Hawaii information, travel details, language and much more. Find everything you need to know about visiting or planning a holiday in the Hawaii Islands, in the sunny South Pacific Ocean.

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About Hawaii

General Information About Hawaii

Image Source: Hawaii Tourism Authority. Hula in the sunset
Hula in the sunset
Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Kirk Lee Aeder

Hawaii is like no other place on earth. It is the only state in the United States made up entirely of islands and is home to one of the most active volcanoes, and the world's tallest sea mountain. It is also the birthplace of modern surfing and the hula.

Located in the central Pacific Ocean, it lies southwest of the continental United States. It is one of the youngest geological formations in the world with a population of just over 1 million.

Hawaii is made up of 8 major islands; Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, Niihau, Kahoolawe and Hawaii island (Big Island). Each island has its own distinctive personality and offers its own adventures, activities and sights. Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii and is located on Oahu island.

Hawaii was first settled by Polynesians between 300-600AD. These early settlers bought with them pigs, dogs, chickens, taro, sweet potato, coconut, banana and sugarcane. Then, in 1778 British explorer Captain James Cook visited the islands on his way to discover the Northwest Passage and he named the islands the Sandwich Islands, after the Earl of Sandwich. After Cook's discovery, other Europeans and Americans came to visit the islands.

Cane sugar, pineapple, flowers and nursery products are the chief market industries. Hawaii also grows coffee beans, bananas, and macadamia nuts. The tourist industry is Hawaii's largest source of outside income.

Language

Hawaii has two official state languages, English and Hawaiian, with the majority of residents speaking English.

Hawaii Creole English (locally referred to as 'Pidgin') is the native dialect of many born-and-raised residents and is a second dialect for many other residents. This should not be mistaken for the Hawaiian language or as a dialect of English.

Hawaiians were discouraged from speaking their own language in schools between 1830-1950, largely because of territorial legislation. The language was eventually displaced. There were concerns for the fate of the language so since then there has been a gradual increase.

The Hawaiian language is made up of 5 vowels and 8 consonants making it the shortest alphabet in the world and very tricky to master. The word 'Aloha' is probably the most widely known Hawaiian word and one of the most important. Not only does Aloha mean hello, goodbye and love, it also means sympathy, kindness, compassion, affection and fondness.

Hawaiian Culture

Hawaii is home to many different ethnic groups with each group adding elements of its own culture. Contemporary Hawaiian culture is a mix of all these cultures and ethnic groups put together. Hawaiian religion can vary significantly between islands, districts and family groups. Hawaiian culture is filled with fascinating customs, music, legends, traditions and values.

One of the most common customs used in Hawaii today, is the gift of the flower lei. A lei should be offered graciously with a kiss and only removed in private. Its most common purpose is to be presented as a special treat to those arriving by ship or by plane.

Important Dates

The following are a list of holidays observed in Hawaii:

2013

1 Jan – New Year's Day
16 Jan – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
20 Feb – Presidents' Day
26 Mar – Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Day
29 Mar – Good Friday
28 May – Memorial Day
11 June – King Kamehameha I Day
4 July – Independence Day
3 Sep – Labor Day
6 Nov – General Election Day
12 Nov – Veterans' Day
22 Nov – Thanksgiving
25 Dec – Christmas Day

Flight Times

Honolulu International Airport on Oahu is Hawaii's major airport, serving as the entry point for most of Hawaii's visitors. All major domestic carriers and many international carriers serve Oahu.

There are also direct flights from the U.S. mainland to Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii's Big Island, but for the most part, you may need to connect through Oahu to get to the neighbour islands including Lanai and Molokai.

Honolulu is a major Pacific air hub and an intermediate stop on many flights between the US mainland and Asia, Australia and the South Pacific. Passengers on any of these routes can often make a free Honolulu stopover.

Time Differences

Image Source: Hawaii Tourism Japan. Painted glass
Painted glass
Hawaii Tourism Japan (HTJ)

Hawaii is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT -10). There is no daylight saving in Hawaii.

Shopping

There are plenty of banks, ATMs, and money change offices in all cities. ATMs are scarcer on the North Shore of Oahu and other rural areas.

Note that because Hawaii is an island and transporting goods to Hawaii is more difficult, the prices for most goods (with the exception of Macadamia nuts and pineapples) are more expensive.

Plenty of quaint shops, lively bazaars and art boutiques dot the islands. Whether you are looking for something luxurious for yourself or a loved one, or you are looking for souvenirs to bring home, there is something for everyone.

Flag

The Hawaiian flag is said to have originated when King Kamehameha flew a British flag given to him by British explorer Captain George Vancouver as a token of friendship with King George III. The eight stripes represent the eight major islands of Hawaii, Oahu, Kaua'i, Kaho'olawe, Lana'i, Maui, Moloka'i and Ni'ihau.

The colour of the stripes from the top down, follows this sequence white, red, blue, white, red, blue, white, red. The flag contains the union flag of the United Kingdom.

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