Quick Guide to the Islands of Hawai’i

July 25, 2018

When you think of Hawai’i, what comes to mind first?  Volcanoes, hot sun, ocean, sand, palm trees – the usual things.  But what exactly ARE all the islands that make up Hawai’i and are they even all inhabited?  Are they hard to get to, or is this something that is an everyday occurrence for those who live there?

Read on and I will give you a quick guide all about the islands of Hawai’i and what you need to know if you are going to visit!


What ARE the Islands of Hawai’i

The Hawaiian islands are made up of an archipelago (a group of islands or chain of islands) of eight major islands, some atolls (ring-shaped coral reef encircling a lagoon), several smaller islets and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean.  They are 1,500 miles long from the island of Hawai’i to Kure Atoll. They were previously known as the ‘Sandwich Islands’, so named by James Cook. The current name comes from the name of the largest island, Hawai’i Island.

The Main Islands

Hawai’i – This is the largest island of all of the eight and is also known as ‘The Big Island’.  It is over 4,000 square miles and boasts a population of 185, 079. This is generally the island people think of when they talk about going to the Hawaiian islands.

Maui – Another well known island, Maui is also called ‘The Valley Isle’ and is over 720 square miles and has a population of 144,444.

O’ahu – This island is almost as big as Maui and is known as ‘The Gathering Place’, with a size of 596 square miles and a population of 953,207.  Yes, a larger population than either Hawai’i or Maui, even though it is significantly smaller!

The other islands comprising the eight main islands are Kaua’i, ‘The Garden Isle’ which is 552 square miles and has a population of 66, 921; Moloka’i, ‘The Friendly Isle’ which is 260 square miles with a population of 7,345; Lana’i, ‘The Pineapple Isle’ which is 140 square feet with a population of 3,134; Ni’ihau, ‘The Forbidden Isle’ which is 69 square miles with a population of 170; and, lastly, Kaho’olawe, ‘The Target Isle’ which is 44 square miles but has no population at all.

The Smaller Side

On the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, there are several smaller islands, atolls and reefs, although everything to the west of Ni’ihau are uninhabited.  These are Nihoa, Necker, French Frigate Shoals, Gardner Pinnacles, Maro Reef, Laysan, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Midway Atoll and Kure Atoll.


The number for the islands of Hawai’i (137) includes all minor islands and islets (very small islands) that are offshore of the main islands.  A few of these are Ford Island, Lehua, Ka’ula, Kaohikaipu, Manana, Mokolea Rock, Na Mokulua, Molokini, Mikoi’i, Moku Manu, Moku Ola (Coconut Island, Hawai’i), Moku o Lo’e (Coconut Island, Oahu), Sand Island and Grass Island.

Visiting the Hawaiian Islands

If you are thinking of visiting as a tourist or for a vacation, you would be best suited to stay on the inhabited islands, naturally the bigger islands with the higher populations.  There is beautiful weather there year round and it makes it even easier that Hawai’i is the 50th state of the United States, so if you are an American visiting you don’t even need to bring a different currency.

I hope you found this short guide about Hawai’i and the surrounding islands helpful!  Have you ever taken a vacation, visited or live there? If you have some advice to give someone who has never been, please comment below and tell us about it!

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