Hawaii, the Aloha State, is located in the Pacific Ocean. The state’s name comes from the Hawaiian word for “love” or “farewell.” Its nickname, the Paradise of the Pacific, is a reference to a late-19th-century poem by Mark Twain.

The first settlers of Hawaii were Polynesian, from the Marquesas Islands. Archaeological evidence suggests that they arrived sometime between A.D. 1000 and 1200.

By the 19th century, Hawaii had become an important provisioning spot for American whaling ships and a stopover for sugar cane shippers. In 1875, a trade reciprocity treaty tied the island nation to the United States, and by the end of the century, American planters controlled the country’s economy and politics.

Several events contributed to the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and establishment of a republic. Her efforts to establish a stronger monarchy caused tension with American Protestant missionaries, who encouraged the Hawaiian people to merge their traditional religions with Christianity. The planters also sought control over the nation’s political leadership and economy. They believed that annexation by the United States would remove an oppressive tariff on their sugar.

Annexation efforts stalled until the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, which made it urgent to bring the island nation into the United States. While some favored annexation as the path to citizenship for Hawaiian Polynesian, Chinese and Japanese residents, others worried that it would impose burdensome labor practices on the planters.

Today, Hawaii is a vibrant and beautiful state with something for everyone. Visitors can explore Oahu’s historic districts and learn about Hawaii’s military past at Pearl Harbor (the USS Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Battleship Missouri Memorial are all located here). The cosmopolitan city of Honolulu offers dining and shopping, as well as the famous Waikiki Beach.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island, to hike its famous volcanoes, including the 10,000-foot peak of Mount Kilauea and its famed lava tubes, or take an exhilarating helicopter tour of the island’s spectacular landscapes. On the North Shore, surfers can test their skills against world-class waves.

On the smaller island of Lanai, you can explore a lush tropical forest and see the picturesque Puupoe Rock, which juts from the ocean like a heart. The island’s beaches are perfect for a relaxing day sipping fruity cocktails or getting pampered with a massage at a luxurious resort.

The most populated island of the state is Oahu, where you can explore historical sites and museums at the Polynesian Cultural Center and check out Pearl Harbor, which is a site of national mourning. You can also visit the beautiful and serene Waimea Canyon or the breathtaking Akaka Falls. Other popular activities include snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, swimming, scuba diving and sailing. There are plenty of opportunities for birding and whale-watching, too. The state’s diverse terrain has led to the formation of endemic flora and fauna, so don’t forget your camera! The islands are a geological hotspot, formed by volcanic activity over a mantle plume.

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