Fun Facts I Learned in Hawaii

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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.

Chinaman's Hat, Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii

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.

Hawaii, Honolulu, Oahu, Waikiki Beach, surfing
Surfboards at Waikiki Beach.

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.”

Hawaii, Oahu, Kaneohe, Kualoa Ranch,Ka'a'awa Valley
Ka'a'awa 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.

Honolulu, Hawaii

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.

Hawaii, Oahu, Kaneohe, Kualoa Ranch
The Kualoa Ranch with the Ko'olau mountain range behind it.

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.

Hawaii, Honolulu, Oahu, Waikiki Beach, beaches
Waikiki Beach

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.

Hawaii, Oahu

Have you been to Hawaii? What sorts of random and interesting things did you observe there?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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40 Comments on “Fun Facts I Learned in Hawaii

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  1. Great article. I love stumbling on Hawaiian information just a tad off the beaten path. Hope you visit again soon. Let us know-maybe we can show you a few lesser known places. ~Teraisa

      Thanks! And I definitely hope to visit Hawaii again soon, too.

        Send a message when that time comes-I’m on O’ahu…

    No billboards and no snakes, this place sounds perfect! Enjoyed this post and the photos.

      Hawaii is definitely “paradise” by a lot of definitions of the word. Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed the post.

    I never knew that Hawaii bans billboards. What a great idea! I appreciate places that protect the very thing that draws visitors in from turning into a generic it-looks-just-like-anywhere-else destination.

      Yes, I can definitely appreciate it, too. Hawaii is an interesting place. On the one hand, parts of it are as touristy as you can get. And then, on the other hand, you have people fiercely protecting the “naturalness” of the state.

    Cool facts – I hate snakes another of a long list of positives that makes me realllllyyyy want to go to Hawaii!

      It seems like Hawaii’s lack of snakes is a real plus for most people! I still say you guys should find a way to fit Hawaii into your trip…

    I love that they are protecting their natural beautiful from being destroyed with advertising and tacky fast food chains, if only more places would follow suit.

      I agree. I hope they can continue holding out this way. Brigham Young University, which owns the Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore of Oahu, wants to build new hotels up there to entice more tourists to visit that part of the island. The locals are really pissed about this, and often posts signs and hold protests to “keep the country country.” It’s interesting. I probably should write about it.

    You mean we can go for bush walks without having to worry about being bitten by snakes? Hell yeah!

    I was a little surprised by the Hawaiians ambivalence towards their nationality. One tour guide was really passionate about the sugar industry and how Hawaiians were taken advantage of by us mainlanders. Maybe she was just one semi-hostile person but some of the things she said were unknown to me and made sense for her case.

      It’s not uncommon to run into some of this hostility toward mainlanders (and tourists in general) in Hawaii. The friend I was visiting warned me that if I went to any of the non-touristy beaches, I might get angry remarks from the locals about being a white girl on their beach. I didn’t actually experience any of this, but I’m told it does often happen. Native Hawaiians are really protective of what they consider to be “theirs.”

    Love the pictures, Hawaii looks fantastic. I remember my parents talking about the wild chickens when they went there. And I really like the fact they don’t have Billboards there… those things are unsightly.

      Thanks, Alouise! Hawaii was great. The random chickens were admittedly a bit weird to see at first, but I, too, really love that they ban billboards!

    Great pics, that one of the Ka’a’awa Valley looks like something from Jurassic Park!

      Funny you should say that about Ka’a’awa Valley, Scott…. Because it IS where Jurassic Park was filmed!! Haha. I actually went on a mini “movie sites” tour there, which I’ll be writing about in another post soon!

        really? wow, and I haven’t seen that movie in forever.

          Yes, really! The scenery is pretty memorable, though. And absolutely STUNNING in person! (Check back Wednesday for the post!)

        I went on that mini tour as well. I remember Jurassic park movie quite well. Especially the part where the father and the two kids hid under the log during a stampede. That log is still there and my imagination was going crazy as I laid under it myself for a picture. I really enjoyed that tour. Also giant dinosaur foot prints are still out there too,,

          Yup, a pretty fun place to visit if you’re a movie fan!

    Beautiful article & gorgeous pictures! I’m sharing the “no snakes” part with my husband, and maybe he’ll book us a trip. The McDonald’s part reminded me of Sedona, AZ, where the McDonald’s is the stone color with green arches to blend with the scenery.

      Thanks, Kerry! The “no snakes” bit is really nice, especially if you’re freaked out by the slithering things like a lot of people are. I personally don’t mind them, but I always find it interesting to visit places that don’t have them!

      Cool about the McDonalds in Sedona!

    It’s exact reasons like this why I don’t roll my eyes anymore at people who don’t have passports. Where else in the world can you travel from snow, travel for 12 hours and be in paradise and still be in the same country?

    Did you go to the Bishop Museum in Hawaii? One of my favorites! It was there, I learned that Maori and Hawaiians came from the same lineage, which is why their language (at least spelling and pronunciation) are similar. And it was there that I also learned that Maori and Aboriginals came from two totally different places:-).

    Posts like these are getting me all excited for my trip to The Big Island, in like 6 months:-).

      Yeah, the U.S. really is a great country to travel in! I can’t wait to see more of it this summer.

      And no, I didn’t make it to the Bishop Museum! I was always too busy, and never really wanted to sacrifice time outdoors for time inside a museum. I’ve heard it’s great, though. And, yes, Hawaiians and Maori are very close in a lot of things, right down to some of the foods they traditionally eat!

    Thanks for sharing! I ended up grabbing a ticket for around $750 – a little higher than I was shooting for but not too bad, I suppose. I never knew Hawaii was billboard and snake deficient. Looking forward to my trip like never before after that good news!

      $750 still isn’t too bad, assuming you’re flying from somewhere that’s not the West Coast. I got my $650 deal back in October, and I know prices in general have gone up a bit since then! You’ll love Hawaii.

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