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The Hawaiian Islands are a volcanic archipelago located in the Central Pacific Ocean, and are made up of 137 islands and atolls which stretch across 1,500 miles. Hawaii is the most isolated population center in the world, located approximately 2,390 miles from California, and 3,850 miles from Japan.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The northernmost island of Hawaii is Kure Atoll, which lies at 28°25′ N latitude and is situated 1,500 miles northwest of Honolulu.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore all aspects of Kure Atoll including its geography, wildlife, history, and status as part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. We will also highlight interesting facts about Kure Atoll and look at how its extreme isolation shapes the ecology of this unique island ecosystem in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.

Overview and Geography of Kure Atoll

Location and Geography

Kure Atoll is the northernmost island of the Hawaiian archipelago, located in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It is situated about 1,400 miles northwest of Honolulu and is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The atoll is composed of a circular coral reef surrounding a shallow lagoon, with a total land area of approximately 0.3 square miles. Kure Atoll is unique in that it is the only landmass above water in a vast expanse of ocean, making it an important refuge for wildlife.

Despite its remote location, Kure Atoll is a magnet for marine life. The surrounding waters are teeming with a diverse array of fish, coral, and other marine organisms. The atoll is also home to a variety of seabird species, including the endangered Laysan albatross and the threatened Hawaiian monk seal. Exploring the island’s rich biodiversity is a fascinating experience for scientists and nature lovers alike.

Climate and Oceanography

Kure Atoll experiences a tropical climate, characterized by warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. The average annual temperature ranges from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 degrees Celsius), with minimal seasonal variation. However, the atoll is prone to strong trade winds, which can bring gusty conditions and occasional storms.

The oceanography of Kure Atoll is closely linked to its geography. The atoll is located at the northern end of the Hawaiian Archipelago, where the warm waters of the Pacific meet the cooler currents from the north. This convergence creates a unique ecosystem that supports a wealth of marine life. The atoll’s shallow lagoon provides a nursery for young fish, while the surrounding reefs offer protection and feeding grounds for a wide range of species.

For more detailed information about Kure Atoll’s climate and oceanography, you can visit the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument website. They provide comprehensive data on the weather patterns, ocean currents, and ecological dynamics of this remote and fascinating island.

Flora and Fauna of Kure Atoll

Terrestrial Habitats

Kure Atoll, the northernmost island of Hawaii, is home to a unique array of flora and fauna. Despite its small size, the atoll boasts a variety of terrestrial habitats that support a diverse range of plant and animal life. The sandy beaches and dunes provide nesting grounds for seabirds such as the Laysan albatross and the black-footed albatross. The island also features low-lying shrubs and grasses, which serve as important food sources for the resident Hawaiian monk seal population.

Kure Atoll is also known for its endemic plant species. One such example is the Kure Beach Centipede Grass, which is found nowhere else in the world. This grass species has adapted to the harsh coastal conditions and plays a crucial role in stabilizing the sand dunes.

Marine Ecosystem

The marine ecosystem surrounding Kure Atoll is teeming with life. The crystal-clear waters are home to a rich diversity of coral reefs, which provide shelter and food for numerous species of fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates. The vibrant coral reefs are a sight to behold, with their vibrant colors and intricate structures.

One of the unique features of Kure Atoll’s marine ecosystem is the presence of the green sea turtle nesting grounds. These endangered turtles return to the island year after year to lay their eggs, making it an important breeding ground for the species. The protection of these nesting sites is crucial for the survival of the green sea turtle population.


Kure Atoll is a haven for bird enthusiasts, as it supports a remarkable diversity of bird species. The island serves as a crucial nesting site for seabirds, including the black-footed albatross, the Laysan albatross, and the Bonin petrel. These birds travel long distances to reach the atoll, making it their summer breeding ground. The skies above Kure Atoll are filled with the graceful flight of these seabirds, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Another notable bird species found on Kure Atoll is the endangered Laysan duck. This small, endemic duck has made a remarkable recovery, thanks to conservation efforts on the island. Their presence is a testament to the resilience of these species and the success of conservation initiatives.

For more information and to explore the flora and fauna of Kure Atoll further, you can visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Human History and Current Status

Early History

The northernmost island of Hawaii, known as Kure Atoll, has a rich human history that dates back centuries. It is believed that Polynesian voyagers first arrived on the island around 1,000 years ago. These early settlers likely used Kure Atoll as a temporary fishing and gathering spot during their journeys across the Pacific Ocean. The island’s remote location made it an ideal resting place for these ancient seafarers.

Over time, Kure Atoll became an important site for the Hawaiian people. It was known as “Moku Papapa” and was considered a sacred place. The island was used for religious ceremonies, as well as a source of valuable resources such as fish, birds, and plants.

World War II

During World War II, Kure Atoll played a significant role in the defense of the Hawaiian Islands. The United States military established a small outpost on the island to monitor and protect the surrounding waters. This outpost, known as Kure Naval Base, served as a vital link in the Pacific defense network.

At the height of the war, Kure Atoll was home to over 900 military personnel. The base was equipped with radar stations, anti-aircraft guns, and other defensive structures. Its strategic location allowed the military to detect and intercept any potential threats to the Hawaiian Islands.

Conservation Efforts

Today, Kure Atoll is no longer an active military base. Instead, it is a protected wildlife sanctuary managed by the State of Hawaii and various conservation organizations. The island and its surrounding waters are home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, many of which are endangered or threatened.

Conservation efforts on Kure Atoll focus on preserving the island’s unique ecosystem and protecting its resident wildlife. Researchers and conservationists conduct regular surveys to monitor the health of the coral reefs, track bird populations, and study the impact of climate change on the island’s fragile ecosystem.

Visitors to Kure Atoll are strictly regulated to minimize human impact on the island. Only a limited number of researchers and scientists are granted access each year. This ensures that the island remains undisturbed and allows for the continued study and protection of its natural resources.

For more information on Kure Atoll and its conservation efforts, you can visit the official website of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which oversees the management of the island.

Interesting Facts About Kure Atoll

Extreme Isolation

Kure Atoll, also known as Ocean Island, is the northernmost atoll in the Hawaiian archipelago. Situated over 1,400 miles northwest of Honolulu, it is one of the most remote places on Earth. Its isolation means that it remains largely untouched by human activity, making it an ideal location for scientific research and conservation efforts.

With its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters, Kure Atoll offers a glimpse into what the Hawaiian Islands may have looked like before human settlement. It serves as a refuge for countless species of marine life and seabirds, providing a critical habitat for their survival.

Wildlife Behavior

Due to its remote location, the wildlife behavior on Kure Atoll is truly unique. The lack of human presence has allowed the native species to thrive undisturbed. The atoll is home to the largest population of green sea turtles in the Hawaiian Islands, and visitors can often witness these majestic creatures nesting on the beaches.

Additionally, Kure Atoll is a crucial breeding ground for numerous seabird species, including the endangered Laysan albatross. These birds travel thousands of miles to return to the atoll each year to raise their chicks, creating a spectacle of nature that is truly awe-inspiring.

Shipwrecks and Debris

Over the years, Kure Atoll has become a final resting place for several shipwrecks and debris from across the Pacific Ocean. These remnants serve as a reminder of the atoll’s historical significance as a navigational landmark and a stopping point for ships traveling between Asia and the Americas.

Exploring these shipwrecks and debris can offer valuable insights into the maritime history of the region. It also provides researchers with a unique opportunity to study the impact of marine debris on the ecosystem and develop solutions to mitigate its effects.

Visiting Kure Atoll is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows you to witness the raw beauty of nature in its purest form. To learn more about Kure Atoll and its conservation efforts, you can visit the official website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Kure Atoll stands out as a remote and unique island ecosystem in the Hawaiian archipelago. Its extreme isolation shapes both the ecology and human history of the island in fascinating ways. As the northernmost island in Hawaii, Kure Atoll provides a glimpse into a pristine and unspoiled island habitat, home to millions of seabirds and thriving coral reefs.

The atoll’s location far from major human population centers allows wildlife and marine ecosystems to exist in an undisturbed state. While early settlers and wartime occupation left remnants on the island, conservation efforts now protect the fragile island ecology and rich biodiversity of this special place in the middle of the Pacific.

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