THE STORY OF THE EIGHT HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
Our 2023 lūʻau theme, "Hoʻolauna Hawaiʻi," can be directly translated to "Introducing Hawaiʻi." From mauka to makai, our home is rich in Native Hawaiian culture and the stories of our ancestors, perpetrating the values that have been passed down for generations. As people have flocked to our shores in hopes of immersing themselves in aloha and the Hawaiian culture, a romanticized and commercialized version of Hawaiʻi has become what is plastered upon magazines and advertisements. With this, visitors are given preconceived notions about Hawaiʻi, and our land - our ʻāina - has suffered the consequences. With our lūʻau theme "Hoʻolauna Hawaiʻi," we hope to guide you through a journey across the islands, presenting Hawaiʻi through our eyes - the true Hawaiʻi - providing you with a little more Hawaiian history and the unique aspects of our eight Hawaiian Islands.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
The Hawaiian Islands were first settled in around 400 C.E. when Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands traveled to Hawaiʻi by canoe. The early settlers were highly skilled farmers and fishermen living in small communities ruled by chieftains who battled each other for territory.
In 1778, the first European, Captain James Cook, set foot in Hawaiʻi, landing on the island of Kauaʻi. Years later when he revisited the Islands, Cook was killed in a confrontation with the Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
Between 1791 and 1810, King Kamehameha conquered other rulers and united the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom.
In 1820, the first Christian missionaries arrived followed by Western traders who brought diseases that devastated the Hawaiian population. When Captain Cook arrived there were over 300,000 Native Hawaiians, and by 1853 the native population was down to 70,000.
In 1893, American colonists controlled Hawaiʻi's sugar-based economy and began to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy, imprisoning the last Hawaiian ruler, Queen Liliʻuokalani in her own palace and forcing her to abdicate. Hawaiʻi was made a U.S. territory in 1900 and became the 50th state in 1959.
FACTS ABOUT EACH OF THE EIGHT MAIN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
HAWAIʻI ISLAND ("THE BIG ISLAND")
Island Flower: ʻŌhʻia Lehua
Island Color: Red
Interesting Facts: The Big Island is home to four volcanoes, Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, & Kohala, with Kilauea erupting as we speak. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, also lives on Hawaiʻi Island and is the tallest mountain on Earth when measured from base (sea floor) to peak at more than 33,500 feet. Additionally, the famous Merrie Monarch hula competition/festival is held on the Big Island in Hilo each year.
MAUI ("THE VALLEY ISLE")
Island Flower: Lokelani Rose
Island Color: Pink
Interesting Facts: Maui is the second largest Hawaiian Island, and approximately 10,000 humpback whales migrate to Maui each year. Maui is also home to one of the three volcanic atolls on earth, Molokini Crater, and is nicknamed "The Valley Isle" because of itʻs unique geography, with an interior sitting only 200ft above sea level while being flanked with mountains.
LĀNAʻI ("THE PINEAPPLE ISLE")
Island Flower: Kaunaoa, an orange/yellow airplant
Island Color: Orange
Interesting Facts: Lānaʻi is referred to as "the pineapple isle" because it once was home to a plantation that produced 75% of the world's pineapples. The island is about 145 square miles and is home to only 3,200 residents, being the smallest inhabited Hawaiian island. For visitors, Lānaʻi is a luxury private island experience because it is very untouched. Billionaire Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp. owns 98% of Lānaʻi. The state owns the remaining 2%.
KAHOʻOLAWE ("THE TARGET ISLE")
Island Flower: Hinahina kū kahakai
Island Color: Grey
Interesting Facts: Kahoʻolawe is 11 miles long and during World War II it became a bombing range for the military, making it completely uninhabitable. Access to the island is restricted to the public because of the danger of unexploded ordnance, but in 1990 after years of protest, the live-fire military exercises finally stopped. Since then, there have been many initiatives to restore native habitats and coastal water quality, and they are slowly making progress!
MOLOKAʻI ("THE FRIENDLY ISLE")
Island Flower: Pua Kukui Nut
Island Color: Green
Interesting Facts: Molokaʻi is the birthplace of hula. It was also a leprosy colony from 1866-1969, due to the worldwide leprosy epidemic that spurred countries to quarantine victims out of fear. King Kamehameha V designated Molokaʻi as a sanitarium for lepers, and over 8,000 people were exiled to the island during this time.
OʻAHU ("THE GATHERING PLACE")
Island Flower: ʻIlima
Island Color: Yellow
Interesting Facts: Oʻahu is home to Hawaiʻi's capitol, Honolulu, and is the most populated Hawaiian Island at around 1 million residents, even though it is not the biggest island. In World War II, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (puʻuloa) which is in Honolulu. Additionally, ʻIolani Palace on Oʻahu is the only royal palace in the United States.
KAUAʻI ("THE GARDEN ISLE")
Island Flower: Mokihana Berry
Island Color: Purple
Interesting Facts: Kauaʻi is the oldest Hawaiian Island, at 5.1 million years of age. Additionally, it is home to one of the wettest places on Earth, where each year Waialeale gets an average of 450 inches of rain. The island's beautiful Na Pali Coast has served as a backdrop for several Hollywood productions, in fact, over 70 movies were filmed on Kauaʻi, ranging from Jurassic Park to Bay Watch.
NIʻIHAU ("THE FORBIDDEN ISLE")
Island Flower: Pūpū Shell
Island Color: White
Interesting Facts: Niʻihau is the westernmost Hawaiian island. Elizabeth Sinclair purchased Niʻihau in 1864 and itʻs private ownership has passed down to her descendants, the Robinsons. It is considered "forbidden" because the owners have promised to preserve the island from the outside world, and therefore you can't visit the island unless you are a resident or invited guest.