Tag Archives: Hawaii

The Road to Hana


Seaside view along the Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

One of the most picturesque drives you can take in Hawaii or perhaps anywhere else in the world could very well be the road to the idyllic town of Hana on the island of Maui. The approximately 64 mile journey along the Hana Highway from Maui’s largest town of Kahului to Hana can take 2 ½ hours, provided you don’t stop along the way.  But you should stop by as many places as you can because the when driving to Hana, the goal should not be the destination, but the journey.

Plan on making your sure-to-be memorable journey–to and from one of the most famous places on Maui–a whole day affair.  Not only because there are a lot of things to see; but most of the road will be narrow and winding with more than 600 curves. There are 59 bridges along the way, while 46 of them can only be traversed by cars going in the same direction. The highway was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2001.

There are many interesting and scenic stops that you should make during your journey to Hana as well as after you pass the town. You can visit one of innumerable secluded waterfalls in a lush tropical setting made possible by abundant rainfall along the northern slopes of Haleakala. Some of the more notable waterfalls that you can see on the Hana Highway include:  Twin Falls at Mile Marker 2, Upper Waikani Falls or the Three Bears at Mile Marker 19, Hanawai Falls at Mile Marker 24 and Wailua Falls at Mile Marker 45.

There are a number of quiet and beautiful public roadside areas, such as the Kaumahina State Wayside Park, Wailua Valley State Wayside Park and the Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park. Stop at any one of these parks to take a break from your drive and enjoy some of Maui’s best places for leisurely strolls and relaxation.  In addition to waterfalls and parks, there are numerous scenic lookout spots as well as roadside stands where you can sample exotic fruits and other locally made food products.


View from a scenic lookout along the Hana Highway by Barry Inouye.

Other very notable places to stop include the Garden of Eden Arboretum and the Keanae Arboretum where you can see a large number of native plants and farm crops on display. You should also stop by the Kahanu Garden which is a part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Once used as a sugar plantation and pasture, the garden is now used to showcase Hawaiian plants, history and culture. The area is also home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau or temple which is one of the largest in all of Polynesia.

Once you get to the town of Hana, take the time to explore the sights and attractions for which the town has become famous for. One of the things you definitely do here is to head out to Wai’anapanapa State Park, which feature the black sand beach named Pa’iloa.  You can also visit the Wai’anapanapa freshwater caves which are good examples of anchialine pools, which are landlocked bodies of water, typically freshwater, with a subterranean connection to the ocean. Such pools are unique to places where there are aquifers within coastal bedrock formed by lava, as in the case of Hawaii.

Another must see place in Hana is the rustic and inventory-crammed Hasegawa General Store. The store sells almost anything and everything to the local Hana residents and visitors and has been a long-time part of local island lore and culture.

Don’t plan on just stopping in Hana as there is still much to see beyond this town. In Kipahulu, stop by the Palapala Ho’omau Church to visit the grave of one of America’s most famous aviators, Charles Lindbergh. In his latter years, Lindbergh and his wife lived in this part of Maui on a half time basis and loved it so much he opted to be buried here when he died in 1974. Another very famous attraction in the Kipahulu area is the Ohe’o Gulch or Seven Sacred Pools area. Here, you can find waterfalls, picturesque freshwater swimming pools, forest trails, waterfalls and a historic heiau.  This area, stretching down from Haleakala’s summit, was added to Haleakala National Park in 1969.


Seven Sacred Pools in Kipahulu by Barry Inouye.

Kangaroos in Hawaii

Hawaii has a wide range on animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world; but the Aloha State even has some that you would never think would be found here. One of those animals is the kangaroo. Yes, there are actually kangaroos in Hawaii. Technically, they are bush-tail rock wallabies, which are a type of kangaroo and look similar to their larger cousins, but are lot smaller. They sport large busy tails, stand less than 2 tall and weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. How the wallabies came to Hawaii and where they live in the Aloha State are explained here.

Hawaii’s kangaroos are located today in the higher, remote parts of Kalihi Valley, a section of Honolulu on Hawaii’s main island of Oahu. The last time they were surveyed during the 1990s, it was estimated that there were approximately 75 wallabies in this one remaining colony in Hawaii. The state has determined that, because the wallabies only eat vegetation that is readily abundant, they pose no threat to the environment or to anyone else for that matter. State law prohibits the hunting of the wallaby.

The wallaby came to Hawaii in the early 1900s as pets of Richard Trent who, according to newspaper reports, had a large private zoo at his residence in Alewa Heights, which is an area adjacent to Kalihi Valley. Richard Trent was wealthy self-made businessman who headed a local trust company and enjoyed displaying a wide range of animals in his private zoo, which included 3 wallabies that he had brought over from Australia.

However in 1916, dogs attacked the cage that housed the wallabies and broke the cage, killing one wallaby while letting two others escape into the surrounding woods. The fear was that, like rabbits, the wallabies would create a problem by proliferating beyond control in Oahu’s forests. Trent even called for a manhunt to track down the two escaping wallabies. However, fears that the wallabies roaming unchecked and endlessly breeding in Oahu’s wilderness areas never materialized.

Even though the population of wallabies eventually grew where there were colonies of Wallabies in a number of neighboring valleys, today Kalihi Valley is only place in Hawaii where the animals can be found today. One could speculate that other animals such as wild boars or stray dogs have been keeping the wallaby population on Oahu in check.

But don’t expect to see a wallaby on your next trip to the Aloha State and efforts to do so are discouraged as it would require trespassing into private property. Moreover, as the wallabies are very shy and solitary animals, it is extremely rare for anybody to actually view them in the wild. Occasionally, there are rare sightings of the animal, and when it is seen, it typically becomes a newsworthy media event.


Islands Off Oahu

Rabbit Island and Black Rock off of Makapu'u Point, one of the more prominent islands off Oahu.

Rabbit Island and Black Rock off of Makapu’u Point by Barry Inouye.

Visitors to Hawaii’s may wonder about the many and interesting-looking small  islands off Oahu. Some of these small islands have a unique shape and corresponding names that make them even more memorable when you. And one of them was even pictured in a famous television series of yesteryear.

Rabbit Island

Some may think that this island , located off of Makapu’u Point, is nicknamed Rabbit Island because its shape may remind you somewhat of a rabbit’s head; but it was called that because the island was once inhabited by, you guessed it, rabbits. The island’s true name is Manana which means buoyant in Hawaiian. John Adams Kuakini Cummins, who was a prominent member of the Hawaiian royalty and who also ran a nearby sugar plantation in Waimanalo, once tried to raise rabbits on the island in the 1880s. As one would expect from rabbit, they multiplied so profusely it threatened the fragile ecology of the island, which now serves as a seabird wildlife sanctuary. So in 1994, the rabbits were completely eradicated from the island. There is low lying island next to Rabbit Island called, Kaohikaipu or Black Rock but lacks the more colorful history of its neighbor.

Coconut Island

This island, called Moku o Loʻe in Hawaiian, is situated in the southeast part of picturesque Kaneohe Bay and was once featured in the opening shots of the long-running television series, Gilligan’s Island. This island was once totally owned or partially owned by a number of very wealthy individuals, including an heir to the Fleishman yeast company fortune. The island was used for a number of purposes, including a private secluded getaway, a rest and recuperation facility for the US Navy in World War II, a small resort club until it was totally purchased outright by the State of Hawaii in 1995 and used as an oceanographic research facility for the University of Hawaii.

Chinaman's Hat near Kualoa Beach Park.

Chinaman’s Hat near Kualoa Beach Park by Barry Inouye.

Chinaman’s Hat

You can find Mokoli’i Island, better known by its nickname, Chinaman’s Hat, right off of Kamehameha Highway fronting Kualoa Beach Park and the Kualoa Ranch estate. The island gets its name because its unique conical shape looks somewhat like a hat that used to be worn by Chinese men in the 1800s to early 1900s. The island has a legend that Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, had a sister, Hi’iaka, that slew a giant lizard into the ocean and Chinaman’s Hat is the remnant of that lizard’s back.

Puka Island

Off of Laie Point in the town of Laie, there are 5 small rocky islets. According to Hawaiian legend, this area was guarded by a giant lizard called Laniloa. Laniola was defeated by a great warrior Kana. Kana threw the giant lizard’s heads into five pieces off of Laie Point. Today, you can see the remains of Laniloa’s head in the form of 5 neighboring islets, one of which is referred by locals as Puka Island. Puka in Hawaiian means hole and Puka Island has a small arch in the middle of it, which was created by the tremendous wave action of the 1946 tsunami.

Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

Queen Lili'oukalani Gardens, one of the hodden hotspots on Oahu.

Waterfall at Queen Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden by Barry Inouye.

Like to take the path less taken whenever you travel? If so, the Gathering Place of Oahu has many such locales. Looking for a less crowded, out of the way attraction or some great eating place that only the local residents know about? If so, this Hawaiian Island definitely has them. Here are our recommendations for such hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden

Right outside downtown Honolulu in the middle of a secluded residential area is an idyllic botanical garden. It once served as the private park of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’oukalani. In an area shaded by monkeypod trees and Hawaiian plants, you can find a small but beautiful waterfall and pond. They are surrounded by a small but picturesque park. It’s a perfect place for a picnic and some scenic picture taking. But you’d better bring some mosquito repellent. Plus, parking is here very limited.

View from Diamond Head summit.

View from Diamond Head summit by Barry Inouye.

Diamond Head Lookout

Conveniently situated near Waikiki, there is a trail that starts from inside Diamond Head Crater that leads to its summit. The stimulating hike up the trail can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, which will take you through a winding maze of old World War I coastal defense fortifications, dimly-lite tunnels and steep, long stairwells. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded by some of the best commanding views of Waikiki and its surrounding areas. It’s also a favorite place to watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park by Barry Inouye.

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park on Tantalus

Located in the Makiki area of Honolulu, this state park offers arguably the best panoramic views of Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. To get here, you’ll have to drive through winding road lined with homes perched on hillside properties. After you see the gate to the park, drive past it up the hill. Once you reach the parking lot, walk a few feet to a covered observation area and then take in the majestic views of Hawaii’s largest and most vibrant city. As this place is higher up in elevation and blessed with cool winds, it’s a great place to hang out on a warm and humid summer day.

Ka’ena Point

Found on Oahu’s most extreme northwestern point, Ka’ena Point is an isolated spot on the island and features some of Hawaii’s most rare endemic coastal plant life. It’s also a great spot to view native Hawaiian seabirds as well as to catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal basking on the seashore. Be prepared to do a bit of hiking as the paved road ends as you get closer to the point. Be aware that you should not enter the water here as the surf is very rough and because there is a very dangerous rip current offshore.

Eat the Street

Since 2011, on the last Friday of each month from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the who’s who of Honolulu’s food trucks vendors converge in the Ka’akako area, which is conveniently located near Waikiki, to offer a wide range of prepared foods. The food types on display here range from your typical Hawaii plate lunch fare to fancy gourmet dishes. This monthly has grown to become one of the most popular food gatherings in town.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

This iconic hole-in-the-wall place that specializes in Hawaiian food has been prominently featured on national TV. Why? Because if you like Hawaiian food, many locals will tell you that this is the place to go. It’s located in the Kalihi area of town an older unassuming wooden building on School Street. However, be aware when you go here that parking is very limited and service is first come first served. Plus, it only opens from Tuesdays to Fridays until 7:30 pm.

Unusual Foods in Hawaii


There are, without question, many types of fine foods in Hawaii that you should definitely try during your next trip there. But on the other side of the spectrum, there may be some foods in Hawaii that are loved by many residents that may not be so appealing to the uninitiated. Here are some examples of some of these unusual foods in Hawaii that you may not want to try.


Many have heard of poi before, but for the most part, most visitors are most indifferent to it when they eat it at luaus. To some, poi which is the fermented mash of the taro root, has the consistency of paste and comes with little or no taste. On the other hand, many locals cannot enjoy Hawaiian food without having poi. To a number of people, poi, like most of the foods described here, is something you have to acquire a taste for.


Natto is a dish from Japan enjoyed by many local residents whose ancestors came from that country. Natto is fermented soy beans which become bound together with a translucent gooey substance during the fermentation process. To some this gooey substance that often comes with a pungent smell may look like something out of an outer space science fiction thriller. If you can get past the appearance and what some say smells like sweaty socks, you might be able to enjoy this dish.

Thousand Year Old Egg

This egg really isn’t a thousand years old, even though it looks like it. A somewhat popular Chinese dish in Hawaii, thousand year old eggs are preserved in a mix of ash, salt and lye which causes the egg, usually duck, to congeal and turn into a dark brownish black jelly like substance. After it’s hard-boiled, it’s usually eaten with congee, a traditional Chinese rice porridge.


Another egg dish, but this one comes from the Philippines and with a surprise in it. The eggs come with the developing embryo of a duck. If you can stomach eating a whole unhatched duck fetus with feathers on it, you may get to like it. Many resident of Filipino heritage in Hawaii swear by this dish, while others in the islands may swear at it.

Bitter Melon

his fruit come from a vine called Momordica charantia and is widely eaten throughout Asia as well as in the Aloha State. The fruit looks like a shriveled-up cucumber with lumpy ridges on it and is often eaten in Chinese and other Asian stir fried dishes. What make bitter melon unique and what simultaneously makes people like or hate is that it is really, really bitter–hence the name, bitter melon.

Hawaii’s Samoan Crab

The samoan crab.

The Samoan crab, known elsewhere as the mud crab or the mangrove crab, has a storied history in Hawaii. It has to be one of the strongest and most aggressive crabs to be found in the Aloha State. There are stories about the legendary strength of the Samoan crab, which reportedly can easily snap off a broom stick with its powerful claws when cornered. But on the other hand, it is one of the tastiest crabs you can eat and many in Hawaii consider a Samoan crab, especially if it is big, a prized catch. The largest Samoan crab ever to be caught in the Aloha State was well over 7 pounds.

Why it is called the Samoan crab in Hawaii and not the mud crab or mangrove crab as it is elsewhere? It’s simply because it was introduced into Hawaii in the mid 1920’s from Samoa with the intention of establishing commercial crab fisheries on Oahu, Molokai and the Big Island. The Samoan crabs were first introduced into Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, which was an ideal place to establish a foothold because it possessed the kind of environment, muddy bottoms, estuaries and mangroves, where they typically flourish. By the 1940’s, the Samoan crab population was firmly established throughout the main Hawaiian Islands in estuaries and even in areas far upstream. Today, there are even reports of Samoan crabs found as far as the freshwater reservoir of Lake Wilson in the town of Wahiawa, located in geographic center of the island of Oahu.

This crab can be found in abundance throughout the South Pacific, Oceania, Southeast Asia, India and parts of Africa. Supposedly it’s not that hard to farm and raise this crab on a large-scale basis and there are aquaculture operations overseas that do so. But here in Hawaii, while it is far from being an endangered species, some feel, because many so people enjoy eating their succulent white meat, that Samoan crabs are becoming increasingly more difficult to find and catch. To protect the species, State regulations prohibit the taking of Samoan crabs smaller than six inches across. Female Samoan crabs of any size cannot be harmed or harvested nor can any crab be speared. You must also have a commercial fishing license in order to sell Samoan crabs. So why aren’t Samoan crabs farmed and raised in Hawaii on a large scale as they do in other countries?  Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to this question at this time.

So how does one go about catching of these delectable crustaceans? Definitely don’t try to catch them by hand as you could lose one of your fingers. Instead, catch them with the time-tested method of using a crab net. Tie one of the smelliest baits you can find at the fish market, like the head of an aku or skipjack tuna, to the net, then throw the net with a line and floater attached to it from a bridge or boat in an estuarine waterway. Return in about 20 to 30 minutes to haul up the lines and hopefully you’ll catch a few of them. Throw back the undersized ones and all of the female crabs (i.e., the ones with the eggs carried on their undersides). Then repeat the process. Or it you don’t catch any, go back to the fish market where you bought the bait and buy the Samoan crabs there.

When first caught, the Samoan crab, with its greenish brown color and inhabiting waters that are typically not that inviting, doesn’t look particularly appealing or appetizing. But things change after you cook them in salted boiling water as the color of their shells changes from greenish brown to a more attractive looking light red. Unfortunately, like with most crabs, there is no easy and nice way to eat a Samoan crab. But your diligence and hard work will pay off as you break through the shell, peel off the scrumptious white meat and begin to eat it.

Some people even consider the crab mustard, the gooey, unappealing looking residue from the inside of the body cavity a delicacy. This part of the crab is called the hepatopancreas, which the crab uses to filter out toxins ingested from its surroundings. This is what scientists say makes eating other parts of the crab relatively safe even though crabs, like the Samoan crabs, do not usually live in habitats where the waters can be considered pristine. But this can’t be said for directly eating the hepatopancreas and the residue that surrounds it. So bear this in mind when you consider eating Samoan crab mustard, or for that matter any type of crab mustard.


Hawaii’s Exotic Fruits

Hawaii is home to an extremely wide range of exotic fruits. Some of the more well-known ones you already know about probably include: papaya, mango, apple banana, passion fruit and guava. But Hawaii even has exotic fruits that you might have heard of, but have never seen at your grocer or fruit stand back home, like mountain apple, dragon fruit, lychee and star fruit.

But amazingly, there are exotic fruits in Hawaii that even many long-time residents of the Aloha State might have never seen or heard of before, like poha, wi, strawberry guava and loquot. Whatever the case, all of these fruits are truly unique and have a taste you probably have never experienced before. So if you have an opportunity to try them on your next trip to Hawaii, you most certainly should take the opportunity to do so.

Poha – The poha, otherwise known as the cape gooseberry, is low lying shrub that produces a bright orange fruit, or berry, about the size of a cherry tomato. It is related to the tomatillo, but unlike the tomatillo, the poha has a tart and sweet taste making it ideal for fruit salads, preserves and pies. You can also enjoy this berry by simply popping it straight into your mouth. The poha berry is high in phosphorus, vitamins A, B and C as well as healthful bioflavonoids. You can find a number of places in Hawaii that sell delicious poha jams or jellies and are nice gifts to share with your relatives and friends back home.

The poha plant is native to South America but has been grown in places like England as well as in South Africa. Some speculate that the plant got its cape gooseberry name because it grew in the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa; while others speculate that it got this name because the fruit is “caped” with a translucent leathery-looking covering. It’s been reported that the first poha plant in Hawaii was grown on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1825. Today, a number of farmers grow poha; but you can also find it growing wild in many places throughout the State.

Strawberry Guava – This tree, a relative of the common guava, has been somewhat of a mixed blessing in Hawaii. While the tree bears what some consider nice tasting fruit, it is considered to be one of the most invasive trees ever introduced into in Aloha State. Imported into Hawaii in 1825 from Brazil, it tends to grow in a dense and think manner overcoming all surrounding plant life which makes it difficult to eradicate.

On the other hand, many in Hawaii consider the fruit of strawberry guava tree very tasty, whether it is eaten raw, made into a juice or used in preserves and desserts. Some also consider it as an attractive ornamental species; while others prize its wood for use in smoking meats and fish.

Wi – Pronounced “vee,” the wi tree produces a fruit similar to the mango with some claiming it tastes like a combination of a mango and an apple. In other parts of the word, it is called an ambarella and is said to be native to French Polynesia.

Some say wi is best eaten raw while the fruit still firm and, at this stage, can produce a refreshing juice. As in the case of the mango, the wi fruit can be made into jelly, relishes or used for flavoring sauces, soups and stews. It is reportedly a good source of iron.

Loquot – This tree, which produces clusters of oval shaped fruits, was first cultivated in Asia is said to be one of the most popular fruits in the world as it was grown throughout Asia, the Middle East, India, South America as well as in some parts of Europe. That being the case, it’s somewhat strange that most will never see it in neighborhood grocers in North America. The loquot, which was thought to be introduced into Hawaii by Chinese visitors in the late 1700’s is sometimes referred to as pipa in Chinese or biwa in Japanese and can be found as a backyard plant in a number of Hawaii residences.

Mature loquat fruit is orange in color, sweet in taste, a good source of vitamin A and can be found in a number of farmers markets and outdoor fruit stands in Hawaii. It is also a popular fruit with hotel chefs in Hawaii as a fresh fruit dish as well as an ingredient in various recipes.

The Story of the Hawaiian Cowboys

Many outside of Hawaii are probably unware of Hawaii’s rich cowboy and ranching traditions. Students of history should take note Hawaii had such traditions well before the American West actually had their own, which began later in the mid-1800s. Here is the rich and storied history of the Hawaiian cowboys.

Hawaii’s ranching and cowboy history began in the Waimea area of the Big Island of Hawaii, sometime in in the late 1700 to early 1800 time frame, when British sea captain George Vancouver gave five long horned cattle to the great Hawaiian king, Kamehameha, as a gift. As the cattle were not in good shape after a long sea journey, Kamehameha made it kapu (off-limits) to harm or possess the cattle and allowed them to roam as well as breed freely. But after two decades, the cattle had grown into thundering herds, often causing destruction and terror.

There was an urgent need to get these huge herds of wild cattle under control. Around 1815, King Kamehameha commissioned one of his haole (foreigner) advisors, John Palmer Parker who was a gun owner and good marksman, to shoot the cattle, salt their meat, tan their hides and sell them to passing ships. While Parker shot and killed many cattle, he was wise to keep some of the best ones for his own ranch. Parker later married the granddaughter of King Kamehameha, which later enabled him to acquire huge tracks of land to expand his ranching operations.

It is said that Parker hired Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) in 1832, who were expert horsemen with plenty of cattle ranching experience, to train his Hawaiian ranch workers to become cowboys. Others say that during the same time, King Kamehameha’s successor, Kamehameha III, while on a world tour, was so impressed with the skill of Mexican-Spanish vaqueros that he convinced the King of Spain send a number of them to Hawaii to train his people in ranching and horsemanship.

Perhaps it’s not as important to determine whether it was Parker, Kamehameha III or both who should be credited with bringing the vaqueros to Hawaii. What is probably more important from a historical perspective is that the vaqueros had significant impact on the Hawaiian economy back in the early to mid-1800s and shaped the history of the Waimea area of the Big Island as well as in other areas where there were large ranching operations in Hawaii. In part because of the excellent training provided by the vaqueros, Parker’s cattle business, known as Parker Ranch, flourished and eventually grew to become the largest privately-owned ranch in America.

But the vaqueros had an even longer lasting influence on Hawaii’s culture and arts that is still being felt today. These are traditions associated with the men whom the vaqueros trained and mentored, the Hawaiian cowboy or the paniolo. Under the vaqueros’ stewardship, the paniolos became outstanding horsemen and ranchers, even shocking the world when paniolos from Parker Ranch, including one named Ikua Purdy who was John Parker’s great-grandson, won a world rodeo championship in 1908. Since then these men have been forever commemorated in Hawaiian history as the “Hawaii Roughriders.”

Depending on who you speak to, some refer to the Hawaiian cowboy as the paniola, rather than paniolo. The word paniola is said to come from the so-called Hawaiianization of the word Spanish word Española (someone from Spain). The word was apparently changed to paniolo to match the masculine form of words in Spanish. While most people today use the term paniolo to refer to Hawaiian cowboys, some still prefer paniola as the word paniolo supposedly has some negative connotations.

In addition to mentoring Hawaiian men on horsemanship and ranching, the vaqueros shared their lifestyles and cultures with those whom they worked and lived with, particularly in the areas of music, clothing and traditions. Such traditions were very influential among the paniolos and many were passed onto future generations. Paniolo traditions, that still thrive to this very day, include the slack key style of guitar playing and the wonderful accompanying songs written for this musical style.

Today’s Hawaiian formal dress, still owes much to the influence of 19th century Spanish fashion. As examples, a man’s shirt that fits snugly around the waist and accompanying sash as well as a woman’s puffed sleeves and train of the holoku flowing gown are of Spanish origins. The Aloha State’s rich paniolo heritage is also readily apparent during major Hawaiian events, parades and festivals as in the case of the pa’u riders, who are women on horses ornately dressed in colorful flowing garments with both wearing beautiful leis.

When Hawaii Became the 50th State

There are still many people in Hawaii that still remember the days when Hawaii was not the 50th State, but only a territory of the United States. Hawaii is the country’s youngest state, entering the union in 1959. Before that, Hawaii had been a territory of the United State when it was annexed by it in 1898. Today, most people in Hawaii as well as on the mainland could never image Hawaii not being one of America’s 50 states.

A number of prominent politicians had sought statehood for Hawaii since the early 1900’s but a number of factors prevented it from happening. Initially, the large sugar and pineapple plantation owners in Hawaii, at the time, liked the less restrictive immigration policies associated with US territories as opposed to those associated with states. So these large plantation owners were influential in keeping Hawaii a territory for decades as they depended upon immigration to supply a steady stream of foreign laborers.

Despite being often debated before the US Congress, other factors made it difficult for Hawaii to become a state. Southern states were generally against Hawaii becoming a state, because if it did become one, it would be the first state in the nation where whites were not in the majority and were concerned that it would further the cause of racial desegregation and the civil rights movement in America. Some also questioned the loyalty of Hawaii’s residences because a predominant part of its population was of Asian ancestry, which was overriding concern especially during the early days of World War II. There were even local people in Hawaii that protested statehood on the grounds that Hawaii should have never been a part of the United States to begin with, claiming it was illegally annexed back in the late 19th century.

One of the key movers for Hawaii becoming a state was John A. Burns, who was elected as Hawaii’s territorial delegate to Congress in 1956 and who also later became governor of Hawaii. He successfully lobbied then Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, and then Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon B. Johnson, to push statehood for both Alaska and Hawaii in the US Congress though an act called the Hawaii’s Statehood Bill. Hawaii became a state after a local plebiscite vote, where over 96% of voters in Hawaii ratified the recently passed law, and after an official proclamation was made by then President Eisenhower on August 21, 1959.