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Geography and Landscape


The state consists of 137 volcanic islands (most of them small and uninhabited) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the most important of which are the Hawaiian Islands, an archipelago of 19 islands. There are 8 main islands, from west to east: Ni'ihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kaho'olawe, Maui and Hawaii (the largest island). Together the islands cover an area of 16,650 square kilometres. Hawaii is part of the United States and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii Satellite PhotoHawaii Satellite PhotoPhoto: Public domain


The landscape is very diverse and each island has its own characteristics. Beautiful beaches alternate with mountainous areas and vast grassy plains. The dry mountain areas are mainly found on the slopes of the leeward side. At an altitude of twelve hundred to two thousand metres, there are marshes, which were formed by heavy rainfall. Furthermore, there are lowlands with rich grass plains.

The coastal areas complete the diversity of landscapes. The soil is very fertile as a result of the volcanic eruptions. At 4205 metres, the Mauna Kea on Big Island is the highest mountain.

The islands are of volcanic origin: they are situated on a so-called hotspot, where magma from the bowels of the earth comes out as lava. As the earth's crust moves relative to the hot spot, a line of islands was formed from west to east, with the oldest, dead volcanoes in the west and the youngest, active ones in the east. Currently, the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the largest island of Hawaii are still very active; the same may be true of Hualalai. Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano. Kilauea, in Volcanoes National Park, has almost continuous eruptions, which can be visited by tourists. Mauna Loa has a new eruption about every 20 years, for Mauna Kea an eruption every 4000 years is not excluded.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii's highest mountainMauna Kea, Hawaii's highest mountainPhoto: Vadim Kurland CC BY 2.0 no changes made

Another 30 km to the east, far below the surface of the sea, a new volcano, Loihi, is building a new island that will rise above sea level in 10,000 years.

Mauna Kea (White Mountain) is the highest mountain in the world measured from foot to summit: it rises 10203 metres above the seabed and 4207 metres above sea level. Mauna Loa (Long Mountain) is the heaviest mountain in the world; it is only a few metres lower than Mauna Kea, but has a wider base.

Mount Haleakala (House of the Sun), a volcano on Maui, is particularly popular with tourists. It is easy to drive the 55 km long road to the top in a rented car. There is a car park at the very top of the mountain. Many tourists go to the top of Haleakala to admire the sunrise or sunset there. The volcano is part of the Haleakala National Park.


Elmar Landeninformatie


CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2022
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