The Best Islands of Hawaii

Hawaii is the newest of the 50 states of the United States and the only U.S. state that is entirely an island archipelago. It’s located in the central Pacific Ocean to the southwest of the continental U.S., southeast of Japan and northeast of Australia. It is made up of over 100 islands, however, this are  main islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands and only seven are inhabited.

Hawaii (the Big Island)

The island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, is the largest of Hawaii’s main islands with a total area of 4,028 square miles (10,432 sq km). It is also the largest island in the United States and like the other islands of Hawaii, was formed by a hotspot in the Earth’s crust. It is the most recently formed of Hawaii’s islands and as such it is the only one that is still volcanically active. The Big Island is home to three active volcanoes and Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The highest point on the Big Island is the dormant volcano, Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet (4,205 m).

The Big Island as a total population of 148,677 (as of 2000) and its largest cities are Hilo and Kailua-Kona (normally called Kona).

Maui

Maui is the second largest of Hawaii’s main islands with a total area of 727 square miles (1,883.5 sq km). It has a population of 117,644 people (as of 2000) and its largest town is Wailuku. Maui’s nickname is the Valley Isle and its topography reflects its name. There are lowlands along its coasts with several mountain ranges that are separated by valleys. The highest point on Maui is Haleakala at 10,023 feet (3,055 m). Maui is known for its beaches and natural environment.

Maui’s economy is based mainly on agriculture and tourism and its main agricultural products are coffee, macadamia nuts, flowers, sugar, papaya, and pineapple. Wailuku is the largest city on Maui but other towns include Kihei, Lahaina, Paia, Kula, and Hana.

Oahu

Oahu is the third largest island of Hawaii and with a total area of 597 square miles (1,545 sq km). It is called the Gathering Place because it is the largest of the islands by population and it is the center of Hawaii’s government and economy. Oahu’s population 953,307 people (2010 estimate). The largest city on Oahu is Honolulu which is also the capital of the state of Hawaii. Oahu is also the home of the largest U.S. Navy fleet in the Pacific at Pearl Harbor.

Oahu’s topography consists of two main mountain ranges that are separated by a valley as well as coastal plains that ring the island. Oahu’s beaches and shops make it one of Hawaii’s most visited islands. Some of Oahu’s top attractions are Pearl Harbor, the North Shore, and Waikiki.

Molokai

Molokai has a total area of 260 square miles (637 sq km) and it is located 25 miles (40 km) east of Oahu across the Kaiwi Channel and north of the island of Lanai. Most of Molokai is also a part of Maui County and it has a population of 7,404 people (as of 2000).

Molokai’s topography consists of two distinct volcanic ranges. They are known as East Molokai and West Molokai and the highest point on the island, Kamakou at 4,961 feet (1,512 m) is a part of East Molokai. These mountains, however, are extinct volcanoes that have since collapsed. Their remains give Molokai some of the highest cliffs in the world. In addition, Molokai is known for its coral reefs and its south shore has the world’s longest fringing reef.

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