Ask people to think of Hawaii, and their first thought likely goes to crystal clear waters and unparalleled vistas… (Along with fun shirts and poké, of course).
But Hawaii is so much more than just a tasty and scenic paradise… as these interesting Hawaii facts will soon show!
I’m a firm believer that any travel destination is more interesting when you dig into its lesser known facts and eccentricities, so I’ve done the research for my fellow travel nerds and compiled the best Hawaii trivia into this handy article.
From mail-ready coconuts to volcanic smog, I’ve assembled some of my favorite fun facts about Hawaii for you below, whether you’re headed there for a winter escape or are just curious to learn more about the Aloha State. Enjoy!
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1. Hawaii has the largest maze in the world
Among the most entertaining Hawaii fun facts is it holds multiple world records. However, one of them may surprise you.
In an archipelago, it might seem impractical, but Hawaii News Now proudly reports that the Dole Plantation is home to the world’s largest maze.
Among the most popular visitor attractions on Oahu, the Dole Plantation’s Pineapple Garden Maze was finished in 1998.
After further expansion, the maze now covers more than two acres (137,194 square feet). It’s constituted of various, colorful flowers and pineapple plants.
Even more quirkily, the maze itself is indeed configured in the shape of a pineapple.
2. Tourists regularly mail back volcanic rocks they’ve stolen
“Pele’s Curse” is a popular belief in Hawaii that those who take anything native to its lands (e.g. rocks and sand) will be punished by Pele, Goddess of Volcanoes and Fire with terrible luck.
In spite of this belief, many tourists nonetheless bring home volcanic rocks and the like as souvenirs.
That bit is not surprising… but what IS surprising is that many of them send these rocks back, usually accompanied with apology notes.
Indeed, according to the Wall Street Journal, so many tourists report having terrible luck after stealing volcanic rocks that hundreds of them literally ship it back to Hawaii, hoping to reverse their misfortune.
3. In Hawaii, Billboards are banned
If you’re eying Hawaii for advertising, it’s important to know there are laws in place that will make that a little more difficult.
That’s because Hawaii is one of only four states in the country that forbids billboards.
Although there are some minor exceptions, the law specifically states “no person shall erect, maintain, or use a billboard or display any outdoor advertising device.”
The other three states with the same ban? Alaska, Maine, and Vermont.
4. The Hawaiian language only uses 13 letters
Learning a new language is never easy… especially when it’s filled with new tones and letters with an aggressive amount of dots (side-eying you, German).
But with the Hawaiian language, we can at least catch a break in terms of letters, because the Hawaiian alphabet has only 13 letters total: 5 vowels and 8 consonants (one of which is the ʻokina, which we don’t have in English, but represents a glottal stop like the one in uh-oh).
5. In Hawaii, snakes are illegal
If snakes give you the heebie-jeebies, then I’ll give you another excellent reason to make Hawaii your next travel destination…
Yes, snakes are actually illegal in Hawaii. This is because snakes are a severe threat to the local ecosystems, and so in an effort to protect the state, the possession and transportation of snakes is actually a class c felony. The penalty? A $200,000 fine.
So please leave those snakes at home.
6. Hawaii doesn’t observe daylight savings time
Daylight savings time is kind of a wildcard (and the source of much anxiety when you forget to reset your microwave clock).
Luckily for those in Hawaii, daylight savings time simply isn’t a thing there (much like in most parts of Arizona).
Basically, in 1967, it was decided that Hawaii had no real reason to adjust to changes in daylight because their proximity to the equator meant few fluctuations in daylight.
So yes, one less thing to worry about.
7. Hawaii is made up of 132 islands
Ask the average person how many islands Hawaii is comprised of, and they’ll likely give you a conservative estimate.
They might just think of the main ones and say four. Or they might be feeling crazy and guess something like 50.
However, according to the National Ocean Service, the Hawaiian archipelago actually contains a staggering 132 islands, and stretches for over 1,500 miles.
8. Hawaii’s ‘Iolani Palace is the only royal palace in the United States
While marketing brochures usually depict Hawaii as a worry-free, problem-free paradise of poké and pineapples, it’s important to acknowledge that the state has a complicated and tumultuous history that is too often overlooked.
It’s an impossible task to summarize Hawaii’s history in this short “Hawaii fun facts” post, but in brief, here are some basics: long before Hawaii was annexed (read: taken) by the United States, it was a Kingdom.
(And prior to that, Polynesian settlers had been living undisturbed in the archipelago for centuries, that is until European colonizers (led by Captain James Cook) arrived in 1778.)
But Hawaii’s history as a kingdom is why it’s home to ‘lolani Palace, the only royal palace in the US, built in a glorious Renaissance style. As the official residence and capitol of previously ruling Hawaiian monarchs, this palace represents an important chapter of Hawaii’s history.
And while (ugh, of course), the palace was repurposed into a government building after Hawaii’s annexation by the US, it was designated a National Historic Landmark and restored/re-opened as a museum in 1978.
9. You can mail a coconut from Hawaii (not in a box—just a coconut!)
On a lighter note, if you ever go to Hawaii and want to send something back that’s not a boring paper postcard, then Hawaii has you covered.
Because as Hawaii Magazine details, it’s possible to mail coconuts here… And I don’t mean in a box. I do in fact mean a plain old coconut, slathered in colorful stamps.
In fact, one post office in Hoolehua, Molokai even provides mailable coconuts in-house, with special pens for decorating.
In theory though, any Hawaiian post office will mail your coconut… just don’t pick random fresh ones from the supermarket – instead, grab painted, ready-to-mail coconuts from local vendors and artists.
10. Mauna Kea is the actual tallest mountain in the world
Those looking for the tallest mountain will often hear the same names—Everest et al. However, it’s important to know one thing: those big names are typically referring to mountains above sea-level.
In fact, if we were to measure the world’s “tallest mountain” from the mountain’s base to its summit, Hawaii’s Mauna Kea wins out, and stands in a league of its own.
At 29,035 feet above sea level, Mount Everest is certainly impressive… especially considering Mauna Kea’s above sea level height of 13,796 feet.
However, more than half of this mountain is actually submerged. In total, the actual height of Mauna Kea is a whopping 33,500 feet, approximately a mile taller than Everest. So ha – take that.
11. Instead of smog, Hawaii has vog
And in more unsettling Hawaii facts, you should know that Hawaii is home to a “silent danger” known as volcanic smog, or vog for short.
Silent, and mostly unseen, vog is created when volcanic emissions like sulfur dioxide and CO2 mix with oxygen, sunlight and other particles in the atmosphere, creating a hazy air pollution.
It’s a relatively common term particularly on the Big Island because of volcanic vents at Kīlauea, whose emissions can get carried by tradewinds across the island, or in more extreme cases, across the state.
Not to worry though – vog isn’t deadly in and of itself, with the main danger being the exacerbation of existing respiratory illnesses, and potential irritation/flu-like symptoms.
12. Hawaii is the only state that’s rabies free
Hawaii is the only state with a lot of things, like the only state with a royal palace, or the only state to be composed entirely of islands.
But another pretty interesting “only” accolade is that (according to the Department of Disease Outbreak Control), Hawaii is the only state without rabies.
In fact, there’s a careful quarantine process for dogs, cats, and animals introduced to the island to keep this impressive record going. So, now you know.
13. Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is the most active volcano in the world
While for many of us, volcanic eruptions aren’t a threat we think about it in our day to day lives, that doesn’t mean active volcanoes don’t exist.
In fact, Hawaii’s Big Island is home to the world’s biggest active volcano, which covers about half the land mass of the island.
Mauna Loa (which fittingly means ‘Long Island’) rises almost 14,000 ft above sea level, and while its last documented eruption was in 1984, some reports say it may be slowly waking up.
14. On Hawaii’s Kauai, no building can be taller than a coconut tree
It might come as a surprise (it might also come as no surprise) that coconuts seem to dictate more than most are aware of in Hawaii.
And on the island of Kauai, there’s actually a law prohibiting buildings from being higher than a coconut tree (approximately four stories tall). Some notable exceptions of course include properties built before this rule, such as the Marriott, which some sources say is the reason the rule even exists in the first place.
This “restrictive development” has allowed Kauai to retain unrivaled tranquility, which only adds to the island’s (already) tempting offers, from horseback riding and kayaking to hiking at Waimea Canyon (“The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”).
15. Hawaii’s Molokai doesn’t have any traffic lights
Despite being Hawaii’s 5th largest island, Molokai has no traffic lights, no shopping malls, and no elevators.
In fact, it bills itself as the state’s “the most Hawaiian island“, with only a handful of hotels and a slow pace of life said to take you back in time 50 years.
That’s not to say Molokai doesn’t have its own set of impressive accolades. In fact, it’s recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as being home to the highest sea cliffs in the world.
16. Hawaii has a national monument bigger than all of the US’ national parks combined
That’s right – the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) extends over 583,000 square miles, surpassing the area covered by all of the national parks in the US… combined.
This cluster of atolls and islands (along with their accompanying ocean) is one of the world’s largest protected areas thanks to its significance to native Hawaiian culture, along with its abundance of unique flora and fauna, including the Laysan duck, one of the most endangered waterfowl in the world.
17. Only two mammals are native to Hawaii
But despite Hawaii’s reputation for diverse natural life (with abundant vegetation, sea creatures, birds, and tourists), it’s a surprising and interesting Hawaii fact that only two mammals are actually indigenous to Hawaii.
The first is the monk seal, which is the state’s official mammal.
The second is the Hawaiian hoary bat, which is the state’s official land mammal.
18. Hawaii was the first state to impose a ban on plastic bags
It makes sense that Hawaii, an archipelago surrounded by pristine water and brimming with vegetation, would be on the vanguard of wildlife preservation.
And indeed, back in 2017, Hawaii became the first state to ban plastic bags at grocery checkouts across all counties (according to Huffington Post).
19. Hawaii has the United States’ longest life expectancy
It makes sense that those seeking a longer life should look into settling in a tropical paradise… but the stats back this theory up too. Turns out, relaxation can work wonders.
In fact, according to CNBC, Hawaii is “the state with the highest average life expectancy.” – 81 years old.
20. Hawaii is its own time zone
This probably won’t come as a major shock to most. I mean, spend enough time at any beach or tropical locale, and it becomes evident: time works differently at these places.
Such is definitely the case in Hawaii, which has its own time zone known as Hawaii Standard Time (HST).
Did I miss any of your favorite fun facts about Hawaii?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to add more to the list.