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"- the loveliest fleet of islands
that lies anchored in any ocean."

                              Mark Twain

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Kalalau Valley - Na Pali Coast, Kauai

Visit Hawaiian Islands pictorial

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Map of Hawaiian Islands

BIOLOGY   The Hawaiian Islands have a wide variety of plant, marine and animal life. Vegetation zones include: coastal, dryland forest, mixed open forest, rain forest, subalpine and alpine. More than 90 percent of the native plants and animals living in Hawaii are found nowhere else in the world, and a greater variety of fish exist in Hawaiian waters than elsewhere. The humuhumunukunukuapuaa is the official state fish.

Hawaii is sometimes called the Endangered Species Capital of the World. At least one third of all the endangered species in the United States are found in Hawaii including the Nene Goose (official state bird), the Humpback Whale (official state marine mammal), the Pacific Green Sea Turtle and the Pueo (Hawaiian owl). The exotic species, man, poses a greater threat than nature to Hawaii's native flora and fauna.

CLIMATE    The Hawaiian Islands have only two seasons: "summer" between May and October and "winter" between October and April.

The climate is subtropical, with a normal annual temperature of 77°F, making these islands "- the peacefullest, restfullest, balmiest, dreamiest haven of refuge for a worn and weary spirit the surface of the earth can offer."

                                                                                          Mark Twain

CULTURAL HISTORY    The Hawaiian Islands are stepping-stones linking East to West. Here Polynesian sensuality, American pragmatism, and Oriental exoticism weave a tapestry of cultural extremes.

Hawaii's multi-cultural society has had major immigration from:
  • Polynesia - 700 A.D.
  • United States - 1820
  • China - 1852
  • Japan - 1868
  • Portugal - 1878
  • Puerto Rico - 1900
  • Korea - 1903
  • Philippines - 1906

ECONOMY  Healthy In 2006! Key indicators are positive for continuing growth in the second half of this decade. 1 However, Hawaii's cost of living is among the highest in the nation and its 2004 per capita personal income below average. In fact, sources indicate a cost of living ranging from 30% above the national average to over 60% depending upon family size and circumstances - see the Price of Paradise!
  • 2005 Visitor Arrivals totaled 7.4 million (a record) 2
  • 2005 Gross State Product was $54 billion 2

Major contributions to Hawaii's economy include:
  • Visitor Expenditures: $11.8 billion (2005) - an all-time high* 2
  • Federal Defense Spending: $4.8 billion (2003) 3
  • Construction (Private Building Permits): $3.5 billion (2005) 4
* Visitor Expenditure figures are deceptive, since a certain percentage of tourism dollars do not remain in the Islands, but are returned to overseas investors.

With the demise of its sugar and pineapple industries in the 1990's, Hawaii is working to diversify its economy with a focus on industries such as science and technology, health and wellness tourism, diversified agriculture, ocean research and development, and film and television production. A Study currently being conducted by the State is looking at the extent to which the benefits from tourism can be maintained, while sustaining the quality of our social, economic and environmental assets.

EDUCATION    The University of Hawaii (UH) consists of ten campuses statewide: three are university campuses (UH Manoa on Oahu, UH Hilo on the "Big Island" of Hawaii and UH West Oahu) and seven are community colleges. In the Fall of 2004, a total of 50,569 students were enrolled throughout the system. Of these, 20,549 students were enrolled at UH Manoa, 3,288 were enrolled at UH Hilo, and 834 were enrolled at UH West Oahu. The remaining 25,898 students attended the community colleges located throughout the islands.5 Three private universities also operate in Hawaii with a 2004 enrollment of 12,893 students (excludes extension programs of mainland and foreign schools).6

The public school system operates statewide under a single State Department of Education. In 2004 there were 183,185 K-12 students in public schools 7 ; in 2001-02 there were 40,199 K-12 students in private schools 8. In 2003-04 there were 285 public schools 9 and in October 2005 there were 132 private schools 10.

According to the 2004 Superintendent's Annual Report on Hawaii Public Education, the numbers of students who come from poor economic circumstances, have limited English proficiency, or need special education services has increased by 40 to 80 percent since 1992-93.11

As of 2004, Hawaii ranked last nationally in the percentage of state and local expenditures allocated to public schools.11

GEOGRAPHY    Hawaii is the most remote island chain in the world, over 2,000 miles from the nearest landfall. Distance makes for splendid isolation - these Polynesian islands are removed from all else but one another.

Hawaii consists of eight major islands plus 124 minor islands, reefs and shoals, strung like a necklace across the Pacific for over 1,500 miles. The eight major islands (which make up over 99% of the total land area) are Oahu, Maui, Hawaii (known as Big Island), Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe (uninhabited) and Niihau (privately owned).

Each of the major islands has an identity all its own. Oahu is as different from Molokai and Maui as Kauai is from Lanai and the Big Island - each as varied and colorful as the official state flower, the hibiscus. With their collective mass of 4.1 million acres or 6,450 square miles, these islands form the fourth smallest state in the United States.

Beyond mere geography, to Hawaiians the land is "mother". The Hawaiian word for land, 'aina, literally means "that which feeds". It doesn't belong to us; we belong to it, and are part of it.

GEOLOGY    Hawaii's story is the story of creation - islands born from the Pacific depths some 40 million years ago. Hawaii has been shaped by the capricious forces of fire, magma, rains, and winds - and now, most recently, by man.

About 30 miles southwest of the active volcano Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii, the newest island in the chain, Loihi, is forming - the newest land on earth. Stretching toward the northwest from Loihi are the other major Hawaiian Islands: Big Island, and then Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau.

GOVERNMENT    From their "discovery" by Captain James Cook in 1778 - at which time each island was a separate kingdom - the Hawaiian Islands passed through several stages. These included the status of a United Kingdom under Kamehameha the Great, a Republic, and then a U.S. Territory until, finally, in 1959, Congress passed the bill that made Hawaii the 50th State of the United States.

Today, Hawaii has only two levels of government: state and county. The counties perform most services usually assigned to cities and towns. There are no separate municipalities and no independent school districts.

Some members of the growing Hawaiian sovereignty movement classify Hawaii as "- an occupied territory due for decolonization".

POPULATION    "- Hawaii's real flowers are its people."

                                                                                          James Michener

The Hawaiian Islands have attracted human migrants in waves, first the Polynesians, then the whalers, the sandalwood merchants, the missionaries, the sugar planters and ranchers, the multi-ethnic traders and laborers, and finally the tourists.

With a resident population of 1.3 million (2005), Hawaii has an average population density statewide of approximately 200 people per square mile. Island living is a test of tolerance.

Hawaii is probably the only place in the United States, if not the world, where every single racial group is a minority - one of the world's most harmonious gatherings of people. At least a third of the population is of mixed ancestry. According to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a study conducted in 1984 estimated that there were only 8,244 pure Hawaiians - about 0.7 percent of Hawaii's total population - a vanishing race. Today, in 2006, some think the number could be less than 5,000.

In 2003, Hawaii's ethnic population roughly broke down as follows:12

Unmixed (except Hawaiian): 739,890 (60.5%)
  • Caucasian 286,727 (23.5%);
  • Japanese 203,963 (16.7%);
  • Filipino 162,542 (13.3%);
  • Chinese 47,609 (3.9%);
  • Black 11,587 (0.9%);
  • Koreans 10,236 (0.8%);
  • Samoan/Tongan 17,226 (1.4%)
Mixed (except Hawaiian): 223,901 (18.3%)

Hawaiian/Part Hawaiian: 258,490 (21.1%)

TOURISM    "- with Hawaii it seems to be love at first sight. Those for whom the islands were made, or who were made for the islands, are swept off their feet in the first moments of meeting, embraced and are embraced."

                                                                                          Jack London

Many have embraced Aloha, since visitors are Hawaii's major source of income. The Islands host over 7 million people each year whose total expenditures (excluding airfare from the mainland or other locations but including inter-island airfare) are forecast to exceed 12 billion dollars in 2006! 2's much harder to be a traveler than a tourist. A tourist seeks only an escape that fades - a traveler's reward lasts a lifetime!


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