As you probably know, Hawaii is called The Aloha State. The word “aloha” actually has more than one meaning. It’s commonly used when greeting someone or going away from them, but it means more than “hello” or “farewell.” It also connotes love and affection. But more than that, its meaning is inextricably linked with the spirit of the Hawaiian people and the idea that life should be lived with respect, love, and gratitude for family, friends, the earth, the sea, fish and animals, and anything else that brings goodness to people. To live with the spirit of Aloha means that a person spreads joy, peace, and respect to others and is grateful for the aloha given in return.
You don’t have to be Hawaiian to spread aloha. My son was once scolded and lectured (he was 4) by a Hawaiian woman who was offended that he used the word “aloha” when he greeted her, a stranger. In truth, my son was the one exhibiting the aloha in that encounter. The woman spread no joy, treated a small boy with disrespect, and showed her contempt for anyone not obviously of Hawaiian descent using a Hawaiian word. But that didn’t stop my son from continuing to greet people in that manner. And he found that most people did respond with aloha- with smiles, kindness, and gratitude.
So now that you know a little about the use of the word “aloha,” I’d like to tell you a bit more about the Hawaiian islands.
Hawaii is made up of eight major islands and hundreds of tiny uninhabited islands and atolls. The southernmost island is the Island of Hawaii, commonly called The Big Island. It’s where my new novel (available next Tuesday- woo hoo!), House of the Hanging Jade, is set. What makes the Big Island so fascinating are its climate zones- its mass contains almost every climate zone on earth. You can go from a polar climate (yes, it does snow in Hawaii!) to dry and arid to rainforest in a single day. The island also has a green sand beach (one of four in the world), and black sand beaches, too.
Moving north, you’ll see tiny Kaho’olawe, an uninhabited island which the US government used for target practice. There is always a cloud cover over Kaho’olawe. No one is allowed on the island without special permission, as there may still be unexploded ordinance on the island.
Next you’ll come to Maui. Also known as the Valley Isle, Maui is the home to Lahaina, a former whaling town and now a great place to stay, play, eat, and shop. Maui has the largest dormant volcano crater in the world, Haleakala. Seeing the sun rise over Haleakala is an unforgettable experience.
Not far off Maui’s western shore (just 9 miles!) is the island of Lanai, a sparsely-inhabited island with a population of just a few thousand. It’s commonly called the Pineapple Island, a nod to its important role in the history of the pineapple industry. It’s a dream destination for people who want quiet and calm- there are no traffic lights on the island!
North of Lanai and Maui is the Island of Molokai, which is probably best known as the place where a Hansen’s Disease settlement (often called a leper colony) was founded, just beyond the cliffs of Kalaupapa. Also called the Friendly Isle, Molokai is home to the world’s largest sea cliffs. Much of the population of Molokai are people of Native Hawaiian descent, and this is an island where Hawaiian culture thrives and lives on.
You can’t miss Oahu as you travel north from Molokai. Often referred to as The Gathering Place, Oahu lives up to its apt name. It is the most densely populated island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, as well as Pearl Harbor. It’s where you’ll find the only royal palace in the United States and where you’ll find major surfing championships along its legendary Banzai Pipeline.
North of Oahu is the Island of Kauai, or the Garden Isle. It’s a haven for people looking for spectacular mountains, valleys, rainforests, and otherwise stunning scenery. Kauai is home to one of the wettest spots on earth, Waialeale. Kauai is not as busy as the islands farther to the south, so it’s a great place to go if you want to relax and kick back without a lot of people around.
And finally, the last of the inhabited islands on your trip north through the archipelago is the Island of Ni’ihau, also called The Forbidden Island, a privately owned island with a population of under two hundred people. Visitors to the Hawaiian islands generally do not make the trip to Ni’ihau, as it is home to only Native Hawaiians. Its inhabitants speak Hawaiian and live without most of the conveniences we take for granted in the rest of the United States- including indoor plumbing, paved roads, cars, emergency services, and much more.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual tour of the Hawaiian Islands, and I hope your day is filled with the spirit of aloha which gives the islands their name.
Until next week,
P.S. There’s still time to support my Thunderclap for the release of House of the Hanging Jade! Click here to sign up- Thunderclap does all the work!