Hawaii is a paradise on earth for holidaymakers, with its spectacular sand beaches and colorful nightlife. This group of volcanic islands in the Pacific is a US state. The capital Honolulu is a fascinating city, with its skyscrapers visible from a great distance, exclusive shops, street markets, art galleries, and magnificent hotels in front of which ten-door limousines symbolize wealth and ostentation. Boutiques sell shirts and other garments with designs of large flowers and the word Aloha. The restaurants specialize in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Indian cuisine.

Hawaii is a chain of tropical islands stretching northwest to southeast, the main islands being Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii itself which is the largest of all. They are the most isolated human settlements on earth in terms of distance from the nearest land. Yet air travel has made it possible to reach Hawaii from the mainland in just a few hours, and today ten million tourists visit the islands every year, most of them American and Japanese.

Holidaymakers think first of O’ahu and Waikiki Beach, where there is a statue of Duke Kahanamoku with his surfboard. The sport of surfing was a longstanding tradition in Hawaii and celebrated Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku is commemorated as the father of the modern sport now enjoyed by millions of people. Born in 1890, he gave surfing demonstrations in the United States for many years. He was also a legendary swimmer, winning five Olympic medals and breaking several world records.

The islands have their own distinctive flora and fauna, including no less than 850 species of plant, and sixty birds found nowhere else in the world. The climate is delightful all year round, at around 20 degrees Centigrade in the winter months and 28 degrees Centigrade during the summer. Instead of the regular seasons found elsewhere, Hawaii has what is known as the mango, coconut, and pineapple seasons.

Modern Hawaiian cuisine is a combination of Chinese, Japanese, Philippine, and Korean cooking, and sweet potatoes, pineapples, and avocados are the most common ingredients. The best way to get to know Hawaiian culture is to visit the Polynesian Cultural Centre, where you can learn about the cultures of the pre-European Polynesian inhabitants who came here from Fiji, the Marquesas Islands, Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), and Samoa, and their contributions to the local cultures of the seven inhabited islands.

One of the most fascinating events is the colorful Procession of Canoes on the small river which winds through the cultural center against a background of lush tropical vegetation. The canoes glide like swans through the water carrying groups of Hawaiians dressed in colorful traditional costume dancing to music with a fast rhythm.

The indigenous population of Hawaii has dwindled to ten thousand today. The first Polynesian settlers are thought to have arrived around 500 AD, and around 1000 AD a new wave of settlers from Tahiti arrived, bringing a feudal culture based on a strict caste system, and sophisticated nautical skills. Captain Cook discovered the islands in 1778 and they were named the Sandwich Islands after the British Naval Minister of the time. Captain Cook happened to land in Hawaii on a feast day dedicated to the Hawaiian god Lono, whom they believed would return to earth one day, and by further coincidence sailed into the sacred harbor of the god.

Cook was assumed to be Lono and he and his crew were treated as deities until a year later one of the seamen fell ill and died. Realizing they were ordinary mortals after all the Hawaiians slew them all.

During the reign of the Hawaiian king Kamehameha (1782-1819) all seven inhabited islands were united under his rule for the first time.

In 1820 the missionaries arrived, and in 1839 the Kamehameha dynasty was compelled to agree to the constitutional government under pressure from the British Navy. In 1849 the United States was granted free access to Hawaiian ports, and in 1893 Queen Liliuokalani was deposed by a group of American settlers, who established a republic and demanded annexation to the United States. Although President Cleveland rejected this demand at first, in 1900 Hawaii became a territory of the United States.

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