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The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most popular island destinations in the world, known for their beautiful beaches, lush landscapes, and vibrant culture. If you’ve ever wondered if there is a Hawaii 2 out there, read on to learn which U.S. state actually claims ownership over the Hawaiian island chain.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The state of Hawaii, which joined the United States in 1959 as the 50th state, is comprised of more than 130 islands, including the 8 main Hawaiian islands of Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai and Niihau.

There is no “Hawaii 2” per se, just different islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago located in the north-central Pacific Ocean.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the history of the Hawaiian islands, the origins of their names, details on the 8 major islands, as well as explain common misconceptions about a so-called “Hawaii 2”.

The History and Origins of the Hawaiian Islands

Ancient Discovery and Settlement

The Hawaiian Islands were first settled between 124 and 1120 AD by Polynesian voyagers sailing canoes across the open Pacific Ocean. These early settlers came from the Marquesas Islands and Society Islands in French Polynesia.

The islands were named the “Hawaiian Islands” in honor of Hawaiʻiloa, the legendary Polynesian explorer who is credited with discovering the islands.

The settlers brought with them their language, cultural practices, beliefs, and social structure. Over the centuries, a uniquely Hawaiian culture developed. The islands were divided into kingdoms ruled by chiefs (aliʻi) and inhabited by commoners.

Ancient Hawaiians lived in villages along the coasts, growing crops like taro, sweet potatoes, coconut, banana and raising livestock.

Unification Under King Kamehameha

During the late 18th century, the islands were unified for the first time under King Kamehameha I. Through both warfare and diplomacy, Kamehameha united the islands into a single kingdom in 1810. He established a monarchy with himself as head and the capital in Honolulu on Oʻahu.

Kamehameha implemented the kānāwai māmalahoe, the “law of the splintered paddle”. This code protected human life and ensured that everyone from commoners to chiefs had fair access to public resources. The unified Hawaiian Kingdom grew into a thriving economy through the 19th century with productive agriculture, livestock, fisheries and some commercial trade.

Becoming Part of the United States

In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by American businessmen and sugar plantation owners backed by the U.S. government. Queen Liliuokalani was deposed and the Republic of Hawaii established in its place as an oligarchy run by wealthy American residents.

Just five years later in 1898, the United States annexed Hawaii despite some opposition. The islands were strategically important for expanding American trade and military presence in the Pacific. Hawaii was made an incorporated U.S. territory in 1900.

For around 60 years, Hawaiians sought equal rights, better working conditions, education and political autonomy.

Finally on March 18, 1959, Hawaii officially became the 50th state with Honolulu as the state capital. Today, Hawaii is America’s only island state, with a diverse culture that honors both its indigenous Polynesian roots and the many other groups who have settled there over the past two centuries.

The 8 Main Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian archipelago consists of over 130 islands, reefs and shoals across 1,500 miles in the North Pacific Ocean. However, there are 8 major inhabited Hawaiian islands that make up the U.S. state of Hawaii.

Hawaii (The Big Island)

The Island of Hawaii, often called “The Big Island”, is the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago at 4,028 square miles. The Big Island is home to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which features two active volcanoes – Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

In 2018, Kilauea erupted for 3 months spewing lava and destroying over 700 homes in lower Puna. The Big Island has 11 out of the world’s 13 climate zones creating incredibly biodiverse landscapes from tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountain peaks.


The second largest Hawaiian island, Maui is nicknamed “The Valley Isle” with lush rainforests, waterfalls and beaches surrounded by two shield volcanoes. Maui hosts over 2.5 million visitors each year who come to see attractions like Haleakala National Park with its iconic sunrises and the Road to Hana driving tour with 600 curves and 56 bridges.

According to Hawaiian legends, the demigod Maui pulled the islands of Maui and Kahoʻolawe from the sea and lassoed the sun to slow its movement across the sky.


Oahu is the most populated Hawaiian island and third largest overall. Approximately 1 million residents call Oahu home with the majority living in or around Honolulu, the capital and largest city in Hawaii.

Iconic sites on Oahu’s south shore include the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Waikiki Beach with its famous high-rise hotels, and surfing mecca Pipeline on the North Shore. In addition to tourism, Oahu also has a strong agriculture industry cultivating crops like pineapple, sugarcane, coffee and the world’s most expensive coffee bean – Kona coffee.


The smallest of Hawaii’s major islands, Kahoolawe measures just 45 square miles and is currently uninhabited. For 45 years, the U.S. military used Kahoolawe for bombing practice and naval target practice leaving the landscape scared with unexploded ordnance.

In 1994, formal control was transferred back to the state and a reserve commission was established to manage access and oversee environmental restoration efforts. Today, Kahoolawe remains a sacred place for Native Hawaiians who visit the island to honor ancestors.


Privately-owned by billionaire Larry Ellison, Lanai was once the world’s largest pineapple plantation under Dole Food Company. Nicknamed “The Pineapple Island”, Lanai is now home to two Four Seasons resorts catering to luxury travelers.

With only around 3,200 residents, Lanai has no stoplights and feels like stepping back in time. Popular activities on the 140 square mile island include off-road adventures, visiting ancient petroglyph sites or snorkeling at Hulopoʻe Beach which boasts spinner dolphins, sea turtles and endemic fish species.


Separated from Maui by the Pailolo Channel, Molokai maintains its island roots as a quiet, peaceful escape with sandy beaches, towering sea cliffs and rural landscapes. Molokai Ranch makes up one third of the island, but the rest of the land is owned by Native Hawaiians and farmers.

Around 38% of Molokai’s economy relies on agriculture with crops like taro, coffee, honey and macadamia nuts. For visitors, top attractions include Kalaupapa Peninsula where Saint Father Damien helped Hansen’s disease patients and the world’s highest sea cliffs with 3,440-foot-tall vertical drops into the ocean.


With jaw-dropping scenery, Kauai rightfully earned the nicknames “The Garden Island” showcasing lush rainforests and waterfalls. The 105-mile Na Pali Coast is arguably Hawaii’s most dramatic landscape with sharp ridges plunging thousands of feet to secluded beaches only accessible by sea or air.

According to ancient mythology, Pele (the Hawaiian goddess of fire) pursued chief warrior Kamapua’a (the pig god) from Oahu across the ocean to Kauai where their battle reshaped the island’s terrain into the cliffs and canyons seen today.


Known as “The Forbidden Isle”, Niihau is a privately owned island west of Kauai only permitting access to relatives of the original owners – the Robinson family. At only 72 square miles, Niihau has no paved roads, no shops, no hotels and no public utilities.

About 130 Native Hawaiians live on Niihau attending to large cattle and sheep ranches. Residents generate their own power via solar and wind systems and sustain themselves through subsistence farming, fishing, and hunting while keeping ancient Hawaiian customs alive.

Is There Truly a Hawaii 2?

Misconceptions About A Second Hawaii

There is a common misunderstanding that there is a “Hawaii 2” or second Hawaii island. This likely stems from confusion between the state of Hawaii, which is made up of 8 main islands, and the largest island called Hawaii.

The island of Hawaii is also known as the “Big Island” to distinguish it from the archipelago state. With an area of 4,028 square miles, it accounts for 63% of the total land mass of the Hawaiian island chain.

Some key facts about the Big Island of Hawaii:

  • It houses the active volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kilauea.
  • Its tallest peak is Mauna Kea at 13,796 feet.
  • It has 11 out of the world’s 13 climate zones.
  • Popular destinations include Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Waipio Valley, and Hilo town.

While the Big Island has incredibly diverse landscapes, from tropical rainforests to barren lava fields, there are no other islands in Hawaii called “Hawaii 2” or anything similar.

Geographic Explanations

The single island of Hawaii likely got its name because it houses the entire Hawaiian archipelago’s volcanic hotspot underneath it. The other islands were created as the Pacific tectonic plate slowly moved northwest, carrying the oldest islands with it and creating new ones from the hotspot.

So while volcanic activity continues on the southeastern area of the Big Island, adding new land over time, there will not be a newly formed “Hawaii 2” island. The next volcano that erupts in the chain is predicted to be an underwater seamount called Lōʻihi, which may eventually emerge from the Pacific as a new island.

The unique geography of the Hawaiian islands often causes confusion about names and numbers. But rest assured there is just one “Big Island of Hawaii” and no plans for a Hawaii sequel!


While many Hawaiian place names include numbers, such as Hawaii Loa and Maui Nui, there is no actual island called Hawaii 2. The state of Hawaii encompasses over 130 islands, atolls and shoals, with the 8 largest islands commonly referred to as the main Hawaiian islands.

After learning about the history and details of each major Hawaiian island, it’s clear why travelers flock to this Pacific paradise. With so many islands full of adventure, stunning scenery and a vibrant culture, perhaps it’s no wonder some have wondered if there’s a Hawaii 2 waiting to be explored as well.

The state of Hawaii may continue to inspire questions and curiosity about its place names origins and landscapes, but as you now know, there is no second Hawaiian island called Hawaii 2 – just different magical islands that make up the special Hawaiian chain.

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