Smack dab in the middle of the Pacific, halfway between Asia and North America, is an archipelago of islands that have seen much and experienced more. Born in prehistoric times by volcanic fire and seismic upheaval, these landmasses rose out of the ocean depths and with the passing of time became a true Paradise of the Pacific, home to a native population that grew to become a kingdom, but ultimately annexed by and became the fiftieth of the United States. This is Hawaii, the Aloha State.
Then again, when you ask the Hawaiians of native descent, especially the storytellers, and they’ll tell you tales of wonder from their mythology, usually revolving around the great demigod Maui, from whom one of the main islands gets its name. Maui, as the stories go, was the one who created the islands by pulling them up from the ocean bottom with his magic fish hook, the one who lassoed the once fast-moving sun to force him to move at the pace we now know, and the one who with his father the god Akalana pushed up the sky high enough so that people won’t have to stoop down at some parts, among many other deeds.
One thing you’ll pick up from these fanciful tales is that Hawaii, or as a local Hawaiian spells it, Hawai’i (to explain the pronunciation “Ha-WAI- I”), is a truly magical place. Seven of its eight main islands are abound with stunning natural sceneries, well maintained by the warm tropical climate. It’s no wonder at all why the islands were inhabited by Polynesians migrating there during ancient times, living in distinct tribes contact with European explorers, which intensified the conflicts between chieftains and tribes until they were conquered and unified by the founder of the Kingdom of Hawaii: Kamehameha I (and yes, Japanese creator Akira Toriyama used the name for the trademark super move used by his characters in the manga/anime “Dragon Ball”).
Using European knowledge and technology, King Kamehameha established Hawaii as a nation among the rest of the world and built a ruling dynasty. Following the death of Kamehameha V without issue were two elected kings, Lunalilo and Kalakua, and Kalakua’s sister Liliuokalani, who would be the last monarch of the Hawaiian kingdom when it was turned into a republic by American business interests, who had the US annex it as a territory. As a territory it would be the place that would trigger America’s entrance into World War II, with the attack on Pearl Harbor at Oahu Island. Ultimately it would become the 50 th State in 1959, and more history would follow.
Hawaii’s central position in the Pacific has made it a meeting place and melting pot of sorts for many different cultures. There are plenty of Japanese Americans and Filipino Americans to be found around the islands, and their cultures have also contributed to the colorful collage of Hawaiian society.
Nothing more needs to be said about Hawaii being a premier international tourist destination, thanks to its magnificent beaches, explosive volcanoes and delicious food from roast pig to pineapples (not a native Hawaiian fruit as they are quick to point out).
The individual islands of Hawaii offer specific sights and thrills to all visitors. Save perhaps for small and uninhabited Kaho'olawe, all the others are overflowing with wonders. Take the easternmost island, called Hawaii but better known as the Big Island, home to two active volcanoes, one of them the most active in the whole world, offering natural pyrotechnic displays with every frequent eruption.
Moving to the west we have Maui, the Valley Island, with its sweet onion farms and sugar plantation nestled among green mountains. Then we come upon the Pineapple Island of Lanai, where the “not native Hawaiian fruits” are grown in large numbers by the Dole Food Company, and the Friendly Isle of Molokai where cattle ranches, friendly residents and former leper colony can be found. Further west still is Oahu, location of the state capital Honolulu and Hawaii’s cosmopolitan center, site of Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach. Next is the Garden Island of Kauai, which looks exactly as described, so that it was used as a location set for TV shows and films, even in animated form as seen in Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch”. Last we come to Niihau, second only to Kaho’olawe in small size, privately owned by a family that once operated a sheep ranch there. Travel is quite limited, to protect the local population of native Hawaiians.
When it comes to being a confluence of Western, Eastern and Pacific cultures unlike any to be seen anywhere else in the world, Hawaii makes sure it comes second to none. Beyond images of hula skirts, Hawaiian shirts, luaus and ukuleles, Hawaii has a great deal more to show you. Have a look.
Photo Credits to: