What is Hawaii Known for? Discover Hawaii’s Famous Facts, Foods, and Landmarks

A true representation of paradise on Earth, Hawaii is home to stunning beaches, vibrant cultural traditions, lush rainforests, and awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes. Whether you’re a long-time resident or are considering a visit to the islands, you may be wondering: what is Hawaii known for?

From hidden gems to iconic landmarks and beloved foods, Hawaii is famous for so much. Read on to find out why living in Hawaii is so appealing, whether you’re buying a home in Honolulu, renting an apartment in Maui, or just passing through.

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Unique island culture and traditions

Hawaii’s culture is a rich tapestry woven from its Native Hawaiian heritage and the influences of immigrants from around the world. The islands are known for their spirit of aloha, which encompasses love, compassion, and respect.

Key cultural highlights

  • Hula dance: A traditional Hawaiian dance accompanied by chant (oli) or song (mele), hula is a celebration of history and storytelling through movement.
  • Lei making: Symbolizing love, friendship, and celebration, leis are garlands of flowers given on special occasions.
  • Luaus: These festive gatherings include traditional Hawaiian food, music, and dance, offering a glimpse into local customs and hospitality.

Must-visit tourist attractions

Hawaii is renowned for its breathtaking attractions, from natural wonders to iconic landmarks and cultural hotspots.

  • Waikiki Beach, Oahu: This famous beach is known for its golden sands, surf-friendly waves, and bustling nightlife.
  • Haleakalā National Park, Maui: Home to the world’s largest dormant volcano, this park offers stunning sunrise views and diverse ecosystems.
  • Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Big Island: Witness the awe-inspiring power of active volcanoes, including Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.
  • Nā Pali Coast, Kauai: Known for its dramatic cliffs and lush greenery, this coastline is best explored by boat or helicopter.
  • Pearl Harbor, Oahu: A historic site featuring the USS Arizona Memorial, honoring those lost during the attack in 1941.

Fun fact: Did you know that Hawaii is home to the only royal palace in the United States? ʻIolani Palace, located in Honolulu, served as the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchy until the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

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Delicious Hawaiian cuisine

Hawaii’s cuisine reflects its multicultural heritage, offering a unique culinary experience. From fresh seafood to traditional Hawaiian dishes, the food scene is a delight for the senses.

Iconic Hawaiian dishes you must try

  • Poke: This dish of marinated raw fish, often tuna or octopus, is a local favorite and a must-try.
  • Loco Moco: A hearty meal featuring rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and brown gravy.
  • Spam Musubi: A popular snack consisting of a slice of Spam on rice, wrapped in nori (seaweed).
  • Kalua Pig: Traditionally cooked in an imu (underground oven), this succulent pork dish is a luau staple.
  • Shave Ice: A refreshing treat with finely shaved ice, flavored syrups, and often topped with sweetened condensed milk or azuki beans.

Vibrant music and arts scene

Hawaii’s music and arts scene is a vibrant reflection of its diverse cultural influences. The islands are known for their unique musical styles and artistic expressions.

Iconic Hawaiian music and arts

  • Slack-key guitar: A fingerstyle guitar genre unique to Hawaii, known for its sweet, melodic sound.
  • Ukulele: This small, four-stringed instrument is synonymous with Hawaiian music and culture.
  • Hawaiian chant: Traditional chants, or oli, are an important part of Native Hawaiian cultural practices.
  • Featherwork: Intricate feather lei and capes, known as “ahu’ula,” are crafted using feathers from native birds and hold significant cultural importance.
  • Polynesian Tattooing: Traditional tattooing, or “kakau,” incorporates intricate designs and motifs that hold cultural and spiritual significance, representing one’s identity and connection to the land and ancestors.

Top venues for music and arts

Fun fact: The Hawaiian alphabet only consists of 13 letters: A, E, I, O, U, H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and the glottal stop, called ‘okina.

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Top-notch higher education

Hawaii is home to prestigious universities known for their diverse academic programs and commitment to research and community service.

Leading educational institutions

  • University of Hawaii at Mānoa
  • Hawaii Pacific University
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu

Stunning natural resources

Hawaii’s natural landscape is incredibly varied, featuring beaches, mountains, rainforests, and volcanic formations. The islands are also leaders in renewable energy, particularly geothermal and wind power.

Five great state parks in Hawaii

  • Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, Big Island: Known for its white sand beaches and excellent swimming conditions.
  • Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu: Offers a hike to the summit of this volcanic crater with panoramic views of Waikiki and Honolulu.
  • ʻIao Valley State Monument, Maui: Famous for its lush valley and the iconic ʻIao Needle, a towering rock formation.
  • Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai: Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” it’s known for its dramatic views and hiking trails.
  • Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island: Home to the stunning 442-foot Akaka Falls, surrounded by lush rainforest.

Fun fact: Hawaii is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands.

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Being a sports haven

Hawaii’s diverse landscape and favorable climate make it an ideal destination for sports enthusiasts of all kinds. From surfing to hiking, the state offers a wide range of outdoor activities.

Popular sports and activities

  • Surfing: Hawaii is the birthplace of modern surfing, with iconic breaks like Pipeline and Waimea Bay attracting surfers from around the world.
  • Hiking: Trails range from coastal paths to challenging mountain hikes, including the famous Kalalau Trail on Kauai.
  • Outrigger canoeing: A traditional Hawaiian sport that involves paddling a canoe with an outrigger for stability.
  • Golf: Hawaii boasts world-class golf courses with stunning views, including Kapalua in Maui and Turtle Bay in Oahu.

Popular Hawaiian phrases

Hawaii is not just known for its stunning landscapes and vibrant culture, but also for its unique language and colloquial expressions. Here are some popular Hawaiian phrases that capture the essence of the islands:

  • “Aloha spirit” – More than just a greeting, “aloha spirit” embodies the Hawaiian values of love, compassion, and hospitality.
  • “Mahalo” – Meaning “thank you” in Hawaiian, “mahalo” is an expression of gratitude and appreciation.
  • “Pau hana” – After a long day of work or activities, it’s time for “pau hana,” which means “finished work” in Hawaiian.
  • “Aina” – The land, or “aina,” holds great significance in Hawaiian culture.
  • “Hang loose” – A gesture and expression that embodies the laid-back, relaxed vibe of Hawaii.
  • “Pupus” – Appetizers or snacks, “pupus” are a staple of Hawaiian gatherings, whether it’s a beach picnic or a backyard barbecue.
  • “Talk story” – In Hawaii, “talking story” is more than just a conversation; it’s a chance to connect, share experiences, and build relationships.
  • “Ono grinds” – Delicious food is a cornerstone of Hawaiian culture, and “ono grinds” refers to tasty, satisfying meals.
  • “Shaka brah” – The shaka sign, accompanied by “brah” (brother), is a common greeting and gesture in Hawaii.

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More things Hawaii is known for

  • Environmental conservation: Hawaii is committed to preserving its unique ecosystems and natural beauty, with numerous conservation programs and initiatives.
  • Cultural festivals: Events like the Merrie Monarch Festival celebrate Hawaiian culture through hula, music, and art.
  • Astronomy: The clear skies atop Mauna Kea make it one of the best places in the world for astronomical observations, hosting numerous observatories.
  • Unique wildlife: Hawaii is home to many endemic species, including the Hawaiian monk seal and the nēnē (Hawaiian goose).
  • Marine life: The surrounding Pacific Ocean offers incredible snorkeling and diving opportunities, with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine species.

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