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Hawaii’s beautiful beaches and stunning oceanside views are one of the top reasons people dream of visiting the Aloha State. If you’re wondering exactly what bodies of water surround Hawaii’s islands, you’ve come to the right place.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The main bodies of water bordering Hawaii are the Pacific Ocean to the south, east, and west, and the Hawaiian Islands chain to the northwest.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore Hawaii’s unique geographical location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We’ll take a close look at the major bodies of water bordering each of the Hawaiian Islands. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of the aquatic boundaries that make Hawaii an island paradise.

Overview of Hawaii’s Geographic Location

Hawaii is a unique and beautiful state located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Its geographical location sets it apart from the rest of the United States and gives it a distinct identity. The state is made up of an archipelago of over 130 islands, each with its own charm and natural beauty. Let’s explore more about Hawaii’s fascinating geographic location.

Located in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

When you think of Hawaii, you might imagine pristine beaches, lush mountains, and crystal-clear waters. This is because Hawaii is situated right in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. It is the only state in the United States that is not located in North America. The sheer isolation of Hawaii makes it a true paradise, with its unique flora and fauna that have evolved in splendid isolation for millions of years.

Did you know that Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth? It is over 2,000 miles away from the nearest continent, which is North America. This isolation has contributed to the distinct culture and biodiversity found in Hawaii.

Archipelago of Over 130 Islands

Hawaii is not just one island, but a stunning archipelago made up of over 130 islands. However, only eight of these islands are considered main islands, with the largest and most famous being Hawaii Island (also known as the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Each of these islands has its own unique geography, climate, and culture.

The islands of Hawaii were formed by volcanic activity over millions of years. The active volcanoes, such as Kilauea and Mauna Loa, continue to shape the landscape of the Big Island. The islands’ diverse geography includes stunning beaches, dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests, and majestic mountains.

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, make sure to explore the different islands and experience the unique beauty and culture that each one has to offer. Whether you’re snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of Maui, hiking through the lush valleys of Kauai, or exploring the vibrant city life of Oahu, Hawaii has something for everyone.

For more information about Hawaii’s geography and its beautiful islands, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Tourism Authority:

The Pacific Ocean

Hawaii is surrounded by the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, making it the only state in the United States that is completely surrounded by water. The Pacific Ocean stretches from the western coast of the Americas all the way to the eastern coast of Asia, and it covers more than 63 million square miles. With its crystal-clear waters, stunning coral reefs, and diverse marine life, the Pacific Ocean is a major attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Southern, Eastern, and Western Border

The Pacific Ocean forms the southern, eastern, and western borders of Hawaii. The state’s southernmost point, known as Ka Lae, or South Point, is where the Pacific meets the Hawaiian Islands. As you travel along the eastern and western coasts of the islands, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of the ocean, with its beautiful shades of blue and turquoise. The Pacific Ocean also provides Hawaii with its warm tropical climate, as the ocean currents help regulate the temperature and create a pleasant environment for both residents and visitors.

North Pacific Gyre

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Pacific Ocean’s influence on Hawaii is the North Pacific Gyre. This is a large system of rotating ocean currents that circulates clockwise in the northern Pacific. The gyre is responsible for bringing debris, such as plastic, from around the world to Hawaii’s shores. This has become a major environmental issue, as the accumulation of plastic waste poses a threat to the delicate marine ecosystem. Efforts are being made to clean up the debris and raise awareness about the importance of reducing plastic pollution.

Unique Marine Life

The Pacific Ocean surrounding Hawaii is home to a diverse range of marine life. From colorful tropical fish and majestic sea turtles to magnificent humpback whales and playful dolphins, the waters of Hawaii are teeming with fascinating creatures. The coral reefs that thrive in these waters are some of the most biodiverse in the world, providing a habitat for countless species. Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts flock to Hawaii to explore this underwater wonderland and witness the beauty of the marine life up close.

If you want to learn more about the Pacific Ocean and its impact on Hawaii, you can visit Pacific Whale Foundation. This organization is dedicated to protecting the ocean and its inhabitants, and they offer educational resources and tours that allow visitors to learn about the importance of conservation and sustainable practices.

The Hawaiian Archipelago

The Hawaiian Archipelago is a chain of islands located in the central Pacific Ocean. It stretches for approximately 1,500 miles from northwest to southeast. This archipelago is made up of hundreds of islands, however, only a few are inhabited by humans. The islands are known for their stunning natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and unique cultural heritage.

Island Chain Extends 1,500 Miles NW to SE

The Hawaiian Archipelago extends in a northwest to southeast direction, covering a vast area of the Pacific Ocean. The islands were formed by volcanic activity over millions of years, and each island has its own distinct characteristics. The largest island in the chain is the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, which is home to the famous Kilauea volcano. Other notable islands include Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.

Main 8 Inhabited Islands

Out of the many islands in the Hawaiian Archipelago, there are eight main islands that are inhabited by people. These islands are home to the majority of Hawaii’s population and offer a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors. The islands of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii (the Big Island) are the most popular tourist destinations, offering beautiful beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture. Each island has its own unique charm and attractions, making it a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Uninhabited Northwestern Islands

In addition to the main inhabited islands, the Hawaiian Archipelago is also home to a group of uninhabited islands known as the Northwestern Islands. These islands are located at the far end of the chain and are protected as part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The Northwestern Islands are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including endangered species such as the Hawaiian monk seal and the green sea turtle. These remote islands offer a glimpse into Hawaii’s natural history and provide important habitats for marine life.

For more information on the Hawaiian Archipelago and its islands, you can visit the official website of the State of Hawaii:

Other Notable Bodies of Water

In addition to the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is bordered by several other bodies of water that are worth mentioning. These bodies of water not only contribute to the overall beauty of the islands but also play a significant role in the local ecosystem and economy.

Kauai Channel

The Kauai Channel, also known as the Kauai Strait, is a body of water that separates the islands of Kauai and Oahu. It is approximately 72 miles long and 72 miles wide, making it an important waterway for both commercial and recreational purposes. The channel is known for its strong currents and is a popular spot for surfing and boating enthusiasts. It is also home to a diverse range of marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and various species of fish.

Alenuihaha Channel

The Alenuihaha Channel is located between the islands of Hawaii and Maui. It is one of the most treacherous channels in Hawaii due to its strong currents and unpredictable weather conditions. The channel is approximately 30 miles wide and 7,860 feet deep. Despite its challenging nature, it is often traversed by sailors and fishermen in search of a thrilling adventure. The channel is also known for its rich marine biodiversity, with sightings of whales and dolphins being a common occurrence.

Kaieiewaho Channel

The Kaieiewaho Channel, also referred to as the Pailolo Channel, separates Maui and Molokai. This channel is approximately 8 miles wide and is known for its calm waters, making it a popular spot for kayaking and paddleboarding. The channel is also a prime location for fishing, with anglers often catching species such as mahi-mahi and tuna. The stunning views of the surrounding islands and the clear blue waters make the Kaieiewaho Channel a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

For more information about the bodies of water that surround Hawaii, you can visit the official website of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. They provide detailed information about various water activities and attractions that can be enjoyed in and around these bodies of water.


Hawaii’s beautiful island scenery simply wouldn’t be the same without being surrounded by the majestic Pacific Ocean. Now that you understand the major aquatic boundaries encircling the Hawaiian Islands, you can better appreciate the remote location that shapes Hawaii’s culture, ecosystems, and economy.

The next time you visit Hawaii and stand along the serene shores, gaze out beyond the horizon and imagine the expanse of the world’s largest ocean. Let the sound of the waves be a reminder of Hawaii’s unique place in the middle of the sea.

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