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With picturesque beaches, volcanic landscapes, and a vibrant culture, Hawaii captures the hearts of visitors from around the world. If you’re wondering what makes this island chain so special, read on to learn all that Hawaii is known for.

In short, Hawaii is most famous for its beautiful natural scenery, pineapple and sugarcane agriculture, Hawaiian culture and traditions, surfing, Hawaii Five-0 TV show, and as the birthplace of former President Obama. But that’s really just scratching the surface.

Hawaii’s Striking Natural Beauty

Volcanoes and Unique Geography

The Hawaiian islands were formed by volcanic activity over 70 million years ago, leaving behind rugged landscapes dotted with volcanoes. The Big Island features the tallest sea mountain in the world, Mauna Kea, standing at nearly 14,000 feet.

It also hosts Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. These geologic wonders create a visually arresting topography of volcanic craters, lava fields, and richly hued mineral deposits.

In addition to volcanoes, Hawaii boasts a variety of distinctive landforms like sea cliffs, valleys, waterfalls, and tropical rainforests. Waimea Canyon on Kauai, nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” impresses visitors with its colorful rock layers and plunging waterfalls.

Lush valleys like Waipio on the Big Island offer black sand beaches tucked between emerald rainforest. This exceptional scenery makes Hawaii a geologic marvel.

Pristine Beaches

Famed for picturesque beaches, Hawaii’s shorelines delight travelers seeking sun and surf. Its islands hold over 750 miles of coastline with golden, black, and even green sand beaches framed by palm trees and turquoise waters.

Favorites like Hanalei Bay on Kauai offer calm, swimmable waters while Kaanapali Beach on Maui entices with a lively beachfront scene.

Hawaii’s beaches also provide habitat for endangered species and ecosystems. Visitors might spot sea turtles sunbathing at Laniakea Beach or watch humpback whales breach offshore during winter migrations.

Thanks to preservation efforts, over 30% of Hawaii’s nearshore waters are protected as Marine Life Conservation Districts. This ensures future generations can enjoy the state’s idyllic beaches and marine biodiversity.

World-Famous Agriculture Products


Hawaii’s tropical climate allows it to produce some of the sweetest, juiciest pineapples in the world. The islands are one of the top global producers of pineapples, with sprawling pineapple plantations found on lands ideal for agriculture.

Popular commercial growers like Dole and Maui Land & Pineapple Company ship millions of pounds annually across the globe as well as within the 50 states. No wonder locals boast that biting into a Hawaiian pineapple is a mouthwatering experience like no other.

Sugarcane and Rum

Sugarcane has been grown commercially in Hawaii since the 1800s. Its production played a pivotal role in Hawaii’s economy in the past. Nowadays, only one major plantation remains – the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company on Maui which produces nearly 75,000 tons annually.

A byproduct of sugarcane is molasses, used to produce rum. Several distilleries like Koloa Rum make award-winning rum from locally grown sugarcane. With demand for authentic Hawaiian rum rising globally, the future looks bright for the surviving sugarcane plantation and rum producers across the islands.

Kona Coffee

The rich volcanic soil and favorable climate of the Kona district, located along the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, produce what is arguably the best coffee in the United States. Less than 1% global coffee production may come from Kona, but its unique flavor profile, smooth taste and delicate aroma see connoisseurs and tourists alike willing to pay premium prices.

There are over 600 largely family-owned coffee farms across the 2,300-acre Kona coffee belt that have helped anchor the regional economy for decades. With online stores shipping freshly roasted Hawaiian coffee beans worldwide, Kona’s exceptional brew looks set to continue delighting taste buds globally for generations to come.

Macadamia Nuts

Believe it or not, macadamia trees are not native to Hawaii but were imported from Australia in the late 19th century. They happen to thrive in volcanic soil and tropical weather, however. Today, Hawaii ranks second in global mac production, churning over 50 million pounds per year.

Most come from dedicated orchards on the Big Island and Maui – where rainfall, elevation and soil nutrition is optimal – that supply cracking factories producing roasted, salted nuts. Whether buying roastedmacadamia nuts from gift shops, enjoying macadamia nut ice cream or even macadamia nut-crusted fish in restaurants – visitors soon realize Hawaii takes full advantage of this abundant crop.

Native Hawaiian Culture and Traditions

Hula Dance

The hula is the quintessential Hawaiian dance that tells stories through fluid hand motions, synchronized steps, and rhythmic swaying hips. Traditionally performed to chants and beating drums, the hula dance originated from rituals performed privately by men and women for the Hawaiian gods and goddesses.

Today, colorful hula dances are commonly performed at luau feasts to share Hawaii’s culture with visitors from around the world.

According to Hawaiian historians, the hula has over 30 different traditional forms and multiple origin beliefs. The most common hula type seen at luaus today is the hula ‘auana that developed after Western contact in the 1800s. It is danced to melodious music with guitars, ‘ukuleles, and double bass.

Some halaus (hula school groups) also continue performing the fierce hula kahiko in grass skirts or ti leaf skirts to honor ancient Hawaiian culture.

Luau Feasts

In Hawaiian culture, a luau feast celebrates monumental life events with elaborate food spreads, powerful hula dances, soulful Hawaiian music, and passionate displays of aloha spirit. Historically, luaus were thrown for Hawaiian royalty and chiefs with over 300 attendees.

Today, Hawaii’s world-famous commercial luaus at mega-resorts serve up to 600 guests per night.

Modern luaus fuse authentic Hawaiian dishes like kalua pig, lomi lomi salmon, haupia, poi, poke, and mai tais with Western additions like barbecue ribs, mac salad, and beer. The feasts are incomplete without a talented performance.

Some of Hawaii’s best hula dancers, musicians, and entertainers regularly perform the manager’s hula dance finale which honors the host.


Like its dancing counterpart, Hawaiian music honors the island home through poetic oli chants and wordplay storytelling. Traditional sounds consist solely of humming chords, driving drums like pahu and ipu heke, stringed instruments like ‘ukulele and kī’aha, and bamboo sticks, stones, leaves or flip-flops used for percussive beats.

After encountering Mexican cowboys, Spanish guitars, and Americans with their subsequent tourism boom, Hawaii’s pool of musical influences expanded greatly. Today’s local music incorporates reggae, slack key, Jawaiian, hapa haole songs and more.

Some say Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s medley “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” is Hawaii’s unofficial anthem for spreading the islands’ blissful vibe to the world.

Surfing and Water Sports

Iconic Surf Spots

With over 1,500 miles of spectacular coastline surrounded by the powerful Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is widely regarded as a top global surfing destination. Iconic Hawaiian surf breaks like the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore and Honolua Bay on Maui attract pro surfers from around the world each winter to ride mighty waves up to 50 feet high during the big wave season.

Other famous year-round surf spots include Waikiki Beach in Honolulu where surfing was first introduced to Hawaii by Polynesian settlers centuries ago, Sunset Beach with its long point break waves, and Peahi on Maui’s north shore, also known as “Jaws” for its dangerous yet epic sized swells that can reach over 60 feet on the right day.

Big Wave Competitions

Speaking of big wave surfing, Hawaii hosts several prestigious pro events when the ocean delivers extreme swells, like The Eddie held at Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore which requires wave faces of over 20 feet.

There’s also Pe’ahi Challenge at Jaws which saw Brazil’s Rodrigo Koxa set a world record there by riding an 80 foot wave in November 2017.

Stand-Up Paddling, Scuba Diving, and More

Beyond surfing, Hawaii offers exceptional conditions for an array of other ocean activities. The clear waters and vibrant coral reefs provide superb scuba diving and snorkeling at places like Hanauma Bay on Oahu.

The ready access to both calm bays and open ocean make Hawaii an ideal hub for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing as well.

In fact, Hawaiian Airlines reported nearly 8.4 million visitors came to the islands just for ocean-related activities in 2021 alone. And why not, with such natural bounty as warm waters, friendly sea turtles and whales, fantastic beaches with golden sand or striking black lava flows, regular tradewinds, and laidback island culture, Hawaii deserves its reputation as a true water sports paradise.

Film and TV

Hawaii Five-0

The hit crime drama Hawaii Five-0 aired on CBS from 2010 to 2020 and was enormously popular, drawing millions of viewers during its decade-long run. Starring Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, the modern re-imagining of the classic series from the 1970s was of course filmed on location across the breathtaking Hawaiian Islands.

Iconic backdrops like Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, and the lush rainforests often stole the scene and highlighted the natural beauty of Hawaii. According to Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, Hawaii Five-0‘s 10 seasons of filming contributed over $530 million to the state’s economy.

Movies Filmed in Hawaii

In addition to hit TV shows, the picturesque setting of Hawaii has attracted numerous major Hollywood productions over the years. Alluring destinations like Waikiki, Kauai, and Maui have been featured in blockbuster films spanning various genres.

According to, over 120 movies have been filmed throughout the Hawaiian Islands, including adventure flicks like Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark, romantic comedies like 50 First Dates, and even biopics like Aloha depicting the life of pilot Bessie Coleman.

With lush rainforests, tropical beaches, and dazzling ocean vistas, Hawaii remains a go-to destination for Hollywood looking to capture paradise on film.


From volcanic peaks to shimmering reefs, Hawaii’s enviable geography provides the backdrop for hula dances, big wave surfing, sweet pineapple fields, and so much more that makes it globally famous. The islands have certainly earned their reputation for relaxation, adventure, natural wonders, delicious cuisine, and the warmth of aloha spirit.

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