Hawaii is a dream destination for many people in the United States and around the world. Whether it’s your first trip to Hawaii or you’re a regular visitor who makes it a point to give back on every visit, there’s always something new to see.
But these beautiful islands have a long history outside of the touristy things you may know, and it’s important for travelers to Hawaii to understand six key things.
1. Hawaii was once ruled by royalty
Prior to statehood, Hawaii was an independent nation known as the Kingdom of Hawaii, complete with kings and queens. One of the most notable is King Kamehameha the Great who, amid a time when many chiefs were fighting for power, established a unified monarchy across the islands.
Hawaii was sovereign from 1810 until 1893 when the kingdom, then ruled by Queen Lili’uokalani, was overthrown by American and European settlers. After 60 years of being a US Territory, Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959.
2. The Hawaiian sovereignty movement is alive and well
Going from an independent, sovereign nation to being part of the US caused major problems for native Hawaiians — particularly when it comes to land issues, education, and sacred cultural elements.
Most Native Hawaiians died from Western diseases or were killed in wars by the time Americans and Europeans arrived. After missionaries arrived and the monarchy was overthrown, the Kingdom of Hawaii and its native peoples suffered greatly. To this day, Native Hawaiians don’t have any formal recognition of their right to self-determination. This means they are not eligible for entitlements, funds, or benefits that other US Indigenous peoples, like Native Alaskans, are afforded. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a sovereignty movement, though.
3. We don’t have perfect weather year round
If you come to Hawaii on vacation, you might have a preconceived notion that we enjoy impeccable weather on the daily. Nothing but 365 days of sunshine, right?
We do enjoy amazing weather in Hawaii — usually. But how do you think the Aloha State got famous for its rainbows? It rains every day to some degree depending on your location on the island. Don’t be surprised if you experience a little rain during your visit and don’t complain about it. Instead, just look up at the sky and enjoy one of our vibrant, and famous, rainbows.
4. Hawaii has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country
Honolulu’s homeless epidemic made national headlines when the New York Times posted a 2016 story titled, “Aloha and Welcome to Paradise. Unless You’re Homeless.” Hawaii has one of the worst rates of homelessness in the nation, especially on the island of Oahu.
While recent efforts to house our homeless and to develop creative solutions to end homelessness have been made, the epidemic is still glaringly prevalent.
5. Bringing your mainland attitude to the islands won’t get you very far
Mainlanders have a certain reputation in Hawaii, and it’s not always a good one. Not only is Hawaii slower paced and more relaxed (sans Honolulu rush hour traffic), but the culture is different from the mainland.
Hawaii locals have lived here likely their whole lives, and their families have lived here for generations. Visitors come and go, but family, tradition, and culture are king here. Check your mainland attitude at the baggage claim, and spend your time in Hawaii listening and learning for an enjoyable stay.
6. To get respect, you must give it
Hawaii is known around the world for its aloha spirit and hospitality, but arriving here doesn’t entitle you to it.
The most gracious aloha is given when it’s received in turn. Ever hear that phrase, “Treat others how you want to be treated”? It’s the golden rule that will make the different between a so-so trip to Hawaii and a heartwarming experience of a lifetime.