How Many Islands Are in Hawaii? Discover the Full Hawaiian Island Chain

When you think of Hawaii, images of pristine beaches, swaying palm trees, and crystal-clear waters probably come to mind. But did you know that Hawaii is made up of a whopping 137 islands? Yes, you read that right! While most people are familiar with the main islands like Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island, there’s a whole archipelago of smaller islands, islets, and atolls waiting to be explored.

These lesser-known gems, such as Mānana and Mokoliʻi, add to Hawaii’s rich tapestry of natural beauty and cultural significance. Each island, no matter how small, contributes to the unique charm and allure that makes Hawaii a dream destination for travelers worldwide. So, let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of Hawaii’s islands, big and small.

8 Major Islands Of Hawaii

Hawaii’s archipelago includes eight major islands, each with unique characteristics and attractions. Let’s explore these islands one by one.

Big Island

Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island, is the largest in the archipelago. It spans over 4,000 square miles and features varied landscapes like active volcanoes and black sand beaches. Popular attractions include Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Kea, and Akaka Falls.


Kauai, often called the Garden Isle, is the fourth-largest island. Known for its lush landscapes, Kauai offers attractions like Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast, and Hanalei Bay. The island’s natural beauty makes it perfect for adventures and leisurely activities.


Maui, the Valley Isle, attracts visitors with its blend of resort charm and natural wonders. Highlights include the Haleakalā National Park, the scenic Hana Highway, and the beaches of Kaanapali. Maui also has vibrant cultural experiences and outdoor activities.


Oahu, known as the Gathering Place, is the third-largest island and home to Honolulu, the state capital. Oahu features iconic sites like Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor, and the North Shore. The island’s diverse attractions make it a favorite among tourists.


Molokai stands out for its unspoiled landscapes and serene environment. Popular sights include the world’s tallest sea cliffs at Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Halawa Valley, and Papohaku Beach Park. Molokai is perfect for those seeking a quiet retreat.


Lanai, the smallest publicly accessible island, offers luxury and seclusion. Known for its upscale resorts and off-the-beaten-path adventures, Lanai’s top attractions include Hulopoe Bay, the Garden of the Gods, and the Munro Trail.


Niihau, often called the Forbidden Isle, is privately owned and restricts access to most visitors. The island is known for its Hawaiian cultural preservation and pristine environment. Specially arranged tours offer a glimpse into its unique lifestyle.


Kahoolawe, the smallest of the eight major islands, is uninhabited and used primarily for cultural and environmental restoration. It has a history of military use and ongoing conservation efforts. Visiting Kahoolawe typically requires special permits.

Minor Islands Of Hawaii

Hawaii’s beauty extends past the eight major islands, encompassing 137 islands, including numerous minor ones. These smaller landmasses add to the archipelago’s charm and diversity.


Kaʻula, one of the minor islands, is known for its bird sanctuary status. Although uninhabited, it hosts several seabird species, making it a haven for birdwatchers.


Kāohikaipu lies near Oahu’s eastern coast. It’s a small volcanic island attracting adventurers interested in marine life and rugged landscapes.


Lehua, an islet near Niʻihau, forms part of a volcanic crater. It serves as a key nesting site for seabirds and offers snorkeling opportunities in its surrounding waters.


Mānana, often called “Rabbit Island,” located offshore from Oahu, gets its name from the large number of rabbits introduced there in the past. It’s a recognizable landmark and a protected seabird sanctuary.

Mōkōlea Rock

Mōkōlea Rock, situated northeast of Kauai, is mainly notable for its rugged scenery. It provides a habitat for various marine species.


Mokoliʻi, also known as “Chinaman’s Hat,” sits off Oahu’s coast. Its unique shape makes it a popular subject for photographs, and it’s accessible for hiking and kayaking.

Moku Manu

Moku Manu, or “Bird Island,” lies off Oahu’s east shore. This island, too, supports a variety of seabirds, adding to Hawaii’s rich avian biodiversity.


Mokuauia, often referred to as “Goat Island,” is located off Oahu’s northern coast. Accessible by wading at low tide, it offers a peaceful spot for bird watching and tide pooling.

Moku o Loʻe

Moku o Loʻe, known as “Coconut Island,” sits in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. It houses a marine research facility, contributing to oceanographic studies and education.

Moku Ola

Moku Ola, or “Coconut Island” in Hilo Bay, Hawaii Island, is a park and cultural site. It’s a place for picnicking, swimming, and exploring local legends.

How Many Islands In Hawaii?

Hawaii counts 137 islands in its chain. This number includes all minor islands, small islands, islets, even smaller islands offshore of the major islands, and individual islets in each atoll. Among the lesser-known islands are Kaʻula, Kāohikaipu, Lehua, Mānana, Mōkōlea Rock, Mokoliʻi, Moku Manu, Mokuauia, Moku o Loʻe, Moku Ola, Mokuʻumeʻume, Molokini, and Nā Mokulua. These islands each offer unique experiences, from bird sanctuaries to nesting sites and marine habitats.

The four names Garden Isle, Valley Isle, Gathering Place, and Big Island, evoke the diversity of Hawaii’s main islands. Oahu, known as The Gathering Place, buzzes with activity and offers both cultural experiences and stunning landscapes. Maui, The Valley Isle, features lush valleys, scenic drives, and world-class beaches. Kauai, The Garden Isle, is renowned for its lush, green scenery. Hawaii, often called The Big Island, is the largest island and is known for its volcanic activity and diverse ecosystems.

Visitors often seek these four primary islands for their unique offerings and experiences. Beyond the famous ones, the smaller islands also have much to offer. For instance, Kaʻula serves as a bird sanctuary, attracting bird enthusiasts. Kāohikaipu draws adventurers curious about marine life. Lehua functions as a nesting site for seabirds, while Mānana, a protected seabird sanctuary, attracts nature lovers. Mōkōlea Rock supports marine species, and Mokoliʻi is famous for its distinctive shape. Moku Manu supports seabirds, and Mokuauia offers a peaceful spot for bird watching.

Each island, regardless of its size, contributes to the enchanting and diverse Hawaiian archipelago. Exploring these islands enriches the understanding and appreciation of Hawaii’s natural beauty and cultural significance.

What Is The Largest Island In Hawaii?

Hawaii, known as the Big Island, is the largest island in Hawaii. Covering 4,028 square miles, it’s twice the size of all the other Hawaiian islands combined. The island’s most striking feature is its volcanic activity. Home to Mauna Loa, one of the world’s largest volcanoes, and Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, the Big Island offers unique geological wonders.

The Big Island’s diverse climate zones attract various travelers. From tropical rainforests to arid deserts and even snowy mountain peaks on Mauna Kea, it provides a landscape for every kind of adventure. Visitors often explore the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where they can witness active lava flows and volcanic craters.

Wildlife enthusiasts find the Big Island fascinating due to its rich biodiversity. The island hosts unique species like the Hawaiian hawk and the nēnē, Hawaii’s state bird. Marine life around the island’s coasts is equally impressive. Snorkeling and diving in places like Kealakekua Bay reveal vibrant coral reefs and colorful fish species.

Agriculture plays a significant role in the local economy. The Big Island is famous for its Kona coffee, macadamia nuts, and tropical fruits. Taking a farm tour allows visitors to understand the island’s agricultural heritage and taste fresh, local produce.

Cultural experiences are abundant, from ancient petroglyph fields to historic Hawaiian temples. The island’s Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens showcases native Hawaiian plants and animals, providing an educational glimpse into the island’s natural history.

For travelers seeking both natural beauty and cultural richness, the Big Island stands unrivaled. Its vast landscapes and varied ecosystems promise a unique and memorable Hawaiian experience.

Where Did Hawaii Come From?

Hawaii’s origins trace back to volcanic activity millions of years ago. The Hawaiian Islands formed due to a hot spot in the Earth’s mantle. As the Pacific Plate moved over this hot spot, magma rose through the Earth’s crust, creating a series of volcanic islands. This process continues, with the Big Island sitting directly above the hot spot, hosting active volcanoes like Mauna Loa and Kilauea.

Volcanoes played a crucial role in shaping Hawaii. As each volcano erupted, it spewed lava that cooled and solidified, eventually forming land. Over time, these eruptions built the islands we see today. The chain of islands stretches over 1,500 miles, showcasing this geological history.

Hawaiian legends also narrate the islands’ origins. Ancient stories speak of the goddess Pele, who created the islands through her fiery passion. According to these tales, Pele’s journeys and battles with her siblings led to the formation of volcanoes and the beautiful landscapes of Hawaii.

Flora and fauna on the islands evolved uniquely due to isolation. Hawaii’s distance from other landmasses meant species arriving on its shores adapted in seclusion. This led to the development of endemic species, found nowhere else on Earth. The islands’ ecosystems reflect the blend of volcanic soil, diverse climates, and unique evolutionary paths.

Hawaii’s cultural heritage ties closely to its geological and biological history. The native Hawaiian population, despite historical challenges, maintains a deep connection to the land and its origins. Cultural practices, stories, and traditions continue to honor the islands’ volcanic beginnings and the natural beauty born from this fiery birthplace.

What Island Is Honolulu On?

Honolulu, the vibrant capital of Hawaii, sits on the island of Oahu. Located on Oahu’s southeastern coast, Honolulu is a bustling city known for its iconic Waikiki Beach, historic Pearl Harbor, and rich cultural sites. This island also hosts the majority of Hawaii’s population and welcomes millions of tourists each year.

Oahu, often called “The Gathering Place,” is the third largest Hawaiian island at 596.7 square miles (1,545.4 sq km). Oahu’s diverse landscape includes lush rainforests, volcanic craters, and serene beaches. The island’s name “Oahu” means “The Gathering Place,” reflecting its role as a center for commerce, government, and tourism.

Honolulu’s downtown area features historic landmarks like the `Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States, and the Bishop Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts. Honolulu International Airport (HNL), the state’s main gateway, is located here, making it the primary entry point for visitors.

For those exploring the Hawaiian Islands, understanding Honolulu’s location is essential due to its cultural significance and central role in the state’s economy and tourism industry. From Honolulu, you can easily access other island attractions and activities, including hikes to Diamond Head Crater and surfing lessons on Waikiki Beach.

Honolulu is on Oahu, an island known for its blend of natural beauty and urban amenities. This strategic location makes it a vital part of any visit to the Hawaiian Islands, ensuring that travelers experience both the historical and modern aspects of Hawaiian culture.

What’s Hawaii Nickname?

Hawaii, often called “The Aloha State,” holds a nickname that reflects its cultural essence of hospitality and love. “Aloha” means much more than hello or goodbye; it embodies a spirit of connection and mutual respect. The term is deeply ingrained in Hawaiian daily life and traditions, emphasizing community and harmony.

Another popular nickname for Hawaii is “Paradise of the Pacific.” This name highlights the archipelago’s stunning landscapes, from lush rainforests to pristine beaches and active volcanoes. Visitors from around the world flock to Hawaii for its natural beauty, warm climate, and diverse ecosystem.

Hawaii is also known as “The Islands of Aloha.” This moniker underscores the unique blend of culture, heritage, and natural beauty found across the islands. The sense of aloha permeates everything from everyday interactions to cultural festivals and community gatherings, making it a central theme in the Hawaiian experience.

Each nickname reflects a different aspect of what makes Hawaii special. “The Aloha State” captures the essence of the Hawaiian spirit, while “Paradise of the Pacific” emphasizes its breathtaking scenery. “The Islands of Aloha” brings together both cultural and natural elements, portraying a holistic view of the archipelago.

Understanding these nicknames can enrich one’s appreciation of Hawaii’s unique identity. They offer a glimpse into the values, landscapes, and experiences that define this remarkable group of islands.

What’s The Capital Of Hawaii State?

The capital of Hawaii is Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu. As the largest city in the state, it serves as the main hub for commerce, governance, and tourism. Honolulu is known for its iconic landmarks, including Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor.

Downtown Honolulu features historic sites like `Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United States, and the Bishop Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Hawaiian artifacts. The city also hosts the Honolulu International Airport, the primary gateway to the Hawaiian Islands.

Honolulu plays a significant role in Hawaii’s culture and history. It’s often referred to as “The Gathering Place” due to its diverse population and central location within the island chain. Whether visiting for business or leisure, the capital offers a mix of modern amenities and rich cultural experiences.

Final Thoughts – Hawaii Islands

Exploring Hawaii’s islands reveals a tapestry of natural beauty, cultural richness, and geological wonders. Each island, from the bustling Oahu to the serene Lehua, offers something unique. The volcanic origins and legends of Pele add layers of intrigue to the landscape. Hawaii’s isolation has led to a diverse array of endemic species, enriching its ecological tapestry.

The connection between the land and its people is palpable, with traditions and stories deeply rooted in the islands’ volcanic past. Honolulu stands as a vibrant gateway, blending modernity with deep cultural heritage. Whether you’re drawn to the active volcanoes of the Big Island or the cultural heartbeat of Oahu, Hawaii’s islands promise unforgettable experiences.

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Erik Rivera

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