Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

The distinctive flag of the Aloha State is one of the most recognizable state flags in the U.S. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The flag of Hawaii contains the Union Jack of the United Kingdom, stripes representing the eight major Hawaiian islands, and the state motto.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the history, meaning, and significance behind the elements and overall design of Hawaii’s distinctive state banner.

The History and Adoption of the Flag

The Original Flag Design

The original flag of Hawaii was designed in 1845 by King Kamehameha I. He commissioned the creation of the flag to use as a symbol of the Kingdom of Hawaii, which was established in 1795 after Kamehameha I unified the Hawaiian islands under his rule.

The flag featured eight horizontal stripes representing the eight main Hawaiian islands. The stripes alternate between white, red, and blue – colors chosen for their association with the British Union Jack. In the top left corner of the flag is the Union Jack itself.

This symbolized Hawaii’s strong ties with Great Britain in its early years of development.

The original Hawaiian flag flew over the kingdom for over 50 years. It was an important representation of Hawaiian sovereignty and independence in a time when Western contact was rapidly changing the island culture.

The simple yet striking design made it a recognizable early national flag of the Pacific region.

Later Revisions and Standardization

In 1897, the Kingdom of Hawaii was illegally annexed by the United States. Shortly after this, the flag of Hawaii went through some changes leading to the modern design still used by the state of Hawaii today.

First, the Union Jack symbol was removed from the flag. While Hawaiian-British relations remained friendly, the U.S. annexation meant the British ties were no longer the defining external political connection for Hawaii.

Additionally, the number of stripes on the flag was reduced to just one single red, white, and blue stripe.

In 2001, the Hawaii state legislature adopted an official standard for the dimensions, colors, and other details of Hawaii’s state flag. This formally established the definitive state flag for government and civilian use.

According to state guidelines, the colors used on Hawaii’s flag are officially Pantone 186C red, Pantone 286C blue, and white.

Other standardizations include the official proportions of 45:27 with the stripes being 30% white, 34% red, and 36% blue. The revised single-stripe flag in use today retains the basic design elements of the original Hawaiian flag while reflecting the islands’ unique history and political evolution over 200 years.

The Meaning Behind the Flag’s Elements

The Union Jack

The Union Jack in the upper left corner of the Hawaii state flag represents the state’s ties to the United Kingdom. Hawaii was once an independent kingdom, but later became a British protectorate in the early 19th century before eventually being annexed as a U.S. territory in 1898.

The Eight Stripes

The eight stripes on the flag represent the eight main islands of Hawaii: Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau. The stripes alternate white, red and blue to symbolize the colors of the Union Jack as another nod to Hawaii’s British heritage.

The State Motto

At the bottom of the flag is the state motto: “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono.” This Hawaiian phrase translates to “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” It affirms the importance of living sustainably and treating the land and natural resources with respect.

When and How the Flag is Used

The flag of Hawaii is a widely recognized and beloved symbol of the Aloha State. It features the Union Jack in the canton, symbolizing Hawaii’s history as a former British territory, with eight horizontal stripes representing the major Hawaiian islands.

The flag is flown with pride by native Hawaiians and local residents alike.

The Hawaiian flag can be seen flying on many occasions across the islands. It is commonly flown at government buildings such as the state capitol, city halls, police stations, libraries, and post offices. The flag is also flown at public schools in Hawaii as a symbol of state pride.

Many private businesses, hotels, restaurants, and homeowners also choose to fly the Hawaiian flag.

The flag is always flown or displayed when Hawaii hosts major events. For example, it can be seen prominently displayed during the ceremonies that mark Hawaii statehood day on August 21st each year. The flag also makes frequent appearances at local festivals and celebrations, such as Aloha Festivals celebrating Hawaiian culture.

Even surfing contests held on the islands will often feature the Hawaiian flag.

When flown officially, there are protocols to follow. The flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset and illuminated at night if displayed around the clock. It should not be flown during inclement weather unless an all-weather flag is used.

The Hawaiian flag always holds the position of honor when flown with other state, territorial or international flags. It should never touch the ground or trail in the water. Overall, the flag is treated with respect as a reminder of Hawaii’s unique history and culture.

So whether you’re attending a street fair in Waikiki, driving past ‘Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu, or simply walking the beaches of Maui, keep an eye out for the Hawaiian flag flying proudly above. It’s an iconic symbol of the spirit and pride of these spectacular islands.

Interesting Facts About the Hawaii State Flag

The flag of Hawaii is one of the most recognizable state flags in the United States. With its striking design featuring the Union Jack, stripes representing the eight major Hawaiian islands, and the state motto, the Hawaiian flag tells an intriguing story.

Here are some fascinating facts about this iconic banner:

The Meanings Behind the Symbols

The flag’s design is rich with symbolism representing Hawaii’s history and natural beauty. The Union Jack in the top left corner acknowledges Hawaii’s historical ties to Great Britain. The eight horizontal stripes stand for the major Hawaiian islands of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui and Hawaii (also known as the Big Island).

The colors red, white and blue are taken from the American flag, commemorating Hawaii’s statehood in the USA. Finally, the state motto “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono” is inscribed on the bottom. This Hawaiian proverb translates to “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. “

Its Design Has Changed Over Time

While the basic elements of the Hawaiian flag have stayed consistent, its precise design has gone through revisions. When King Kamehameha I originally established the flag in 1816, it consisted solely of the Union Jack and horizontal stripes.

The current version with a more rectangular shape, American colors, and the state motto made its debut in 1845. There have been minor tweaks since then, but this 1845 design remains Hawaii’s flag today.

Hawaii’s Flag Was Once Banned

After the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown in 1893, the new Republic of Hawaii government temporarily banned the Hawaiian flag until 1895. During this period, only the American flag could legally fly. However, Hawaiian nationalists and royalists continued using the flag in protests against the new regime.

Once Hawaii became an official U.S. territory in 1898, display of the Hawaiian flag was again allowed.

It Was Inspired by Crossing the Equator

The Hawaiian flag’s striped design was influenced by maritime flags flown in the 19th century. British navy ships would display different flags marked with horizontal bands to commemorate notable achievements.

For example, sailors received flags with horizontal red and white stripes when they crossed the Equator. This naval tradition of striped flags likely sparked the idea for the stripes on Hawaii’s flag representing the islands.

The Hawaiian Flag Flies Alone Over the State Capitol

At most state capitol buildings, the American flag and state flag fly side-by-side. However, Hawaii’s unique history is reflected at its capitol in Honolulu. Here, only the distinctive Hawaiian flag waves alone without any other banners.

This tradition references Hawaii’s nationality prior to joining the United States in 1959 after previously existing as an independent kingdom, republic and U.S. territory for decades.

With its bold design and meaningful symbolism, the Hawaiian flag offers an intriguing window into the history and pride of America’s island paradise. Displaying this iconic banner truly expresses the Aloha spirit!


The flag of Hawaii holds deep cultural symbolism and significance for the state. Its unique design beautifully encapsulates Hawaii’s Polynesian heritage and history as part of the British Empire, as well as its present-day pride as the 50th state.

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts