When the philosophy of Manifest Destiny was posited to induce citizens to set out and populate lands to the west of the original 13 colonies of the United States, few people expected to encounter the wondrous lands that lay just beyond the horizon.
The Great Plains, the Mountain West, California, and the Pacific Northwest all ended up humbling those that sought them out, and it was in these places that they laid down roots, setting the table for statehood in the ensuing years.
In 1959, this process (for now at least, as Puerto Rico might join the party at some point in the future) came to a conclusion in grand fashion, as America brought the ultimate tropical paradise, Hawaii, into the fold as its 50th state.
With beaches that need to be seen to be believed, a wealth of lush flora, and towering volcanoes that pierce the sky on cloudy days, it is unlike any place you’ve ever been in America before.
What To Do – Culture & History
The most overt military attack against the United States of America in its history occurred at Pearl Harbor more then 70 years ago, when the Japanese launched a surprise raid that left much of its naval fleet a smoking, sunken mess in its wake.
The USS Arizona Memorial is one of the most prominent memorials of that deadly day in American history, when more than 2,400 people were killed, more than 1,000 others were maimed by the unexpected onslaught.
The museum commemorating this tragedy is suspended over the shallow sunken wreck of the USS Arizona, where more than 1,000 of the fatalities occurred. In this facility, the names of the fallen are engraved on a large marble edifice, driving home to immense loss of life on that infamous day in December 1941.
Prior to being annexed by the United States as one of its territories, Hawaii used to be a monarchy, with the capital being located in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. While the Hawaiian islands are no longer presided over by a king or queen, Iolani Palace, their official residence, still remains in the present day.
Influenced by European building styles, Iolani Palace was the first structure on the Hawaiian Islands to have electricity and phone service, and it had gifts and ornate furnishings sourced from all over the world, as you will find out when you tour the place (guided or audio self-guided are both available).
After tobacco heiress Doris Duke spent much of her lengthy honeymoon touring the Middle East in 1935, she returned to her native Hawaii with a renewed appreciation for Islamic art and architecture. She was so inspired by this experience that she fashioned a new mansion for herself based on these designs, naming it Shangri La.
Containing a wealth of fine visual art from across the Islamic world, this mansion can be toured as part of a pre-arranged trip from Honolulu Museum of Art. From numerous textiles and ceramics throughout the property, to the fine garden that is patterned after was found in Mughal-era India, Shangri la is an exotic property that culture buffs are sure to enjoy.
Those seeking a firm background in the history of the Hawaiian islands need only seek out the Bishop Museum, which is located in downtown Honolulu. Its walls hold the world’s largest collection of Polynesian artifacts, in addition to specimens that tell the story of this archipelago’s natural history.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
While you might be planning to spend much of your time in the Honolulu area lounging on the famous sands of Waikiki, get your butt out of your sun lounger on at least one of your days here to climb Diamond Head. Just one of the numerous legacies of volcanic activity scattered throughout the islands, the views from the top of this 762 foot high hill are unforgettable, but you have to earn it first, as the grade on the 3/4 mile long trail is incredibly steep … take your time and don’t forget to take enough water!
After exerting yourself on this hike or many others throughout the state, you’ll want to cool off at one of Hawaii’s many stunning beaches. Favorites include the busy but stylish Waikiki Beach (which can be seen from the aforementioned Diamond Head), Manini’owali Beach (can be calm at times, making it suitable for swimmers and snorkelers on the Big Island), and countless beaches along the North Shore of Oahu, where some of the most massive waves in the world draw surfers from every corner of it to tame its perfect barrels.,,, )
Despite being located far away from the edges of tectonic plates that usually govern volcanic activity around the globe, weak spots in the Earth’s crust allowed hotspots to form where Hawaii is today, giving birth to these paradise islands over the course of millions of years.
This land building process continues in the present, as there are several active volcanoes scattered across the state, with Mauna Kea, Kīlauea, and Mauna Loa, the last two of which are contained within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain on Earth when measured from its subsea base, measuring more than 33,000 feet high from its base in the murky depths of the Pacific to its lofty peak at 13,800 feet above sea level, which is occasionally snow covered in winter.
Kīlauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, erupting frequently throughout the years and for very long periods. Its most recent eruption began more than 30 years ago – and it is still oozing out lava that occasionally threatens towns, depending on which way its flows decide to go on any given day.
Not be be outdone, Mauna Loa makes the record books for being the world’s largest volcano by cubic area. It hasn’t erupted in 30 years, but it also an oozer when it does decide to push magma to the surface of the Earth.
Finally, any lover of the outdoors and legendary natural scenery needs to make time to go hiking in Na Pali Coast State Park. Situated on the garden isle of Kauai, the Na Pali Coast is known is lush greenery, sheer cliffs, and hidden beaches that are reached by a physically challenging eleven mile trek. There are a limited number of backcountry permits handed out per year on this trail, so plan ahead before heading to this part of Hawaii to avoid disappointment.