Hawaii, the fiftieth US state, is the most remote island chain on the planet. Made up of over one hundred and twenty islands, reefs and shoals, only seven of the eight most southerly islands are inhabited and only six are open to tourists. These are Oahu, Maui, Big Island (Hawaii), Kauai, Molokai, Lanai and. The other two are Kahoolawe which is uninhabited and Niihau or the ‘forbidden isle’. Niihau is privately owned by the Robinson family and access is only allowed to those who live and work on the island. Tourism is completely prohibited and there are no phones or electricity.
Each island has its own characteristics and traditions but it also has its own nick name which will tell you a little more about what it has to offer. Oahu is known as the ‘gathering place’ and the fact that it’s home to three quarters of the state’s population as well as the favoured destination for four and a half million tourists every year should offer some indication as to how this name came about. Big Island is known as the ‘orchid isle’ with over twenty two thousand varieties of the tropical flower either growing wild or in nurseries there. Kauai, regarded as most as the most beautiful of all the islands, is known as the ‘garden isle’, Maui is dubbed the ‘valley isle’ and Molokai is known by locals as the ‘friendly isle’. Kahoolawe, currently uninhabited, was once known as the ‘target isle’ following the US government’s decision to use it as a test site for bombs after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. And, as already mentioned Niihau is known as the ‘forbidden isle’.
The islands have and are still being formed by volcanic activity and are actually the tips of the tallest volcanic mountains on earth. The newest island, Hawaii or Big Island, is still growing and since 1997 lava which continues to bubble into the sea adds metres to the coastline every day. You can witness this happen right before your eyes and it’s a pretty unique sensation to be able to watch your holiday destination grow in size beneath your feet.
Hawaii’s first inhabitants arrived from Polynesia somewhere between 750 and 1,000AD bringing with them native plants, animals and traditions many of which have survived to the present day. The first European to visit Tahiti didn’t arrive until 1778 in the form of Captain James Cook. When he first arrived it was thought by locals that Lono, god of fertility and peace had come to make their acquaintance. The obviously changed their minds, however, as poor old James was stabbed to death on Big Island after a short while.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the island’s sugar industry began to boom and brought immigrant labourers from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea and the Philippines. Again, each different nationality to arrive in the area left their own mark, each of which was instrumental in shaping the unique culture which is synonymous with current day Hawaii.
The arrival of tourism to the islands, however, didn’t begin until 1920 with the first non-stop flight to Hawaii from the US mainland and it’s been growing ever since. Today over seven million people visit the islands on an annual basis. But, the amazing thing about Hawaii is the fact that despite mass tourism, it has still preserved so much of its history and originality. On any of the islands there are a number of locations where you can escape from it all and head to a completely unspoilt location whether it’s a tropical rain forest, cool alpine region, cascading waterfall or a white sandy beach. Hawaii offers the ultimate glance at paradise so don’t miss the opportunity to have a peek.