Tapping into Hawai’i


Apr 10, 2017

​As we mentioned, learning more about a destination before you visit is an important part of traveling responsibly. To help, we’ve collected some resources to familiarize you with Hawaiian culture, history, and economy, among other topics! Enjoy and we’ll see you in Hawai’i!

Sustainable Community Food Systems & Energy in Hawai’i

  • Hawai’i imports 90% of its food and exports 80% of its agricultural production.
  • Approximately 40% of Hawai’i is farmland.
  • There are about 7,500 crop and livestock farms in Hawai’i.
  • Hawai’i’s goal is to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045.
  • Devoid of indigenous fossil fuels and nuclear installations, Hawai’i depends on imported petroleum for about 78% of its energy needs. Coal, hydroelectric power, natural gas, windmills, geothermal energy, and sugarcane wastes fuel the rest.
  • Export crops (especially sugarcane and pineapple) dominate Hawaiian agriculture, which had farm receipts exceeding $553 million in 2005.
  • The islands of Hawai’i (Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai) are the only places in the United States where coffee is grown commercially; production in 2004–05 totaled 7.1 million lb (3.2 million kg). Pineapple has also become a substantial export crop with 215,000 tons produced in 2004, valued at $79.9 million, as well as macadamia nuts and tropical flowers. Production of taro (coco yam), used for making a native Hawaiian dish called poi, has also grown and  in 2004, 5.2 million lb (2.8 million kg) of taro valued at $2,808,000. Banana production in 2003 was 22.5 million lb (10.2 million kg), valued at $9.2 million; and 6 million lb (2.7 million kg) of ginger root valued at $5.4 million. For more information read here

History of Hawai’i

  • Ancient settlements of Hawai’i can be traced back to as early as 300 AD. Around 1200, Tahitian explorers began settling the area and cultivating food. Soon after the settlement of the Tahitians, social classes were formed around the noble lineage of Hawaiian kings. The kings were a line of native Hawaiians who ruled subdivisions of the islands of Hawai’i. 
  • The Western world learned of the islands in 1778, when an English Navigator, Captain James Cook, sighted Oahu. Contact with European sailors exposed the population to various diseases, liquor, firearms, and western technology. Within 40 years of Cook’s landing, one of the island kings, Kamehameha I, consolidated his power and established a royal dynasty which became known as the Kingdom of Hawai’i.
  • Soon after Kamehameha’s death, Protestant missionaries arrived and began to convert the population to Christianity. During this period, the kingdom soon did away with the feudal land system and established a public school system, newspapers, the first sugar plantation, and Honolulu as the state’s capital city. Diplomatic relations helped Great Britain, France, and the United States recognize the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Hawai’i but the increasing role of American colonists eventually led to the complete overthrowing of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893. 
  •  In 1898, Hawai’i became a territory of the United States but it was not until 1959, that Hawai’i became the 50th U.S. state.
  • To learn more about the history of Hawai’i, explore here.

Geography & Nature

The state of Hawai’i is an archipelago comprised of a chain of 132 islands, all of which are formed from the lava that submerged volcanic mountains have spewed in the past as the archipelago is positioned on top of a hot spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Hawaiian chain is only the visible portion of a series of massive volcanoes. Besides the eight major islands, the rest of the chain are inhabitable as they are islands consisted of rocks, or coral & sand.

  • The island of Hawai’i (known as the Big Island because its the biggest habitable island in the chain at 4,038 square miles), Maui, O’ahu, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, and Lana’i are the six major islands that people typically think of as the state of Hawai’i.
  • Kaho’olawe and Ni’ihau are the two other main islands that make up the archipelago. Kaho’olawe is considered the smallest of the major islands at 125 square kilometers and remains uninhabited due to the lack of freshwater and arid nature of the land. Ni’ihau is the smallest of the inhabitable islands but it is privately owned by the Robinson family of Kaua’i and has been nicknamed the “Forbidden Island.”
  • As a result of the moving water eroding the volcanic surfaces, Hawai’i is a state of rugged slopes and wide ranges in elevation with the highest point in Hawai’i reaching 13,796 feet into the sky and the lowest at sea level. This contributes to the difference in temperature as for every 1,000-foot increase (300 m) in elevation,  temperature decrease is about 3.5°Fahrenheit. Learn more about the geography here.
  •  The differences in temperature caused by elevation, pressure variations, rainfall, wind, and topography have created different climate zones, so Hawai’i boasts 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones; each with their own unique micro-ecosystem. Each of the Hawaiian islands is home to the four primary climates of desert, tropical rainforest, temperate and tundra climates. Depending where you are at on a particular island, the temperature can change dramatically.
  • Most of Hawai’i only has two seasons: Summer (kau in Hawaiian) runs from May to October and winter (ho’olio) runs from November to April. During the summer, the northeast trade winds approach the islands over cool waters and create the characteristic Hawaiian weather: breezy, sunny with some clouds; warm but not hot. In winter, these trade winds disappear, sometimes for weeks, allowing “invasions” of storms from the north and northwest.
  •  The average daytime summer temperature at sea level is 85º F (29.4º C) while the average daytime winter temperature is 78º F (25.6º C). Temperatures at night are approximately 10º F lower. To learn more about the climate, click here.

Popular industries in Hawai’i

  • Tourism, defense, and agriculture top as Hawai’i’s strongest industries. You can read more about this here.

Fun facts

  • Population: 1.42 million
  • Language: English, Hawaiian
  • Religion: Christianity 29%, Buddhism 9%, Judaism 8%, Other 10%, Unaffiliated 51%
  • Government / Politics: Constitutional republic
  • Currency: USD
  • Sports:  Hawaii has many traditional sports such as holua, spear catching, and surfing. More information here
  • Music: The rich music of Hawai’i is a unique mix of many influences with peaceful rhythms and poetic lyrics that celebrate island life. From reggae to slack-key and steel guitar, falsetto and “Jawaiian,” the musical culture of Hawaii is unlike any other in the world. More information here

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