The Islands of Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands are a large archipelago located in the North Pacific Ocean. The eight major islands – Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, Niihau, Kahoolawe, and Hawaii – are most commonly associated with the state. But the Hawaiian Islands also include numerous atolls, smaller islets, and seamounts that extend as far as 1,350 miles northwest of the “main” islands.
The largest of the individual islands is Hawaii. “The Big Island,” as it’s sometimes called, is over 4,000 square miles and encompasses 63% of the archipelago’s combined land mass. It’s the largest island in the United States, although it’s only the 75th largest in the world. The biggest island in the world based on landmass, Greenland, is over 200 times larger than Hawaii.
Despite ranking third in size behind Hawaii and Maui, Oahu is the archipelago’s most populous island. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, the population of Oahu is approximately 1.016 million, or about 70% of the state’s total population. It’s also home to many of the state’s most famous locations, including the capital of Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, Waikiki, and the North Shore.
Cultural And Ecological Treasures
Located about 2,400 miles from the mainland U.S., Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth. Its remote location makes it home to a number of unique species. To help protect the region’s biodiversity, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was established in 2006. Papahānaumokuākea is the largest contiguous fully protected conservation area under the U.S. flag. Its total area is larger than all of America’s National Parks combined.
Located to the northwest of the main islands, Papahānaumokuākea supports a wide variety of coral, fish, birds, marine mammals, and other flora and fauna, many of which are unique to the area. The islands and shallow waters provide habitats for several rare species including the threatened green turtle and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.
Papahānaumokuākea also holds great cultural significance to Native Hawaiians. One of the islands located in the area, Mokumanamana, has the highest density of sacred sites in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Because of its many important features, Papahānaumokuākea was designated as a mixed (natural and cultural) World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 30th, 2010.
Hawaii has a number of interesting claims to fame among U.S. states. For example, its residents have the longest life expectancy of any state in the nation at 81 years. California follows closely behind with an average life expectancy of 80.8 years. Its residents also hold an interesting food-related record. The people of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the U.S.
As previously mentioned, the island chain is home to many ecological wonders. Hawaii is the only U.S. state with a tropical rainforest and the only one that is rabies-free. It’s also the state with the greatest number of endangered species.
A number of measures have been taken to help protect the habitat of the islands and preserve their natural beauty. For one, some animals are prohibited in Hawaii, including snakes, hamsters, and ferrets. It’s also one of only four states that have outlawed billboards, along with Alaska, Maine, and Vermont.
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