the world – the Mauna Loa volcano (where Kona coffee grows) and the Kilauea volcano, the youngest active volcano in the park.
Other volcanoes in Volcanoes National Park like Mauna Kea are completely dormant.
For native Hawaiian people, volcanoes are not only an important geological aspect of the area but are important to the culture too. To the indigenous people, volcanoes are considered to be sacred places. The Kilauea volcano is believed to be the home of Pele, the volcano deity.
Hawaii is known for producing some of the tastiest pineapples. The sweet, juicy pineapple fruit arrived in Hawaii in the late 1700s and has been grown on the island nation since then.
In 1899, James Dole arrived in Hawaii and established the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. This action led to the commercialization of pineapple for the first time and the industry boomed.
One popular tourist attraction in North Shore Oahu of Hawaii is the Dole Pineapple Plantation where guests can wander through a pineapple maze and eat pineapple desserts.
Besides pineapples and hula skirts, there is nothing more synonymous with the word “Hawaii” than lei.
The lei is a wearable garland traditionally made of native Hawaiian flowers, leaves, nuts, or shells. In contemporary culture, leis made of candy or money can also be found.
Lei are symbols of peace, love, friendship, and honor. Traditionally, leis are handed out at times of celebration such as birthdays, weddings, or graduations.
Today it is a custom for tourists to be given leis when they arrive at their hotel on the island.
With a population of nearly 350,000 people, Hawaii’s capital city is the most populated city in the state.
Honolulu was first settled by Polynesian migrants hundreds of years ago. The first ruler of the nation, Kamehameha I, and the kings that followed him held their royal court in what is now downtown Honolulu.
When European settlers began coming to Honolulu, Hawaiian kings worked to make sure Honolulu Hawaii became a modern-day capital.
Buildings like the Iolani Palace and St Andrews Cathedral were part of this effort. Today, the city is an economic powerhouse as the center of Hawaiian tourism.
9. Luau Tradition
The Luau is an important part of Hawaiian culture and no trip to Hawaii would be complete without participating in this tradition.
A luau is an important part of Hawaiian culture where family and friends gather together to celebrate important life milestones like births or weddings.
Luau feasts consist of traditional Hawaiian food like poke, squid, poi, sweet potatoes, and giant roasted pig. The feast is accompanied by entertainment with performances of Hawaiian music, hula dancing, and fire dancers.
While the Portuguese invented the ukulele, the Hawaiian Islands are known for popularizing the stringed instrument. The ukulele was first introduced to the islands by Portuguese immigrants performing street concerts.
King Kalakaua, a patron of the arts, was vital in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture. The people of Hawaii dubbed the stringed instrument ‘ukulele’, a Hawaiian word meaning “gifts to come”.
Today the ukulele is a staple in music across the state, including the music played at a luau during the classic hula dance.
11. Road to Hana
The Road to Hana is the most famous scenic drive in all of Hawaii. Located on the island of Maui, this drive is the absolute best way to see the stunning views of the island’s densely forested mountains.
This scenic drive begins in Kahului and ends in the town of Hana. But this is not a drive you do all in one go. Part of the Road to Hana experience is stopping at all the unique pit stops along the way.
Some of these pit stops are natural beauties like Wailua Falls, Hana Lava tubes, and Wailua Valley Park.
Others are important stops for cultural experiences like the Naikhu Market Place or the Halfway to Hana banana bread stand.
There are several beaches along the way that are perfect for a surfing break.
12. King Kamehameha II
King Kamehameha II, also known as Liholiho, was one of the most important rulers in Hawaiian history.
The king is best remembered for ‘Ai Noa, where he broke the system of religious laws in Hawaii. This led to the priest social class being disbanded as the nation became more secular.
He was the first kind to allow Christian missionaries onto the island of Hawaii. The missionaries taught the king English.
Kamehameha even eventually took a visit to London with his wife and the royal court. Unfortunately, the king and queen died of measles while in London.
13. Hawaiian Language
Today, the state of Hawaii has two main languages: English and Hawaiian. The Hawaiian language has had quite a tumultuous history.
Before the arrival of Europeans, Hawaiian was a strictly oral language. When the missionaries first arrived, they helped make Hawaiian into a written language and created the Hawaiian Alphabet.
At this point, the Bible was translated into Hawaiian, and the natives were taught to read.
After Hawaii became a US territory, the Hawaiian language was banned from school and government use. For many years, this continued, and the island language almost disappeared.
In the late 1900s, people realized that this language was an important part of the culture of Hawaii. They worked hard to resurrect the language by creating Hawaiian immersion schools.
14. Barack Obama
Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States of America, is one of the most famous people from Hawaii.
The former president was born in Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu. His parents were living in Hawaii while attaining their undergraduate degrees at the University of Hawaii.
Obama and his mother moved to Indonesia for a time to join Obama’s stepfather.
In 5th grade, Obama moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents until his mother moved back to the islands to get her master’s degree at the University of Hawaii.
Following the completion of high school, Obama moved from Hawaii to California.
15. Gorgeous Weather All Year Round
Hawaii is one of the few states in the United States with year-round warm weather. Many people visit Hawaii in the winter months to escape the snow and cold that cover much of the mainland.
With an average high temperature of 80 degrees, it is almost always beach weather.
Hawaii is the only US state to be located in the tropics. This makes it an ideal space to grow crops that cannot survive on the mainland.
For example, Hawaii is known for producing Kona coffee which thrives in the heat and humidity of the big island.
16. Hibiscus Flowers
One of the most beautiful things Hawaii is known for is the Hibiscus flowers. These large, trumpet-shaped blossoms grow in vibrant colors and thrive in the warm climate of Hawaii. The yellow hibiscus is the state flower of Hawaii.
There are many uses for Hibiscus Flowers, beyond being something pretty to look at. These flowers are commonly used to make leis.
Hibiscus tea is a common type of tea packed with antioxidants and vitamins. The tea has a tart, cranberry-like flavor.
The flowers printed on an aloha shirt are often hibiscus.
17. Friendly People
Many people in Hawaii live by something called the “Aloha Spirit”. The word aloha is a very important word in Hawaiian culture. It does not simply mean “hello”. It means mutual regard or affection toward someone that extends care without expecting anything in return. It is the essence of relationships, where we all need each other to live.
Aloha spirit guides many people in Hawaii to be friendly, to extend friendship and assistance to anyone that needs it.
18. Diamond Head
Perhaps the most famous landmark in Hawaii is the Diamond Head State Monument. Located on the island of Oahu, Diamond Head is a large volcanic tuff cone.
It is one of Oahu’s most popular hikes because the view from the top is spectacular. The sparkling blue ocean that goes on forever and the city of Oahu sitting in front of a backdrop of green mountains is a sight to behold.
Part of the cone is not open to the general public because it serves as a platform for antennas used by the US government.
19. Spam Musubi
Another food that Hawaii is famous for is Spam Musubi. Made of a piece of grilled Spam on top of rice and wrapped in nori, this popular lunch, and snack food can be purchased at any convenience store on the islands. It is believed that this dish originated from World War II, when the consumption of canned foods skyrocketed.
Nowadays, this simple yet delicious dish has gained popularity on the mainland from San Francisco to New York. Everyone from flashy celebrity chefs to everyday farm workers can enjoy this tasty and affordable treat!
20. 50th State
On August 21, 1959, Hawaii was annexed and officially became the 50th state of the United States of America. It is the last state to join the country (as of now), and consequently changed the US flag to the one you see today.
Alaska became the 49th state in January of the same year, barely beating out Hawaii for the 50th state spot. This motion to grant Hawaii statehood was passed after 50 years of advocating by the citizens of Hawaii.
21. Excellent Water Sports Opportunities
As an island state, Hawaii naturally packs the full lineup of water sports activities.
The most popular of these water sports is surfing. People in Hawaii love to surf! The most popular place to go surfing on Maui is Ho’okipa Beach and the most popular place to go surfing on Oahu is Waikiki. Kahlu’u Kahlu’u on the big island is a beautiful place to surf.
Hanauma Bay and Kiholo Bay are first-class snorkeling locations. Jump into the crystal-clear water to see sea turtles and coral reefs. Tropical fish in all colors of the rainbow- yellow, green, blue, red- can be found swimming around. It is truly magical!
Hawaii is also known for having great opportunities for boating, parasailing, and wakeboarding.
Hawaii Most Famous FAQs
What Is Unique About Hawaii?
Hawaii is one of the most interesting places in the United States. The islands of Hawaii are completely formed by volcanic activity, making it the only US state to do so. Its geographical location has resulted in some of the most unique flora and fauna in the world, as well as a diverse culture that is unique to Hawaii.
What Are Some Interesting Facts About Hawaii?
Here are some interesting facts about Hawaii:
1. It is believed that surfing was invented in Hawaii.
2. The Hawaiian word “Aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye”.
3. Mount Haleakala on Maui is the world’s largest dormant volcano. It is estimated that the volcano formed 75% of the island of Maui!
If you weren’t sure what Hawaii was known for, we hope this article has helped you learn some new things about this breathtaking state.
So, what are you waiting for? Go, and explore the wonderful beaches, native Polynesian culture, dance and surfing of Hawaii.
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