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Hawaii is made up of hundreds of islands, from large volcanic islands like Hawaii and Maui to small sandy cays and atolls. If you’re wondering which of Hawaii’s islands claims the title of the smallest, read on to uncover the answer.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The smallest island in the Hawaiian archipelago is Ford Island in Pearl Harbor at just 0.4 square miles in area.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore Ford Island’s diminutive size compared to other Hawaiian islands, its history and features, and rank the next smallest islands after Ford to give you the full picture of Hawaii’s tiniest islands.

The Winner: Ford Island, Oahu

Ford Island’s Tiny 0.4 Square Mile Area

The smallest island in the Hawaiian archipelago is Ford Island, located in Pearl Harbor on Oahu. At just 0.4 square miles in size, Ford Island takes the prize for Hawaii’s tiniest Isle.

To put Ford Island’s diminutive size into perspective:

  • Ford Island is less than 1% the size of Oahu, which spans 597 square miles.
  • You could walk around the entire perimeter of Ford Island in less than an hour!
  • The island could easily fit inside New York’s Central Park, which spans 843 acres or 1.3 square miles.

Ford Island’s Strategic Location and Rich History

Despite its tiny size, Ford Island occupies a strategic spot located in the middle of Pearl Harbor. This central location made it invaluable as a key military base. Today, Ford Island houses the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and visitors can tour historic places like the USS Arizona and USS Utah memorials.

Since ancient times, Ford Island was known to Hawaiians as “Mokuʻumeʻume.” When Pearl Harbor was established as naval base in 1908, Ford Island’s central location within the harbor made it the perfect spot for an airfield and seaplane runway.

During WWII, Ford Island’s convenient position left it vulnerable when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The island sustained significant damage during the attack. Today, a white concrete control tower, riddled with bullet holes from the attack, still stands as a sobering reminder of the island’s part in that infamous day.

What’s on Ford Island Today

Ford Island remains an active military base today. The island hosts an intriguing array of military facilities, including:

  • The Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station
  • The Navy Network Information Center and satellite communications facility
  • The Naval Aviation Depot Pearl Harbor and several aviation squadron units

There is even an elementary school on the island for families living on base. The island also hosts recreational park areas and views across Pearl Harbor to the stunning city skyline and mountains beyond.

Ford Island continues to occupy a tiny but strategic spot nestled in the middle of historic Pearl Harbor.

The Runners Up: Hawaii’s Other Tiny Islands

Mokoliʻi (Chinaman’s Hat)

The iconic Mokoliʻi island, also known as Chinaman’s Hat for its distinctive cone shape, is a tiny 0.76 acreisland located off Kualoa Point on the northeastern side of Oahu. While not technically one of the smallest islands in Hawaii, its diminutive size and scenic beauty make it a popular spot for visitors.

Mokoliʻi has a rich history, playing an important cultural role for native Hawaiians. Archaeological evidence indicates early Hawaiians lived on the small island many years ago.

Mōkōlea Rock

Mōkōlea Rock, a small rocky islet located off the west coast of Maui, measures only 0.16 acres in size. This largely barren protrusion jutting out of the ocean is considered the smallest confirmed island in Maui County.

While its minimal size prevents permanent habitation, its location within a protected marine area makes Mōkōlea Rock an important seabird nesting site.

Popoiʻa Island

Tucked away along the Wailua coastline on Kauai lies secluded Popoiʻa Island. Spanning just 0.4 acres in area, this quaint island boasts sandy beaches dotted with tidepools. Uninhabited by humans, Popoiʻa Island is instead home to seabirds like great frigatebirds that nest in its windswept ironwood trees.

The island can only be accessed by boat, lending Popoiʻa a magical, faraway atmosphere despite its proximity to shore.

Mānana Island (Rabbit Island)

Mānana Island, also known as Rabbit Island, is a tiny speck of land no more than one acre in size just off the Makapuʻu coast of Oahu. A designated wildlife sanctuary since 1952, Mānana Island lives up to its nickname as a prime breeding ground for endangered Hawaiian monk seals that laze on its rocky shores.

Strict protections for wildlife mean Rabbit Island remains completely undeveloped without even a single structure on the entirety of the tiny island.

Why Size Matters for Hawaii’s Islands

Small Islands are Vulnerable Environments

Hawaii’s tiny islands, with land areas less than 5 square miles, are exceptionally vulnerable environments. Their minute size means limited natural resources and small habitats for native plants and animals.

With scant room to spare, rare indigenous species cling to existence, threatened by invasive competitors and human activity. Self-sustaining ecosystems easily fall out of balance on pint-sized islands.

The delicate miniature biospheres of Hawaii’s tiniest isles urgently require stewardship. Even minor disturbances can critically endanger fragile endemic lifeforms that occur nowhere else on Earth.

Less Room for Development and Infrastructure

Space constraints severely restrict development and infrastructure capacity on small Hawaiian islands. There is little area for agriculture, housing, industry, power facilities, waste processing, transportation networks or recreational facilities.

With under 5 square miles at their disposal, Hawaii’s littlest islands cannot support extensive development or population growth. Any building activity disturbs a higher percentage of scarce land and native habitat compared to large islands.

Oahu, in contrast, offers robust infrastructure servicing one million residents and visitors.

Easier to Protect Small Islands

Compact island environments are more practical to safeguard than sprawling archipelagos. Hawaii’s tiny landmasses allow focused conservation efforts, with policies established on an island-wide basis. With few property owners and minimal infrastructure involved, preservation initiatives encounter less resistance.

The state endeavors to secure long-term sustainability for delicate mini-islands. Strict controls limit access and human activity while reestablishing indigenous flora and fauna populations. Thanks to supportive policies, the smallest Hawaiian islands offer some of the most pristine, well-protected environments anywhere in the archipelago.

Island Land Area (sq. miles)
Mokoliʻi 0.11
Mōkōlea Rock 0.03

Smallest of all is Mōkōlea Rock, a remote islet spanning just 0.03 square miles. Too diminutive to support any inhabitants, its sole ecosystem clings precariously to existence. Still, ultramicro islands like Mōkōlea host obscure marine species that enrich Hawaii’s celebrated biodiversity.

Learn more about protecting Hawaii’s imperiled island ecosystems at the Department of Land and Natural Resources.


As we’ve explored, although Ford Island is tiny in size at just 0.4 square miles, it holds an outsized strategic and historical significance in Hawaii. Beyond Ford, islands like Mokoli’i, Mokolea, Popoi’a and Manana make up Hawaii’s smallest land masses, fragile environments that invite protection.

Next time you dream of Hawaii’s islands, consider their diversity – these dots of land spanning the Pacific may look small on a map, but carry enormous natural and cultural value in the heart of the Hawaiian archipelago.

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