The chain of islands that make up the state of Hawaii sprawls over more than 1,500 miles of the Pacific Ocean (it's the longest island chain in the world). It is composed of 132 separate islands, atolls, coral reefs and shoals.
Hawaii is the most isolated island chain on earth, and is located some 2,500 miles from the nearest continent. It is the widest state in the United States. Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time-HST) and it does not recognize Daylight Savings Time. During California's Daylight Savings Time period, Hawaii is three hours behind it.
Eight islands make up 99% of the total landmass of Hawaii. They lie at the southeastern end of the Hawaiian Archipelago and are the youngest of the island chain. Of these eight, only six have tourism.
The six are Molokini (moh-loh-kee-nee); a tiny crescent-shaped island that lies between Kaho ‘olawe and Maui – very popular with snorkelers and divers; Kauai (kuh-wah-ee);Oahu (o-ah-hoo); Molokai (moh-loh-kah-ee); Lanai (lah-nah-ee); Maui (mow-ee) and Hawaii (this is the name of the largest island and it is referred to as the "Big Island"). Each of these islands provides its own version of paradise and each offers a unique climate and topography. The other two are Niihau (nee-ee-how) - which is a privately owned island - and Kaho ‘olawe(kah-ho-oh-law-vay) - which was once a practice range for the U.S. Navy. Native Hawaiians hope to reforest, replant and restore Kaho ‘olawe to its original state.
Born from heat and fire, Hawaii's islands rose out of the Pacific Ocean over many millions of years. They are the products of violent volcanic eruptions far below the ocean's surface. The Hawaiian Islands are, in fact, the tops of the largest mountain range in the world.
The only current volcanic activity can be found on Hawaii's Big Island. Its volcanoes and current lava stream are impressive. The lava temperatures can be as high as 5000° F. A by-product of Hawaii's formation are its red, green, gray, white and black sand beaches.
There is a new island being formed about 18 miles southwest of Hawaii's Big Island. Its name is Loihi, which means "tall." It won't rise out of the ocean for many thousands of years. Map of Hawaii - here.
Hawaii's location at the edge of the tropics means that it has only two seasons: winter - when it's warm and summer - when it's warmer. Both are wonderful. The tradewinds almost always keep things comfortable, and the air temperature usually varies no more than 15° F year-round. April through November is warmer and drier, and temperatures average 75° F - 88° F. December through March is less warm (68° F - 80° F). The year-round average water temperature is a wonderful 74° F.
Hawaii's climate is so varied that it offers 11 of earth's 13 recognized climate zones. Only the Arctic and the Saharan zones aren't represented.
Hawaii's cooling tradewinds, low humidity, fair weather and clean air are a few reasons that Hawaii is called "the Health State." Prevailing winds come from an easterly or northeasterly direction. These tradewinds are forced up against the mountains and driven upward, causing them to release their moisture. This means that the windward sides, to the east and north, are almost always cooler and moist. Because of that, these areas are more lush and tropical looking.
The leeward sides of the islands, to the west and south, are usually drier. Rainfalls are usually localized, occur mostly on the windward sides of the islands, and often last just a short time. It's usually showering somewhere in Hawaii every day, but you can generally find a place where the sun is shining, too. Summer showers often last only a few minutes, and some rains are so gentle and light that their drops are blown around like snowflakes.