Hawaii is one of the most unique states in America. It has its own time zone, is the only state geographically furthest from the others, is the only state to be completely comprised of island territory.
Given all that, there are many reasons to consider Hawaii not merely one of the most unique states, but quite possibly the best of them all.
1. Gorgeous Weather Year Round
Let’s start with the most obvious one right out of the gate – if you love warm, sunny weather, then Hawaii is about as sun-kissed a tropical paradise as you can imagine. Hawaii is famous for having sunny weather almost 365 days a year. If you are looking for a place to kiss the rainy cloudy blues goodbye, you’ll want to say aloha to Hawaii.
2. A Proudly Diverse and Indigenous History
Hawaii may be the youngest state, but its history stretches back centuries before annexation. Native Hawaiian culture is still alive and well in Hawaii, making it one of the most vocally multicultural states, especially when it comes to celebrating the rights and culture of its indigenous peoples.
Nowhere is this on greater display than with hula. One of the most famous styles of dance in the world, hula in Hawaii is split into two major categories – Kahiko and Auana. The former refers to ancient hula traditions stretching up to dances, songs, and themes practiced by indigenous Hawaiians prior to colonization and annexation. Auana, on the other hand, refers to the blend of traditional Hawaiian and modern Western styles of dance present in much 20th and 21st century hula dancing.
Both remain widely-practiced and highly-regarded in Hawaii.
Hawaii is the most diverse state in America. At a time when the rights of indigenous peoples, the balance between tradition and change, and multiculturalism have never been hotter, hula in Hawaii shows the right way to celebrate diversity.
3. Incredible Nature
To say that Hawaii has an incredible natural landscape is an understatement. Indeed, so many of the best facts about Hawaii have to do with its boundless natural beauty.
For example, there is the massive Koʻolau Mountain Range. Perched atop the southern part of Oahu, you can see the whole island from atop its mighty peaks. What’s more, it isn’t that far from the Koʻolau Mountain Range to downtown Honolulu. Nearby, you’ll also be able to take in some of the most incredible underwater coral gardens not just in Hawaii, but the entire Pacific. The whole area is teeming with biodiversity, making it one of the best places in Hawaii to see marine life.
Of course, Hawaii on the whole is the best place to see tropical biodiversity in the United States.
For a different type of natural beauty, you’ll want to hit the volcanic trail and foothill areas of Koko Crater. Situated on the southern edge of Honolulu, it offers a fantastic view of both the Koʻolau Mountains as well as Hanauma Bay. From there, you’ll be able to tour the Portlock area, which is home to a nature reserve for spiked cacti and all manner of other rugged flora which are native.
The Koko Crater Trail passes by old train tracks and offers a panoramic view of the southeastern Oahu coastline from atop the high cliffs of the region.
The trail is noted for its ruggedness, so if you are looking to go off the beaten trail, literally and figuratively, this is a great place to explore a different side of the area and Hawaii as a whole.
Beneath the waves, Hawaii is a hotspot for scuba divers from all around the world.
Above the waves, Hawaii is home to the largest dormant and active volcano.
4. Experience Triumph and Tragedy in the Pacific Theater
Few things have shaped our modern world more than World War II. Hawaii has the unique distinction among American states as seeing the beginning and end of the United States’ involvement in the War.
On December 7, 1941, “A date which will live in infamy,” the US naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by warplanes from the Empire of Japan. The United States entered first the Pacific and then European Theater just decades later, profoundly changing the shape of the war and fate of the free world. The Allied forces suffered severe casualties but pressed onward, turning the tide of war at now-legendary sites such as Midway, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima. Finally, on September 2, 1945, members of the Empire of Japan and US Navy met aboard the USS Missouri docked off the coast of Tokyo Bay.
Both points intersect and are commemorated in Hawaii’s incredible WWII museums. The Pearl Harbor National Memorial near the site of the sunken USS Arizona commemorates the first brave sailors who gave their lives in defense of their country and all who fought for liberty against tyranny in that war. The USS Missouri is permanently docked nearby, a floating museum that guests can visit for a firsthand look at naval, military, and social history from the era.
That both the beginning and end of the Pacific Theater of that conflict is preserved in Hawaii for the purpose of remembrance is truly remarkable.
5. Diamond Head State Monument
For another elevated slice of Hawaiian natural beauty, look no further than the Diamond Head State Monument. It too offers an incredible view of the surrounding area. How many other states can boast the remains of a cinder cone volcano as part of its state capital’s skyline?
6. Waikiki Beach
One of the most famous beaches in America, Waikiki Beach has long been idealized as one of if not the premiere beach in Hawaii. It is home to soft white sands, incredible surf, and an incredibly welcoming atmosphere. Waikiki Beach is also home to a unique part of surf history. It was here that the first longboards were fashioned back in the 1800s. They were used by the indigenous Hawaiian aristocracy. The Duke Kahanamoku contributed greatly to surfing as we know it today, and a memorial to him can be found among the palm tree groves on the site.
7. Surf’s up
It’s no secret that Hawaii is one of the best places to catch a wave not just in America, but the world.
Hawaii’s reputation for tubular waves have washed over popular culture in everything from countless teen beach films to the Beach Boys name dropping Waimea Bay in “Surfin’ USA.”
If you are planning on heading out to hang 10 and catch some waves, you’ll want to know the best time to surf in Hawaii. However, there isn’t one clear answer to that question. While the weather remains warm and sunny in Hawaii year round, weather systems throughout the Pacific Ocean can have a profound impact on the size and quality of the surf.
8. Maui’s Bamboo Forest
Located along the lovely Pipiwai Trail part of Haleakala National Park, one of the biggest national parks in Hawaii and one of the most tropical such sites in America. The bamboo forest is home to some of thickest bamboo overgrowths, all set against an incredible waterfall.
9. Incredible Luaus
No trip to the Aloha State is complete without a luau. These prime examples of dinner and a show feature authentic Hawaiian food, song, and dance, all brought together in a way that mirrors the multicultural brilliance for which Hawaii is rightly famous. Luaus range from highly traditional to more modern and innovative, and can even feature fire juggling.
10. ‘Iolani Palace
Given how the country began as a rebellion against a monarchy, America has never been big on kings, or the palaces that come with them. Still, there’s no denying the grandeur of sites such as Buckingham Palace, Versailles, Schloss Charlottenburg, the Belvedere, and beyond. If you’re looking to enjoy the trappings of a royal palace without leaving American soil, ‘Iolani Palace is the place for you.
It is the historic home of the Kalakaua Dynasty, which ruled the island before colonization. The palace itself is situated in downtown Honolulu – and how often do you find a royal seat of power smack in the middle of a city center? In fact, it is the only official palace on US soil. It was the site where US troops first raised the Stars and Stripes following Hawaii’s incorporation into the country.
As such, ‘Iolani Palace is a unique example of Hawaii’s indigenous past and American present coexisting in a remarkably regal site unlike any other in the republic.
The palace itself is a remarkable blend of different architectural styles, combining 19th century French architectural styles with Baroque and of course traditional Hawaiian influences. This blend of styles makes it a standing monument to Hawaii’s commitment to multiculturalism.
Among all the many facts about Hawaii that make it a truly unique place to live, this is perhaps its proudest. As America and, indeed, the world at large becomes more multicultural, Hawaii, with its unique ability to blend past and present across its many cultural influences, has something to teach us all.