Hawaii History & Geography

Located in the North Pacific Ocean, just above the equator, Hawaii is group of 8 main islands of which only 6 are inhabited. One of the 50 states of the United States of America, the islands were created by volcanic eruptions caused by Pacific Plate movement over 70 million years. Situated 9,130km (5,673 miles) northeast of Australia, Hawaii is the USA’s southernmost state and is one of the world’s most isolated archipelagos. The topography of the islands varies between the northwest and the southeast. Kauai offers lush rainforests and the Napali Coast’s time-worn sea cliffs while the Big Island features Kilauea Volcano and rugged landscapes born of lava. Hawaii features a diverse range of microclimates and elevations, allowing you to experience a wide variety of environments depending on where you visit.

The history of Hawaii is a significant one that dates back as long as 1,500 years ago. Beginning with the Marquesas Islands Polynesians who travelled more than 3,200 km in canoes guided by the stars to arrive on the Big Island. 500 years later Tahitian settlers arrive with their customs, beliefs and social hierarchies and Hawaiian culture began to flourish and the icons of surfing and hula were born. However conflicts over land divisions between ruling chiefs were common. Captain James Cook landed in 1778 at Waimea Bay on Kauai and opened the islands to the west, however he was killed just one year later on the Big Island in Kealakekua Bay.

In 1791 Kamehameha began work to unify the islands and by 1810 the Hawaiian Islands were considered one royal kingdom. However just 9 years later after the death of King Kamehameha his son abolished the social hierarchies. In 1820 Protestant missionaries began arriving on the Big Island and Hawaii became a port for whalers, traders and seamen. Whaling continued to flourish and during these growth years, diseases brought to the islands by their western visitors began to impact the native population. Western influences continued to permeate the islands and in 1893, American colonists controlling much of the islands’ economy overthrew the kingdom in a peaceful but controversial coup and in 1989, the United States claimed Hawaii as a territory.

By the 20th century, pineapple and sugar plantations were the driving force behind the Hawaiian economy, attracting immigrants from Portugal, the Philippines, China and Japan. It’s this mix of ethnicities that makes Hawaii’s diverse population and influences still so popular today. However on 7 December 1941, a surprise attack was launched on Oahu’s Pearl Harbour by the Japanese and signalled the United States of America’s entry into WWII. Four years later, Japan unconditionally surrendered to USS Battleship Missouri and in 1959, Hawaii officially became the 50th state of America.