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Hawaii - The 50th State

Hawaii! This word alone awakens a myriad of associations: Sunshine, waves, surfing, nature, beaches, vacation, ... But beyond these colorful imaginations, most people - unless they have actually been there - do not know all that much about the 50th state of the USA. One common misconception is that Hawaii is only one island; in fact, there are eight, and if you want to add the islets, reefs, and shoals, you count another 124! Hawaii really invites every traveler to a wonderful exploration of the diverse riches it is offering.

Hawaii is the US's only island state. Many Americans, educated by high school geography, grow up in the belief that Hawaii is located right next to the coast of California. The underlying reason for this funny misconception is, of course, that the Hawaii islands are printed on every US map close to the mainland since their real distance would not fit any map... In reality, the remoteness of Hawaii from the mainland is only surpassed by Easter Island. The distance to the US west coast amounts to about 2,400 miles. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th (and until this day last) state of America. The eight main islands are (from northwest to southeast): Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii (“Big Isle”).


Although Hawaii is officially located in the tropical region, its climate is often considered more subtropical due to the surrounding ocean, which moderately affects the temperatures. Really, there is not much of a temperature difference between December and July. Honolulu, for example, reaches an average high of 88 degrees Fahrenheit in July, and an insignificantly lower 82 degrees in December. However, the windward islands of the archipelago receive considerably more rainfall than the leeward ones.


Originally populated by Polynesian tribes, the Hawaiian islands were discovered by the Europeans in 1778 when the famous British explorer Captain James Cook landed. He first named them “Sandwich Islands”, in honor of his patron, the Earl of Sandwich (who, according to the legend, of course also invented the sandwich). A US territory from 1900, many immigrants, most notably from various Asian countries, were arriving to work in the plantation economy. Hawaii became world news on December 7, 1941, due to the Japanese air strike on Pearl Harbor, which made the US join WW II. 18 years later, Hawaii was received along with Alaska into the proper body of the United States.


Hawaii extends some 1,600 miles between Kure Island in the very northwest and the (main) island of Hawaii in the southeast. The total area of Hawaii state amounts to 10,931 square miles (including 38 sq mi of inland water). This makes it the fourth smallest US state. Its mean elevation is 3,030 feet. Hawaii is essentially made up of volcano soil and is believed to have emerged from a volcano “hot spot” deep down in the Pacific over millions of years. There are still some (minor) active volcanoes, e.g. one on the island of Maui and three on the island of Hawaii.

Major Islands to visit: Hawaii (“Big Isle”)

The “Big Island” has appxm. 1.5 million visitors each year. In and around Hilo Bay, in a setting of veritable tropical charm, visitors can enjoy some of the best shops and restaurants of Hawaii. Lovers of nature can visit one of the magnificent botanical gardens or flower farms (the flowers of course blossom not only in summer but throughout the year!). There is a variety of excellent accommodation in Hilo Bay. You can stay in the “Shipman House” hotel, for example, and sleep where Jack London used to stay, or the equally nice “Bay House”. Or maybe you prefer one of the beach houses? Many Americans are also buying various forms of vacation apartments on Big Isle. Condos and villas are also for rent.

The Hilo side offers a lot of rental opportunities and is more populated throughout the year than the resort-filled Kona side. And who would not want to stay in a hotel or an apartment that is surrounded by waterfalls, rainforest, lava coastlines and high mountains, or experience the original Hawaiian culture, the “Aloha” (which originally means “Hi,” “Good-bye,” and “love”)? The “Lyman Mission House and Museum” gives visitors a lucid insight into the lives of the first Christian missionaries on Hawaii.


The second largest island, Maui has a population of about 120,000 people. In 2004, it welcomed 2,207,826 tourists. On Maui, visitors can witness cattle farming in the “Haleakala Ranch Outpost”. On an elevation of more than 4,000 feet, 30,000 acres of farmland await you. One of the many activities offered is the “Kaanapali Skyline Adventure”, which takes you into the rugged and beautiful inland. The Leleiwi Overlook, 8,800 feet above sea level, features one of the most spectacular sights: in case the cloud condition is right, you can see a full-circle rainbow around your own shadow projected onto the clouds underneath you! Kanaha Beach is a windsurfer's paradise. Various resorts, like the Kaanapali Beach Club, or the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort, invite you for total relaxation. On the north shore, next to some of Maui's best surfing shores, you can find accommodation rental from 500 dollars (and less) per week.


If you are a fan of Hollywood movies, the Kipu shore is where you want to go, which was the setting of a myriad of American movie productions, most notably Steven Spielberg's “The Lost World”. The Kipu area also hosts magnificent waterfalls, wonderful sweet water pools, and the “Huleia National Wildlife Refuge”. One other wonderful beach is in Hanamaulu.

Hawaii really offers everything you can ask for. Whether you prefer to rent a condo, stay in one of the colonial-style hotels or opt for one of the many luxurious beach resorts: any type of accomodation is available. And whether you are a lover of nature, of history, or whether you are looking for some of the finest beaches in the world: Hawaii is the place to go!

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