Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It occupies most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean. Hawaii’s natural beauty, warm tropical climate, inviting waters and waves, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists alike. Due to its mid-Pacific location, Hawaii has many North American and Asian influences along with its own vibrant native culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu.
Hawaii is the only state of the United States that:
- is not geographically located in North America
- grows coffee
- is completely surrounded by water
- is entirely an archipelago
- has a royal palace
- does not have a straight line in its state boundary
Hawaii has more endangered species and has lost a higher percentage of its endemic species than any other U.S. state.
Several areas in Hawaii are under the protection of the National Park Service. Hawaii has two national parks.
Hawaii’s climate is typical for the tropics, although temperatures and humidity tend to be a bit less extreme due to near-constant trade winds from the east. Local climates vary considerably on each island, grossly divisible into windward and leeward areas based upon location relative to the higher mountains. Hawaii is one of four states that were independent prior to becoming part of the United States. Hawaii has a de facto population of over 1.3 million due to large military and tourist populations. The State of Hawaii has two official languages recognized in its 1978 constitution: English and Hawaiian. In addition, 2.6% of the state's residents speak Spanish; 1.6% speak other Indo-European languages. The history of Hawaii can be traced through a succession of dominant industries: sandalwood, whaling, sugarcane (see Sugar plantations in Hawaii), pineapple, military, tourism, and education. Since statehood in 1959, tourism has been the largest industry, contributing 24.3% of the Gross State Product. Food exports include coffee (see coffee production in Hawaii), macadamia nuts, pineapple, livestock, and sugarcane. The aboriginal culture of Hawaii is Polynesian. Hawaii represents the northernmost extension of the vast Polynesian triangle of the south and central Pacific Ocean. While traditional Hawaiian culture remains only as vestiges in modern Hawaiian society, there are reenactments of the ceremonies and traditions throughout the islands.Graduates of secondary schools in Hawaii often enter directly into the work force. Some attend colleges and universities on the mainland or other countries, and the rest attend an institution of higher learning in Hawaii.The state government of Hawaii is modeled after the federal government with adaptations originating from the kingdom era of Hawaiian history. As codified in the Constitution of Hawaii, there are three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial.