May 03, 2016
Mokupuni o Hawaii: Paradise Of The Pacific
Floating peacefully, a brilliant colored floral lei on an azure sea, the Hawaiian Islands are a paradise immersed with a rich historical heritage, ethic diversity, fabulous food, breathtaking beauty, and an ever-evolving diversity of spectacular vistas and landscapes.
How Many Islands In the Hawaiian Island Chain?
Many visitors are surprised to discover there are a grand total of 136 Hawaiian “islands”, although only seven out of the 136 are inhabited. The remaining 129 are made up of small atolls (small coral islands encircling a lagoon), islets, rugged coral reefs, and undersea seamounts in the Northern area of the Pacific Ocean. An archipelago, the Hawaiian Islands (Mokupuni o Hawaii) extend more than 1,500 miles from the Island of Hawaii (Big Island) to the northern point, Kure Atoll.
Each of the 136 “islands” were formed by violent volcanic action under the earth’s causing them to rise to the surface from deep under the sea in the middle of the Pacific. The seven inhibited islands are: Hawaii (Big Island), Maui, O'ahu', Kaua'i, Molokai, Lanai, and Niha.
Hawaii (Big Island)
Known as the “Big Island” because it’s the largest in the chain of floating Pacific seascape and the largest island in the United States, the Island of Hawaii encompasses a total if 4,028 square miles. For visitors that enjoy running, rowing, hiking, swimming, surfing, and beach combing, there are tens of thousands of miles of pristine, challenging trails and countless miles of shoreline. Unless you are within sight of the shore, it’s hard to remember you are on an island. A drive around the island, with minimal stops, will take from dawn to dark. In fact, all the other islands could fit on the Big Island and there would still be land left over.
The most recently formed of all of the Hawaiian Islands, two of the three volcanoes of the Big Island are still active. Kilauea, with ongoing eruptions and lava flows, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The island’s highest peak, Mauna Kea, is dormant as is Mauna Loa. Mauna Kea, at 13,796-feet, is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its underwater base to the summit.
The Big Island has a resident population of 149,000 with the majority of the population residing in or surrounding the two main towns, Hilo and Kailua-Kona.
Known as the “Valley Isle,” Maui is the second largest of islands in the chain, with a total area of 727 square miles and a resident population of 111,644. Wailuku is the biggest town. Maui is renowned for white sand beaches, sparkling streams and waterfalls, fertile valleys, and majestic mountains. The highest mountain point, Haleakala, reaches 10,023 feet into the mist.
Size-wise, O'ahu takes third place with a total landmass of 596.7 miles. Known as the “Gathering Place” with 593,257 residents, Oahu has the highest population of all the islands and accounts for more than two-thirds of the residents of all the Hawaiian Islands.
City highlights include Punchbowl, Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor the Arizona Memorial site of the 1941 bombing attack, and historic Chinatown.
Honolulu, on O’ahu’s southeast coast is the capital of the state. Tiny Ford Island and the islands of Kaneoha Bay are located off the eastern (windward) coast of O’ahu.
Kaua’i, the fourth largest landmass at 562 square miles, is the oldest of the eight major islands. Made up of steep mountains, deep canyons and fertile valleys, Kaua’i presents a mountainous landscape, yet the highest point on the island is only 5,243 feet. Lihue is the largest town.
Molokai, a 260 square mile volcanic island divided by two major ridges running east to west, is composed of rugged coastlines and a dryer interior than the other islands. On a clear day, you can see Lani and Oahu, 25 miles across the Kaiwi Channel. The volcanoes of Molokai are dormant.
Lying 17.5-miles south west of Kauai across the Kaulahkahi Channel, with an area of 69.5 square miles, Nilhau is the smallest of the seven inhabited islands. Fewer than 50 people live on Nilhau.