20 Quirky Facts You Didn’t Know About Hawaii
One of the pleasures of visiting our islands is discovering the many little facts about Hawaii that make this place so different from anywhere else. Of course, there is the obvious: we have beautiful weather here year-round, and the Hawaiian culture is completely unique in the world. But we also have our share of quirky traditions, “unspoken” rules of acceptable behavior, and unusual factoids that are simply part of our daily life in Hawaii. Here are some interesting facts about Hawaii that maybe you didn’t know –- some apply to all the islands, and some to Maui alone.
UNIQUE FACTS ABOUT HAWAII
1. Surfing was invented in Hawaii. Hundreds of years ago, in fact. And there is a great deal of evidence that the modern sport of stand up paddle boarding (SUP), which is immensely popular worldwide, also originated here — started by the beach boys at Waikiki decades ago, revived more recently by big wave surfers on Maui, then introduced to the rest of the world.
2. You can mail a coconut from here. And I really do mean JUST the coconut. Not wrapped. Not boxed. Just a big ol’ coconut with an address on it. One of the FUN facts about Hawaii! You can pretty it up, paint pictures on it, make it a work of art, write a message on it, then mail it. Just make sure it’s an older dried-out unhusked coconut (pictured) or you might need an agricultural inspection before mailing. Various stores, and some hotels and restaurants, sell coconuts that are already decorated and ready for mailing. (This coconut postcard display was shot at the gift shop at Maui Ocean Center.) So why send a postcard? Mail a coconut! (Mailing cost is approximately $12-$20, depending on the weight of the coconut.) More Info
3. Maui’s Mount Haleakala is the largest dormant volcano in the world. Its highest peak is at 10,023 feet, and the interior of the summit crater stretches approximately 7.5 by 2.5 miles, but most of this mountain lies below the ocean. If measured from the sea floor, Haleakala would rise to a height of nearly 30,000 feet. This massive volcano, which formed 75% of the island of Maui, is dormant . . . NOT extinct. The last eruption of Haleakala is estimated to have occurred in the late 1700s.
4. We wear white pants after Labor Day. Remember that old fashion rule your mother taught you about not wearing white after Labor Day? Well forget about it in Hawaii. White pants. White purses. White shoes. White hats. Anything goes. Since the weather is warm year-round, we wear the same wardrobe for summer and winter. We don’t dress seasonally.
5. Maui is home to a Frank Lloyd Wright design. It’s the 74,000-square-foot clubhouse at the King Kamehameha Golf Club, nestled 750 feet above sea level against the West Maui Mountains in Waikapu (Central Maui). The famed architect originally conceived this design in 1949 as a private home (on a smaller scale), and at one point the design was intended as a home for Marilyn Monroe. Read more here on how it came to be on Maui. This is a private golf club, but guests are welcome to visit the spectacular clubhouse and enjoy the fabulous view! If you’d like to play a round of golf at this exclusive course, you can purchase a Guest-For-A-Day pass–available on a limited basis. (UPDATE: Due to COVID, the clubhouse is temporarily closed to the public and the course is open only for Members’ play.)
6. Hawaii is the only U.S. state with two official languages. English and Hawaiian. Some locals like to think of Pidgin as an official language, but it’s not. It certainly can sound foreign, and it is spoken a lot here, but Pidgin is not an “official” language. (“We Stay Close” is Pidgin for “Closed”)
7. And speaking of Pidgin, it carries over into our local signage. You might see signs here with words misspelled, missing the “d.” “Shave Ice.” “Smoke Fish.” “Open Saturday. Close Sunday.” In Hawaii, that missing “d” is just understood.
8. We greet with a hug, not a handshake. One of the FRIENDLY facts about Hawaii: We hug hello. We hug goodbye. We hug “I love you” and “I’m sorry” and “Nice to meet you” and “Thank you.” We just love to hug here! So don’t be shocked if a local gives you a hug instead of a handshake. (UPDATE: This has changed due to COVID-19. No more hugs for the present. But once the virus is no longer a threat, we will begin hugging the world again!)
9. We have vog instead of smog. Island skies are unpolluted for the most part — we have no smog. But we do get vog, the volcanic haze from the Kilauea volcano that has been erupting on and off since 1983 on the Island of Hawaii (aka Big Island). The vog occasionally blows to other islands. It is not dangerous, although heavy vog can be uncomfortable for people with asthma or respiratory issues. On Maui, voggy skies make for beautiful sunsets and moonrises, magnifying the sun and moon and making them look huge and orange. So if you get a hazy, voggy day here, you will likely be rewarded with an extraordinary sunset.
10. Maui has been dubbed the Valley Isle due to its unique formation with Central Maui lying in a massive valley between Mount Haleakala to the east and the West Maui mountain range.
11. The Hawaiian word Aloha serves as both “hello” and “goodbye.” You pretty much can’t go wrong with a flexible greeting like that.
12. The Hawaiian islands were previously ruled under a monarchy, with kings and queens and princes and princesses. Lahaina (in West Maui) was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1824 to 1845. There’s a long, rich history in that little town! Hawaii still honors its ali’i (royalty) from the past. We celebrate Kamehameha Day on June 11 (honoring King Kamehameha the Great) and Prince Kuhio Day on March 26 (honoring Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole). Both dates are Hawaii state holidays and are marked with festivals and parades.
13. We take our shoes off before entering someone’s home. It doesn’t matter how clean or fancy or expensive your shoes are or what the occasion is. The shoes come off at the door. That’s just the norm here. So, if you are wearing socks, choosing ones without holes is a good idea for a dinner party. (Photo ©Polinahe Photography)
14. Each island in Hawaii has an official color and flower. Maui’s official color is pink and our flower is Lokelani (aka Damask Rose). The Hawaii state flower is the yellow hibiscus (pictured).
And by the way, the Hawaii state fish is the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (aka reef triggerfish). The name means “trigger fish with a snout like a pig.” Charming, yeah? This is one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language and is an exceedingly long name for a relatively small fish (about 10 inches long). Just one of the many tongue-tangling facts about Hawaii!
15. The Hawaii state flag looks confusingly British. That’s because the Union Jack (the flag of Great Britain) and the stripes from the United States flag are both incorporated into the design of this flag, which was commissioned in the 1800s by Hawaii’s King Kamehameha I. More explanation here.
16. It’s a tradition in Hawaii to share nature’s bounty. When someone has a backyard tree that produces “too much” fruit, they take a box to work, drop some off for neighbors, or give it away to others who will enjoy it. No waste. You will often see huge clusters of ripening bananas hanging in a Maui hotel lobby, a store, or other public place. Or boxes of freshly picked mangoes, avocados, starfruit, or whatever else happens to be in season. If it is obviously placed there for people to enjoy, help yourself. But the rule is, take just enough for you. Not a bagful. (See my other Practical Do’s and Don’ts for visitors.)
17. There are no snakes in Hawaii. Well, kind of. This is a “borderline” fact about Hawaii! We do actually have one tiny harmless snake that looks like an earthworm, but we don’t really count that. We also don’t have squirrels, hamsters, or gerbils here, and it is illegal to own any of these creatures. So if you are moving to Hawaii, say aloha (this time it means “goodbye”) to your pet hamster.
18. The banyan tree in the center of Lahaina is one of the largest in the world. The famous Lahaina banyan tree was eight feet tall when planted in 1873, and it’s now the largest banyan tree in the United States. It is truly an astounding sight, with dozens of interconnected trunks and branches covering a quarter mile in circumference. Banyan Tree Park, pictured here, is made up of just ONE magnificent tree!
19. Hawaii is rabies-free and there are extremely strict quarantine laws to keep it that way. As a result, it is not easy to bring your pet dog or cat to Hawaii for a brief stay. It requires either months of preparation and certifications, or months of quarantine here once they arrive. So, it’s best to leave Fido and Fluffy at home, unless you are moving here permanently.
20. Hawaii is one of only two U.S. states where all forms of gambling are illegal. (The other state is Utah.) As a result, Hawaii residents are completely obsessed with gambling, since we aren’t allowed to do it here. We are HUGE fans of Las Vegas. We refer to Las Vegas as Hawaii’s “9th island” because so many local people visit there and/or eventually move there. So . . . that answers the age-old question: When you live in Hawaii, where do you go for vacation? Vegas, baby.
Interested in MORE fun facts about Hawaii? Check out this great little book by Maui resident Jim Loomis!
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Candy Aluli, Publisher
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(Note: We recognize and respect the significance of the ‘okina and kahakō markings in the written Hawaiian language; however, we have omitted those diacritical markings on our site in order to integrate with the more common spellings used in online searches.)
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