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State Facts

State Facts

The state of Hawaii (Hawaiian: Moku’aina o Hawaii) became the 50th state of the United States of America on Aug. 21, 1959. The archipelagic state is situated in the North Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles from the mainland. In the 19th century, Hawaii was also known as the Sandwich Islands.

The Hawaiian Archipelago comprises eight islands and atolls extending across a distance of 1,500 miles. Of these, eight high islands are considered the “main islands” and are located at the southeastern end of the archipelago. These islands are, in order from the northwest to southeast, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui and Hawaii. The latter is by far the largest and is very often called the “Big Island” or “Big Isle” to avoid confusion with the state name.

Hawaii Time

Since there is no daylight saving time in Hawaii, the island is two hours behind the West Coast, four hours behind the Midwest and five hours behind the East Coast during Standard Time in mainland United States. Add an hour to time differences during DST.


Weather on Hawaii is best described in terms of just winter and summer. The summer season runs from May to October, while the somewhat cooler, wetter winter season extends from November through April. On Oahu, the daytime high temperatures in Honolulu during the summer range from an average of 85 to 87 degrees F (29.4 to 30.6 C) with nighttime lows of 70 to 74 degrees F (21.1 to 23.3 C). Winter daytime high temperatures in the city are 70 to 74 degrees F (21.1 to 23.3 C) and nighttime lows are 65 to 69 degrees F (18.3 to 20.6 C).


The state of Hawaii consists of eight islands. The Hawaiian island chain, born from volcanic fire, is 1,600 miles long. It is comprised of islands, islets and shoals that connect Hawaii, at the still-active southeast end, with Kure or Ocean Island, which is a mere fragment of an ancient volcano beyond Midway. Measuring from its submarine base (3,280 fathoms) in the Hawaiian Trough to the top of the mountain (13,796 feet), Mauna Kea on the Big Island is the tallest mountain in the world with a combined height of 33,796 feet. Geographic coordinates of Honolulu, the state capital, is 21° 18’ 25’ north latitude, 157° 51’ 30’ west longitude.

State Symbols

Marine Mammal: The Humpback Whale, an annual visitor to Hawaiian waters and so designated in 1979.

State Anthem: Hawaii Pono’i, written by King Kalakaua and set to music by Henry Berger, the royal bandmaster. It was also the anthem of the Kingdom and the Territory of Hawaii.

State Bird: The nene (pronounced “nay-nay”) is a land bird and a variety of goose. It has adapted itself to life in the harsh lava country by transforming its webbed feet into a claw-like shape and modifying its wing structure for shorter flights. Hunting and wild animals all but destroyed the species until law and a restoration project established in 1949 protected them.

State Fish: The humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

State Flag: The state flag has eight stripes (representing the eight major islands) of white, red and blue; the field closely resembles the Union Jack of Great Britain, from which the original flag apparently was designed.

State Flower: The yellow hibiscus brakenridgei is the state flower. The official flowers and colors for each island are Hawaii, red lehua (ohia), color red; Maui, lokelani (pink cottage rose), color pink; Molokai, white kukui blossom, color green; Kahoolawe, hinahina (beach heliotrope), color gray; Lanai, kaunaoa (yellow and orange air plant), color yellow; Oahu, ilima, color yellow; Kauai, mokihana (green berry), color purple; and Niihau, white pupu shell, color white.

State Motto: The words “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono” mean, “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” The saying is attributed to King Kamehameha III as of July 31, 1843, when the Hawaiian flag once more was raised after a brief period of unauthorized usurpation of authority by a British admiral.

State Seal: A heraldic shield in the center, a figure of King Kamehameha I on its right side, and the Goddess of Liberty holding the Hawaiian flag on its left. Below the shield is the Phoenix surrounded by taro leaves, banana foliage and sprays of maidenhair fern. Statehood was achieved in 1959. With color added, the seal becomes the state coat of arms.

State Tree: The kukui, better known as the candlenut, is the Hawaii state tree. The nuts of this tree provided the ancient Hawaiians with light, oil, relishes and medicine.

Quality of Life

Everyone knows Hawaii is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, considering the stunning scenery, commitment to environmental protection, cultural diversity and friendly people. Cool trade winds and rainfall contribute to moderate temperatures throughout the year, averaging 78 degrees in the cooler months and rarely rising above 90 degrees in the summer. All of these factors add up to consistent placement on the top of “best places to live in the United States” lists. Hawaii residents take great advantage of all the islands have to offer, and not surprisingly, its citizens have the longest average life expectancy in the nation.


Although Hawaii’s economic development continues to expand, tourism still represents the greatest influence on the state’s economy. With over 6 million visitors annually, tourism greatly impacts all facets of life on the islands. In 2013, Hawaii hosted more than 8 million visitors who spent $14.5 billion in the state, according to Hawaii Tourism Authority. Residents can expect premium rates and a high tourist presence mid-December through March. Spring and fall are considered “low” seasons.


With a near-ideal, year-round climate of mild temperatures, moderate humidity and cool trade winds, Hawaii residents enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. The state features seven national parks, 77 state parks, nearly 600 county parks and several botanical gardens. There are more than 1,600 surfing sites, highlighted by Maui and Oahu’s nearly unbeatable surf and wind conditions. In addition to miles of coastline beaches, 65 golf courses and over 280 public tennis courts are available.


Hawaii is not only the birthplace of surfing, but since 1998, surfing is the official sport of the “Five-O” state. Today we see surfing in various forms — everything from boogie boarding to stand-up paddling. These islands are blessed with some of the best breaks in the world and have something for everyone. Surfing is a terrific way to get out and enjoy the beauty of this extraordinary state.

If you’re new to Hawaii, or new to surfing, there are great local shops that sell both used and new boards. Purchasing a board can be a good investment, and knowledgeable sales staff can ensure that you are sized with the board that is perfect for your ability and one in which you can get years of fun. Surf shop sales staff are usually happy to point you to good surf spots that reflect your skill level and the best waves for time of year and even provide lesson referrals if needed.

Once you’ve got your board, it’s good to be aware of the local surfing etiquette. Being mindful of a few helpful hints will make your time out on the water safe and enjoyable.

First, always check wave and water conditions and only surf at a spot that matches your ability. If you don’t know, ask a lifeguard or other surfers. Take time to observe the ocean and the general vibe at any new surf spot. Generally several good beginner sites can be found near Waikiki. Canoes has easy-to-ride waves and is a beginner’s haven, but the downside here can be the crowds. Queens, just off Kuhio Beach Park, has something for everyone, and you’ll find locals and tourists alike on these waves. White Plains Beach (Kalaeloa) has surf almost all year and is known for its great break for beginners.

If you are looking for surf on the Windward side, consider two spots on MCBH. Pyramid Rock has a lot of rocks when there’s a swell. The alternative is North Beach, which has fun rides when an east or northeast swell is up. The surf can get pretty big here and the lifeguards may “red flag” it. On the North Shore, Pua’ena Point can be OK for beginners if you stay on the inside; avoid the outside where the surf is for the advanced. For the most part, save the rest of the North Shore, Makaha and Ala Moana Bowls until your surfing skills have progressed.

Once you’ve decided on your spot, start paddling. It’s best to be wide of the break as you head out; watch for riders because at this point it’s your responsibility to stay out of their way. Always wear a leash and never let your board go, maintaining control at all times. If you are new to surfing, never let a wave get between you and your board. Once in the lineup, keep yourself pointed toward the ocean between sets. A famous Hawaiian and father of modern surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, helped popularize the motto, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” Duke was a legendary surfer, gold medal Olympic swimmer and lifeguard. From a safety standpoint he recognized the value of not turning your back on the ocean, but he also tried to relate the respect Hawaiians have for the ocean.

One of the single most important bits of surfing etiquette in Hawaii is don’t ever drop in on someone else’s wave. Dropping in on a fellow surfer won’t endear you to those around you, so “try wait.” Again, Kahanamoku’s advice still holds true, “Just take your time — wave comes. Let the other guys go, catch another one.” So, if someone else is in position, hang in there and wait your turn in the lineup. It will make your day on the water much more pleasant.

If you’d like to see pro surfers at their best, each winter the North Shore serves up huge waves as storm-generated swells make their way across the Pacific. While this doesn’t make for good beginning surfing, it makes for some great surf competitions. From late November to mid-December, Oahu’s North Shore hosts the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which includes the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa, the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, and the Billabong Pipeline Master at Pipeline. These events bring together the best professional surfers in an amazing display of talent.

Watch for the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational sometime between early December and late February — when the “bay calls the day.” The event is only held when the open ocean swells reach 20 feet, meaning wave faces of over 30 feet in Waimea. This invitational brings the best in big wave surfing, all in honor of Eddie Aikau, Waimea Bay’s first lifeguard and renowned big wave surfer. Many smaller surf competitions are often held throughout the island; just check with local surf shops for information.

Whether you are taking to the waves or just watching competitions, surfing is a great way to make new friends; a smile and a little aloha go a long way — so just relax and have fun.

Marine Wildlife

How to Enjoy Hawaii Responsibly

From majestic humpback whales, to playful Hawaiian spinner dolphins, to elegant sea turtles, marine wildlife is abundant in the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.

Much can be learned and enjoyed by seeing these amazing creatures in their natural setting. However, years of scientific research has concluded that keeping proper distances away from marine wildlife is crucial to their health, preserving their habitat and keeping human observers safe.

“Do not swim with wild dolphins,” says the U.S. Office of Protected Resources under NOAA Fisheries.

“Disturbing wildlife interrupts their ability to perform critical functions such as feeding, breeding, nursing, resting or socializing,” they add. The National Marine Fisheries Service, the National Marine Sanctuaries and the state of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources have developed the following “code of conduct” for viewing whales, dolphins, monk seals and sea turtles in Hawaii. When choosing an ocean activity, ask the provider if they follow these guidelines:

  • Remain at least 100 yards from humpback whales and at least 50 yards from other marine mammals (dolphins, other whale species and Hawaiian monk seals).
  • Do NOT swim with wild dolphins.
  • Bring binoculars along on viewing excursions to assure a good view from the recommended viewing distances.
  • Do not attempt to touch, ride or feed turtles.
  • Limit your time observing an animal to a half-hour.
  • Marine mammals and sea turtles should not be encircled or trapped between boats or shore.


Many activity operators follow these guidelines to provide a safe, responsible and eco-conscious experience. However, a small handful advertise “swim with dolphins” experiences in the wild, and NOAA says it “does not support, condone, approve, or authorize activities that involve closely approaching, interacting, or attempting to interact with whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals or sea lions in the wild. This includes attempting to swim with, pet, touch or elicit a reaction from the animals.”

“Dolphins have a reputation for being friendly,” the federal agency explains. “However, they are really wild animals who should be treated with caution and respect. Interactions with people change the behavior of dolphins for the worse. They lose their natural wariness, which makes them easy targets for vandalism and shark attack.”

“Dolphins are not water toys or pets,” they add. “Wild dolphins will bite when they are angry, frustrated or afraid. When people try to swim with wild dolphins, the dolphins are disturbed. Dolphins who have become career moochers can get pushy, aggressive and threatening when they don’t get the handout they expect.”

According to NOAA, all whales, dolphins and seals are protected by a law called the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Accordingly, “Pursuit of marine mammals is prohibited by federal law.”

“By being aware of the steps to responsible viewing, you can help reduce the potential to inadvertently harm these animals or violate federal or state law,” NOAA says. “Together we can ensure marine wildlife viewing will be as rewarding as it is today for many generations to come.”

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