National Hawaii Day

On July 5th we celebrate the heritage, achievements, and beauty of Hawai’i, the 50th state to join the U.S. in 1959.




Built by volcanoes, at 1,523 miles long, the Hawaiian Islands archipelago is the longest island chain in the world.



The Big Island is home to 5 of Hawaii’s 6 still-active volcanoes, while Maui is home to Haleakala (meaning “House of the Sun”), the world’s largest dormant volcano. It rises 10,023 feet above the ocean’s surface but nearly 30,000 feet from the ocean floor, with a crater measuring 7½ x 2½ miles.

The Big Island’s Mauna Loa (meaning Long Mountain) is the largest active volcano on earth, making up half the island and spanning 75 miles.

Photo by Marc Szeglat


Continuing volcanic eruptions cause new islands to be created each year, with the Big Island growing by about 40 acres per year.





Erosion from ocean waves, winds, and rain whittle away at all the islands, but especially, Kauai’i, the oldest Hawaiian island, which was formed about 5 million years ago. The Big Island of Hawaii was formed a mere 600,000 years ago. Having its own time zone and the most isolated population center on earth, the Aloha State sits about 2,400 miles from the U.S. mainland and 3,850 miles from Japan. Due to constant movement of the earth’s tectonic plates, the Hawaiian Islands move west toward Japan at a rate of 6” per year.

The world’s highest sea cliffs (Kalaupapa Cliffs) are on the island of Molokai, which is also home to Hawaii’s largest waterfall (Oloupena Falls) and largest white sand beaches.

With the 8 primary islands right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, Hawaii is also home to a fascinating cultural blend of Native, Asian, Portuguese, and American cultures. When people question how Portugal became involved, they learn that in the 1700s, the British Royal Navy brought the King of Hawaii a gift of livestock.


Not knowing how to care for cattle, the king sent for the best ranchers in the world… the Portuguese cowboys, long before the mainland’s Wild West Era began. Bringing favorite foods with them, the Portuguese sausage became so popular, that even McDonald’s had to give in to local demands.




When Breakfast at McDonald’s launched the fast-food breakfast phenomenon, Hawaiian locations broke from the traditional menu, adding Portuguese sausage and poi (made from taro) to their menu.





With a widely varied, multi-cultural array of foods offered throughout the state, the Hawaiian luau remains popular with the 6-million-plus annual visitors. At these feasts, guests are treated to the traditional story-telling hula dancing, too.



Most visitors still fly into Honolulu, the state capital. Hawaii has 4 counties, Honolulu, Maui, Kaua’i, and Hawai’i.



Visitors often learn that the sport of surfing originated with the early Polynesian people, and boogie boarding started here too, initially done on palm fronds.



Many famous movies have been filmed throughout Hawaii, from “South Pacific” in 1958 to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Avatar.” Hawaii also hosted “Hunger Games” and scenes from all the “Jurassic Park” movies.


Hawaii is the only state with a palace, once the residence of King Kamehameha. It is also the only state with two official languages, English and Hawaiian. There are 12 letters in the Hawaiian language, 5 vowels and 7 consonants.



There is no smog in Hawaii, but you might see “vog,” the volcanic ash haze caused by the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.






To prevent cities, Kaua’i has outlawed the construction of buildings taller than a palm tree. The entire state has laws against billboards to keep scenic vistas clear.






It’s the only state that is rabies-free, much in part to laws prohibiting owning hamster and ferrets. Snake ownership is also strictly forbidden.



A visitor might catch a glimpse of the yellow-bellied sea snake, but even that is extremely rare.




Far more common are sights of the state fish… one with the longest name in the U.S., humuhumunukunukuapua’a, which means “reef trigger fish with a snout like a pig.”




Fun to see is the state marine mammal, which is the monk seal or the hoary bat, the state’s official land mammal.




Despite environmental efforts, all native bird species are endangered. With all its many fascinating species of birds and animals, the only state with a tropical rainforest has more endangered species than any other state.



Little-known facts about Hawaii include that it is one of only two states where all forms of gambling are illegal. Each island has its own official flower, but the official state flower is the yellow hibiscus.





It is the only state where you can touch cold snow and warm sand on the same day (on the Big Island). People take their shoes off before entering someone’s home.




Astronauts trained for the moon landing atop the 13,000-foot Mauna Loa due to the craggy field of glassy volcanic rock on top.



Hawaiians consume the most Spam per capita in the United States, with supermarket shelves featuring many varieties.





Due in great part to a peaceful lifestyle, Hawaii boasts the longest life expectancy in the U.S.





About Cathy Burnham Martin

Author of 20+ books, and counting! A professional voice-over artist, dedicated foodie, and lifelong corporate communications geek, Cathy Burnham Martin has enjoyed a highly eclectic career, ranging from the arts and journalism to finance, telecommunications, and publishing. Along with her husband, Ron Martin, she has passions for entertaining, gardening, volunteering, active and visual arts, GREAT food, and traveling. Cathy often says, "I believe that we all should live with as much contagious enthusiasm as possible... Whether we're with friends or family, taking people along for the ride is more than half the fun."
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