Even though Hawaii is still a part of the United States, it's easy to feel like you're headed to a completely different country when you travel there.
For one, it's a group of islands out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For two, it takes a bit of time to get there (I personally had over 12 hours of travel time on the way there, with just one layover). And, for three, you find things in Hawaii that you won't find anywhere else in the U.S.
Whenever I travel somewhere new, I enjoy learning and picking up little tidbits about the place to share with others back home. These aren't necessarily amazing historical facts or impressive cultural details — just random observations that strike me as interesting.
Here are some of my favorite fun facts about Hawaii:
Fun things I learned about Hawaii
Everyone speaks with an accent. I always used to be amused when I would watch movies set in Hawaii and hear characters talk in “surfer dude” speak. I thought it was just a stereotype being enhanced for comedic effect. But it's not; that accent totally exists, and it's not just surfers who speak in it. Most of the locals I talked to — or even just people who have lived in Hawaii for a number of years — definitely have this laid-back accent that I always had thought was made up.
Hawaiians often prounounce the letter “w” as a “v.” So you know how most of us say “Hah-why-ee?” Yeah, it's actually supposed to be “Hah-vai-ee.” And it's also supposed to be spelled like this: Hawai'i.
Words have far too many vowels. I thought New Zealand was bad when it came to hard-to-pronounce names. But Hawaii gives it a run for its money, with words that have double the amount of vowels as consonants. And, in Hawaii, you pronounce all the vowels. Take, for example, Kaaawa Valley. Yes, that's right — it has 4 “a”s. It's actually written like this: Ka'a'awa Valley. And you pronounce it: “Kah-ah-ahva Valley.”
There are no billboards in Hawaii. Hawaii is one of four U.S. states that ban billboards (Alaska, Maine and Vermont are the others). You won't see any massive advertisements along the sides of highways or hovering above downtown businesses here. In 1927 — more than 20 years before it even became a state — Hawaii banned billboards, so that they wouldn't detract from the state's natural beauty.
No red roof for you, McDonalds. Going along with prohibiting billboards, certain cities in Hawaii have even gone so far as to prohibit McDonalds restaurants from having the traditional red roofs that they're so known for. In Kaneohe, for example, where the city is flanked on one side by the Pacific and the other by the Ko'olau Mountains, the McDonalds has an unassuming green roof, and lacks the signature gigantic golden arches in order to better “blend in.”
There are 2 mountain ranges on the island of Oahu. I know I should have probably known this, since all the Hawaiian islands were formed by volcanic eruptions, and volcanoes are generally mountains… but I had no idea Oahu had such impressive peaks. Usually you associate the lush green mountains with other islands — Kauai'i or Mau'i, for example — but I was pleasantly surprised to arrive on Oahu to find towering jagged mountains. The ones on Oahu don't have snow on them, but they're still beautiful.
The sun is STRONG. It must just be something about the South Pacific, because I noticed it in New Zealand, too. But the sun in this part of the world seems to shine much stronger than it does where I come from. Even if you don't plan to be out in it long, slather on the sunscreen for the first few days, unless you want to be charred a lovely shade of lobster red.
Forget about seasons. Because it's a group of islands, and because of its proximity to the Equator, Hawaii basically has one climate year-round: balmy. Average temperatures on Oahu very rarely move outside the 70-80 degree F range, and it's always a bit humid. But it's not all just sunshine and heat; you can expect an errant rain shower frequently, too. Luckily, though, these showers generally move through quickly, or just hover over one part of the island. It can be cloudy in Waikiki, but perfectly clear 40 miles away at the North Shore.
There are no snakes in Hawaii. Being a collection of islands in the middle of the ocean, most of Hawaii's fauna was actually brought there by the various peoples who settled the islands. Somehow, nobody brought snakes. These days, you can face very hefty fines for trying to smuggle snakes of any sort into Hawaii because the effects they would have on the native plants and animals would be devastating. In lieu of snakes, Hawaii just has tons and tons of geckos. Much cuter.
Hawaii does have mongooses. One of the introduced species in Hawaii is the weasel-like mongoose. In the 1880s, when sugar cane plantations sprung up all over Hawaii, the rat population (also introduced) increased exponentially. The mongoose — a hunter of rats — was brought in in hopes that it would take care of the rat problem on the islands. But no one thought about the fact that mongooses are active during the day, and rats are largely nocturnal. Meaning that now the mongoose has just turned into a pest.
Roosters and chickens roam free. I can't tell you how many wild roosters — we're talking colorful, “cock-a-doodle-do”-ing birds — I saw just wandering aimlessly all over the island of Oahu. I was a bit confused at first, but soon realized that this is completely normal, and has been this way for decades.
Have you been to Hawaii? What sorts of random and interesting things did you observe there?
Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!