THE HAWAII ISLANDS
Located 2,400 miles from the west coast of the United States, the Hawaii Islands form an archipelago of 19 islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean.
The Hawaii Islands became the 50th American state in 1959. The island of Oahu is the most populated of all the islands and has the capital, Honolulu, while Hawaii island itself is simply known as Big Island.
The islands were formed as a result of volcanic activity and some of the volcanoes in the southern parts are still active with lava flowing into the sea and increasing the size of some islands every year.
Indeed, 15 miles off the Big Island's southeast coast an underwater volcano, Lo'ihi, is erupting and rising from the sea bed. It will, one day, form another island.
The islands are diverse, with mountains and gorges, rainforests and arid scrubland, built up tourist resorts and sleepy villages.
The mountains on Hawaii are tall - the extinct volcano of Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii makes it the fifth highest point on any island in the world and the highest peaks can be snow covered in winter.
The Hawaii Islands are a famous exotic holiday destination and tourism has grown steadily since the Second World War. Tourist resorts are mainly found on the western coasts of the islands as these do not get the north east trade winds and are consequently sunnier and drier.
When to go
Although on a tropical latitude, the temperature and humidity on Hawaii are moderated by the surrounding ocean. At low levels the temperature is fairly constant with lows in the mid 60s in winter and highs in the upper 80s in summer.
The rainfall however varies widely across the different parts of the islands depending on altitude and whether they are leeward (west) or windward (east) facing.
There are in fact 12 separate climate zones on the big island alone while Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, on the island of Kauai, has the second highest average annual rainfall on Earth.
Hurricanes, although rare, are more likely between June and September.
How to get there
There are a large number of airlines with daily flights from the mainland United States to Honolulu International Airport on the island of Oahu — including Hawaiian Airlines, Aloha Airlines, Continental, United, Northwest, Delta and American.
There are also International Airports on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island and flights from Honolulu to the other islands are also available.
Where to stay
As a tourist destination, the accommodation is plentiful, generally excellent quality and with a range of price tags to suit all budgets.
In Honolulu, the majority of tourist hotels are beachfront and in the Waikiki district. Most hotels and tourist resorts are found to the south of the island.
In contrast, Oahu's north east coast is more rural and relatively secluded with accommodation being mainly rental homes.
The other islands offer a huge choice of accommodation too, from bed and breakfasts to world-class resorts.
What to see
Hawaii is a real mecca for beach holiday enthusiasts. The beach at Waikiki is world famous as is the surf, with many international surfing competitions taking place every year.
The range of activities and visitor attractions is diverse and extensive from simple pleasures on the beach to more expensive excursions such as a helicopter tour of the islands.
There are a number of whale watching trips too - the humpback whales migrate from Alaska every year. Or you can visit the dolphins at the Sea Life Park in Oahu.
Other marine life is best viewed while snorkelling and the island of Molokini has the clearest water in the Hawaii Islands. Organised trips and snorkelling lessons are widely available.
Kilauea volcano on the Big Island is still an active volcano where you will see steaming vents and lava flowing into the sea.
Much history can be found on the islands too
from the remains of the ancient place of worship at Pu'uomahuka he'iau to Pearl Harbor and the National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific in Honolulu.
Each year there are a number of world-renowned festivals and sports events. The colourful Aloha Festivals take place at different times on all the islands and the Ironman Triathlon World Championships takes place in Kona every October.
Wallis and Futuna
The Federated States of Micronesia
Northern Mariana Islands
Torres Strait Islands
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