Unit Study Supplement: Hawaii, U.S. 50th State
Hawaii is named after Hawai’I Loa, the legendary figure who discovered the islands. The state’s nickname, the Aloha State, reflects the Hawaiian way to say both “hello” and “goodbye.” A popular tourist destination, Hawaii is known for its breathtaking scenery and beaches (some with colored or black sand), surfing and whale watching, and pleasant weather.
Did you know that Hawaii is the only state with two official languages—English and Hawaiian—and that the Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters? Did you also know that Hawaii has its own time zone and doesn’t follow daylight savings? In this article you’ll discover more interesting facts about Hawaii, including historical facts about Hawaii, Hawaii history timeline, geography facts and more. Time4Learning members can download our list of PreK-12 interactive activities that align with your study of Hawaii. Here are just a few Hawaii facts for kids:
Hawaii Fast Facts
|Became a State
August 21, 1959
|Order it Joined the Union
Hawaii Historical Facts
The land of Hawaii has a rich history. From its amazing geological formation which we continue to witness today, to the people that first inhabited it and the flora that covers it.
Hawaii’s first people arrived from the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti. These two cultures brought their own traditions, such as a rich oral tradition based in myth and legend; practical knowledge of plants and animals; skill using bone, shell, stone, and wood; canoe-building; and navigation.
Although there was no written language, early Hawaiians used an elaborate calendar. They also designed athletic contests focused on warrior skills. Eventually the two cultures created new traditions, such as hula dancing, surfing, and the exchange of flowered leis.
Western contact in 1778 by British Captain James Cook brought disease to the native Hawaiians, decreasing their population significantly. Like its beginnings, Hawaii is still a melting pot of cultures with no one ethnicity as a majority. In other words, everyone in Hawaii is a minority!
Hawaii was ruled by kings from 1810 to the 1880’s, with Kamehameha as the first king. The king used European military technology and weapons in order to consolidate control over the islands. Led by members of the royal family, Hawaiians overthrew the kapu system of laws and punishments in 1819. This was followed by loss of faith in the old gods, interest in American and European ways, and literacy, opening the door for Christianity.
During the reign of Queen Liliuokalani in 1893, a group of American and European businessmen, part of her cabinet and known as the “Committee of Safety,” led a military coup and overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom. Three-hundred Marines from the USS Boston, which was anchored in the harbor, were involved.
Although US President Grover Cleveland wanted to restore the monarchy, his successor, President William McKinley viewed Hawaii as a strategic military power. Due to nationalism resulting from the Spanish-American War, McKinley was able to urge the annexation of Hawaii in 1898, and it became a US territory in 1900. Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959.
Read the Hawaii history timeline below to learn important historical facts about Hawaii in the order they occurred:
400-500People from the Marquesas Islands rowed about 2,000 miles and settled on the islands
1000Tahitians rowed over 2,500 miles to settle on the islands
1778First explored by British Captain James Cook
1779Captain Cook is killed by Hawaiians after he attempted to take a Hawaiian chief hostage.
1810Kamehameha became the first king of Hawaii
1819Overthrow of kapu system of laws and punishments
1820First group of Christian missionaries arrived from the US
1840King Kamehameha III was forced to accept a written constitution by a powerful minority
1848King Kamehameha III was forced to accept the Great Mahele, a division of lands, guaranteeing private property ownership
1850King Kamehameha III proclaimed Honolulu as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii
1875Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, a free-trade agreement between Hawaii and the US, was signed (supported by King Kalakaua)
1887Reciprocity Treaty was renewed, giving the US exclusive rights to establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor
1887Bayonet Constitution was forced upon King Kalakaua by the Honolulu Rifles, limiting the powers of the king and allowing suffrage for wealthy (American and European) residents
1893Military coup overthrew Hawaiian kingdom after Queen Liliuokalani threatened to abolish the Bayonet Constitution; American sugar planter, Sanford Ballard Dole, became president of the new provincial government
1898US annexed Hawaii, under President William McKinley
1900Territorial government is established
1908Large influx of immigrants arrive from Japan, Korea, Philippines, Portugal and Puerto Rico
1941Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, bringing the US into World War II
1959Hawaii became the 50th state in the US, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower
1961Future 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama is born in Honolulu
1990Democrat Daniel Akaka became the first US senator of Hawaiian descent
1993US President Bill Clinton apologized for America’s role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom
Bring history and geography to life with Time4Learning’s interactive online social studies curriculum for grades 2-12.
Hawaii Geography Facts
Now that you have mastered some interesting facts about Hawaii’s history, let’s explore the state’s geography. The “Big Island” experiences 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones, from periglacial ice to tropical, wet desert. The tropical region and rich soil of Hawaii Island allows for the growth of Kona coffee beans, the only coffee produced in the US. Another wet region, Kauai’s Mount Waialeale, has been considered the rainiest place on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of around 400 inches!
One of the most fascinating facts about Hawaii is that it is the only state whose landmass is still growing. The islands sit on a geothermal “hot spot” that is located deep under the surface of the ocean. As the giant rocky slabs of the earth’s crust (tectonic plates) move over the hot spot, the rock is turned to magma. The magma gushes upward, hits sea level, and adds landmass to Hawaii every day. Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano located on the Big Island, continuously erupts. Each year, its lava increases the land of Hawaii by over 40 acres!
Because Hawaii is 2,000 miles away from any other place (including California), it has developed unique flora and fauna. The land is covered by thousands of tree species and flowering plants.
Hawaii has a significant bird population that includes the nene (state bird, a goose), pueo (Hawaiian owl), and noio (tern), and the waters are home to monk seals (state animal), lizardfish, reef triggerfish called the “Humuhumunukunukuapuaʿa” (state fish), and hawksbill turtles. Thanks to government restrictions, there are no snakes on any of the islands!
The geography of Hawaii is most evident, however, in its amazing scenery. Like Alaska, Maine, and Vermont, Hawaii has banned billboards, allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the spectacular views uninhibited.
Read through the following Hawaii geography facts. Print out the map of Hawaii provided below and add these items to the map.
- The only native mammal is the Hawaiian hoary bat. The other mamma;s were brought to the islands.
- Hawaii is an archipelago of 137 islands covering 1,500 miles of the Pacific Ocean.
- The capital, Honolulu, lies on the southeastern section of the island of Oahu.
- The island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands.
- The Kauai Channel lies between the islands of Kauai and Honolulu.
- The Alenuihaha Channel separates the islands of Maui and Hawaii.
- Hawaii’s highest point is Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet above sea level, located in the north-central part of the island of Hawaii.
- Mauna Loa, the second highest point at 13,677 feet above sea level, is also located on the island of Hawaii just south of the center.
- Puu Ulaula, the highest point on Maui, is 10,023 feet above sea level and can be found near the southern shore of the eastern part of the island.
- Mt. Waialeale is the highest point on the island of Kauai. It is 5,148 feet above sea level and is found in the center of the island.
- The lowest point in Hawaii is at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, at sea level.
Hawaii State Map
Download our FREE Hawaii state map printable. Use it as a coloring page or use it to plot the state’s geographical features.
Activities for Children in Hawaii
Learn more fun facts about Hawaii through field trips! Homeschoolers in Hawaii can go island hopping to see some of the state’s unique places. Out-of-towners can also join in on the fun with the field trip ideas below:
- Dole Plantation (Oahu): Visit the site of the former 1950s fruit stand. Entry to the Plantation grounds is free, and you can enjoy free activities like a pineapple cutting demonstration and a fish-feeding pond. For a fee, take a ride on the Pineapple Express Train, or enjoy the Plantation Garden Tour or Pineapple Garden Maze. Take home a pineapple to enjoy!
- Haleakalā National Park (Maui): Visit the volcanic landscapes and sub-tropical rain forest. Explore the coastal Kīpahulu District and the mountainous Summit and Wilderness areas. Discover spectacular views at sunrise and sunset. Enjoy some free learning resources and curriculum materials and watch the calendar for free admission days.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii): This park extends from sea level to 13,677 feet above sea level and encompasses two of the most active volcanoes in the world. Take a driving tour on the Crater Rim Drive or the Chain of Craters Drive. See Steaming Bluff and Sulphur Banks. Whether you can visit or not, enjoy the free curriculum materials on the park’s website.
- Honolulu Zoo (Oahu): Meet local animals as well as animals from around the world. Visit amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles living at the zoo through a self-guided tour or sign up for zoo camp, after-hours tours, and educational workshops. Access the web lesson instructor guides for some distance learning.
- Iolani Palace (Oahu): Visit the only royal building on US soil, the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii from King Kamehameha to Queen Liliuokalani. It was built in 1882 by King Kalakau and has been restored since then. Walk the palace grounds including Grand Hall, State Dining Room, Blue Room, Throne Room, the King and Queen’s suites, the Music Room, and the Imprisonment Room and learn the history of Hawaii. A virtual tour is available for those who cannot visit in person, and educational materials are available, such as a guide for upper-elementary teachers.
- Sea Life Park (Oahu): Visit native fish, sharks, turtles, and sea lions. Enjoy encounters with dolphins and rays. Watch the shows, experience the touch pools, and listen to one of the many lecture-based or non-lecture-based talks and programs. End the day with a traditional luau, including pre-dinner activities and an all-you-can-eat Hawaiian feast. Camps and overnight programs are also available.
Looking for more things to do with your kids in Hawaii? Check out this post full of field trip ideas in Hawaii!
Hawaii Freebies and Deals for Homeschoolers
While visiting Hawaii can be expensive, there are ways to discover facts and information about Hawaii for cheap. There are plenty of beaches (all beaches in Hawaii are public!) where you can swim, sail, kayak, dive, or simply relax, and there are also many places to go hiking, biking, or simply relaxing. Below are just a few ideas:
- Diamond Head State Monument (Oahu): Hike up an extinct 300,000-year-old volcanic crater. Navigate uneven rocks and 99 steps at the end. See views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean on the 1 ½- to 2-hour hike for a $1 fee per person.
- Hanauma Bay (Oahu): Visit this ecosystem that was formed within a volcanic cone. Watch a video about marine life, conservation, and safety, and then rent some snorkeling equipment or make a picnic on the beach. Enjoy the beautiful blue waters and marine life. There is a minimal fee for adults, and children 12 and under (and Hawaiian residents) are free.
- Honolulu Museum of Art (Oahu): Often called the most beautiful museum in the world, it was built in 1927 and mixes the architecture of China, Spain, and Hawaii. European/American art collections include Matisse, Gauguin, van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. Special tours and art making workshops are available. Admission to those under the age of 18 is always free. In addition, the third Sunday of each month, Family Sunday, provides free admission for everyone. Hawaii residents are free the first Wednesday of every month.
- Mauna Kea Observatories (Hawaii): Witness the world’s most productive astronomy through 12 separate nonprofit observatories. Get involved through the free monthly community event, the Kama’aina Observatory Experience. Watch for the annual AstroDay, which brings together over 30 science, education, and community organizations for exhibits, activities, demonstrations, and entertainment, and the annual Solar System Walk, featuring a scaled model of the solar system. If you cannot visit, learn about astronomy by following the latest news from the Mauna Kea Observatories.
- Pearl Harbor (Oahu): Learn about the history of Pearl Harbor at one of four sites: the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which includes the USS Arizona, the USS Utah, and the USS Oklahoma Memorials; the Battleship Missouri Memorial; the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, where you can walk among fully restored aircraft within the WWII-era hangars of Ford Island. There is no charge for admission to the Visitor Center or any of the Museums.