Summer might be winding down as kids head back to school, but that makes it the perfect time to start daydreaming and planning a tropical winter getaway. For inspiration, here are some fun facts we bet you didn’t know about the islands of Hawaii.
Hawaii turns 60 on Aug. 21
Hawaii is the most recent state to have joined the United States of America — exactly 60 years ago this month. Along with Alaska, Hawaii does not border any other U.S. state. Last year, nearly 10 million tourists visited the Hawaiian islands, setting a record.
More Than Eight Islands
There are eight main islands that make up the state of Hawaii: Maui, Oahu, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai, Niihau and Hawaii (also known as the Big Island). The Hawaiian islands are actually a chain of 137 islands. This includes islets, or very small islands, offshore of the main islands.
The ‘Forbidden Island’
While there are eight main Hawaiian islands, only seven are permanently inhabited. Niihau, which has been privately owned by the same family since 1864, is known as the “Forbidden Island.” It has highly-limited access by the general public via helicopter landings at uninhabited sites. Legend says it was the original home of the goddess Pele, according to the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Hawaii has eight national parks and 50 state parks. Among them is Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. It’s home to two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. In total, there are five active volcanoes in Hawaii — four on the Big Island, and Haleakala on Maui.
Believe it or not, Hawaii does receive snow — but only on the summits of its three tallest volcanoes (Mauna Loa, Haleakala and Mauna Kea). Snow rarely stays on the ground for more than a few days, says a University of Hawaii professor. Mauna Kea — a dormant volcano that’s the highest point in the state — has been in the news lately due to a controversial telescope project. Those protesting the planned construction of a telescope atop Mauna Kea have included Hollywood stars Jason Momoa and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
May Day is Lei Day
Whether it’s welcoming the return of spring by dancing around a maypole or honoring the plight of workers across the globe, May Day means different things to different people. May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii. The day, held each year on May 1, honors Hawaiian culture and the state’s iconic flower garlands.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
“The Rainbow State” is among Hawaii’s nicknames, and the multicolored arcs are even featured on its state license plates. Rainbows are common year-round in Hawaii because of the amount of sunshine and rain the islands receive. Some of the best places for chasing rainbows include the islands of Kauai, Maui and Oahu. The latter is home to the Manoa Valley, known as the “Valley of the Rainbows.”
Lanai Cat Sanctuary
A nonprofit cat sanctuary that’s home to more than 600 cats can be found on the island of Lanai. Anyone can go visit and hang out with the felines for free (donations are accepted). UV Skinz founder Rhonda Sparks visited the sanctuary this summer with her 21-year-old son Seth. “Anyone who is depressed should be forced to come spend a day here,” Seth says.