Mahalo Tours & Transportation
Hawaiian Facts, History &
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the word Hawai'i mean?
Hawaii is the name of the largest of the Hawaiian islands (also known as the Big Island) and is the name of the 50th
State in the USA which is a collection of 8 islands – Hawai’i, Maui, Lana’i, Moloka’i, Koho’olawe, O’ahu, Kaua’i, and
Ni'ihau. Many believe the name Hawai’i was adapted from the name Hawaiki, the name for a mythical homeland of all
Polynesians. Others believe it is a variation of a South Pacific island Raiatea, which was called Havaii at the time of
How were the Hawaiian Islands formed? How many volcanoes are in Hawaii? How many islands are in
The Hawaiian islands are very different land forms from the Mainland USA. Hawaii was formed when a molten 'hot spot'
weakened the Earth’s crust until it broke open and molten lava started pumping out. That one 'hot spot' stays in the
same place as the Pacific Tectonic Plate moves slowly northeast towards Japan and has created all of the Hawaiian
Islands. There are actually 132 islands (8 major islands and 124 smaller islands, reefs, atolls and shoals) in the
Hawaiian Island Chain that have been created by that one hot spot over hundreds of millions of years. The chain runs
1,600 miles (2,560 kilometers) from the oldest formation, the Kure Atoll in the northwest, to the Big Island of Hawaii in
the southeast. Eight main islands are considered part of the State of Hawaii: Ni'ihau, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Maui,
Koho'olawe, Oahu, the Big Island of Hawaii. Ni'ihau and Koho'olawe are very tiny islands and are not accessable to the
public without permission. Kauai, the oldest of the main accessable island and it began forming almost 6 million years
ago, and stopped erupting only 4.2 million years ago!
When were each of the Hawaiian Islands created?
Scientists estimate the islands were formed:
Kauai: between 3.8-5.6 million years ago.
Oahu: Waianae between 2.7-3.4 million years ago.
Oahu: Koolau between 2.2-2.5 million years ago.
Molokai: West 1.8 million years ago.
Molokai: East between 1.3-1.5 million years ago.
Maui: West between 1.15-1.3 million years ago.
Maui: Haleakala 0.8 million years ago.
Hawai'i: Kohala Mt. less than 1 million years ago.
Hawai'i: Pu'u Wa'awa'a 0.4 million years ago.
What is the total length of the coast line for the state of Hawai'i?
General Coastline 664 statute miles and this includes lengths of general outline of seacoast not including Niihau or
Molokai which we did not find information on.
Hawai'i, Big Island 266 miles
Kauai 90 miles
Lanai 47 miles
Maui 120 miles
Oahu 112 miles
Kahoolawe 29 miles
Data per the Hawaii County Databook 1995
What is each islands nick name and why is it called that?
Hawai'i - The Big Island because it is the largest of all the islands.
Kauai - The Garden Island because it is the wettest and greenest of all the islands.
Lanai - The Pineapple Island because it was a private island once owed by Dole to grow pineapples.
Maui- The Valley Island because it has two mountain masses separated by a valley.
Oahu - The Gathering Place because about 3/4 of Hawaii's people live on this island.
Molokai - The Most Hawaiian Island because per capita it has the most people of Hawaiian ancestry living on it. Molokai
is also known as the Friendly Island due to the hospitality it's residents typically extend to visitors.
Kahoolawe - The Uninhibited Island because it is so small and offers very little resources to inhabit it. It was used as a
bombing target by the US until 1994.
Niihau - The Forbidden Island because it is a privately owned island and only invited guests are allowed on it.
What is the official state flower for Hawai'i as well as the official flower for each of the Hawaiian Islands?
The official State flower for Hawaii is the endemic Yellow Hibiscus hibiscus brackenridgei, known as the pua aloalo.
Hawai'i - Red Ohia
Kauai - The Mokihana Berry
Lanai - Kaunaoa, a yellow and orange air plant
Maui- Pink Lokelani aka Pink Rose
Oahu - Yellow Ilima
Molokai - Kukui Blossom
Kahoolawe - Hinahina
Niihau - rather than a real flower White Pupu Shells which are only found on the shores of Niihau are their official
How high are the volcanoes?
All of the Hawaiian Islands are made from several volcanoes ranging from a few feet above sea level to the tallest
volcano in the islands, Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai'i which stands 13,796 ft above sea level (plus another
18,000 feet below sea level!). Another tall volcano located on the Big Island is Mauna Loa which stands 13,680 ft.
Because of erosion (after a million years of rain, wind and waves) some volcano craters are only a hundred feet above
sea level. (That’s about as tall as a coconut tree) Hanauma Bay had 1/3 of its' volcanic crater fall into the ocean during
an earthquake and filled with sea water. Now it is a popular snorkeling spot on Oahu, a marine preserve teeming with
sea life. The lowest crater has to be Molokini. A small island south of nearby Maui, Molokini rises a mere 45 ft at its'
highest and forms a thin crescent shaped island excellent for snorkeling and diving.
Does taking lava really give you bad luck?
You might be tempted to take some lava home from your Hawaiian vacation as prized keepsakes but beware that this
will anger ‘Pele’ the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Pele is probably the most well known of the legendary Hawaiian
demigods. She creates and destroys with fire. Pele has a quick temper and takes offenses seriously. There are several
traditions concerning Pele, the best known of these is about lava rocks. Since Pele created the islands the lava rock is
like her flesh or a piece of her. It’s said that misfortune will befall anyone who removes lava rock away from Hawaii. This
also includes black sand, which is pulverized lava rock. There is a large display at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park of
lava rocks sent back to Hawaii by visitors who have had bad luck since taking them home. Letters of apology also on
display accompanied the rocks begging Pele for forgiveness. If you would like to return lava rock you have taken from
any Hawaiian Island you can return it to Pele by mailing it to: Headquarters, Volcanoes National Park, Volcano, HI 96785
Why do some beaches in Hawaii have black, green, gray, or red sand?
In Hawai'i there are white sand, black sand, gray sand, green sand, and red sand beaches, but not all types of sand are
found on each island. The color depends what the sand was created from. In Hawai'i the term black sand beach is used
only for beaches with a high concentration of grains of black volcanic glass. The black volcanic glass is created by
molten lava flows entering the cool ocean causing the glassy rinds to shatter. True black sand beaches are only found
in a few locations on Maui and the Big Island. There are beaches on the Big Island and the other Hawaiian Islands that
appear black in color but they only have a small percent, a small pocket, or trace amounts of black volcanic glass and
they are not true black sand beaches. Green sand beaches are created from grains of a semi-precious gem called
olivine. White sand beaches are created from bits of shells, calcareous algae, sea urchins, and coral. Gray sand
beaches are created from gray basalt. Red sand beaches are created from grains of sand that are high in iron content.
When the iron oxidizes it turns red. The beaches range from powdery soft to sharp shards depending on the erosion
that occurs in the area.
What is the significance behind what ear a flower is worn behind?
If you are married or "taken" the flower should be worn behind your left ear. An easy way to remember this is it is the
flower is worn on the same side as a wedding ring is worn. If you are single the flower should be worn behind the right