We’ve all had nicknames at some point in our lives, and whether you approved of them or not, those nicknames tend to stick. The same goes for the eight islands of Hawaii. Based upon a particular characteristic, each island eventually acquired a nickname of its own. Here’s the ones that stuck (in order from youngest to oldest islands):
Hawaii – “The Big Island”
As you might have already guessed, the Big Island is the biggest of all the Hawaiian islands. At about 4,038 square miles, it could easily fit all the other islands…times two. And it’s still growing! Thanks to Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, a ton of land continues to be added to the already “big” island by way of hardened molten lava.
Maui – “The Valley Isle”
As the second largest island (727.2 square miles), Maui earned its nickname for the large isthmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the many large valleys carved into both mountains.
Lanai – “The Pineapple Isle”
While you can find pineapples on any of the major islands, Lanai had become synonymous with the fruit because of its island-wide plantations. At one point, it produced about 75-percent of the world’s pineapple and outshined others when it became the major exporter. Recently, however, Lanai’s been making headlines after tech tycoon Larry Ellison bought 98-percent of the island from L.A. billionaire David Murdock (owner of Castle & Cooke).
Molokai – “The Friendly Isle”
Molokai takes you back in time as the least “touristy” of the main islands. It’s the fifth largest (260 square miles); you won’t find a building taller than a palm tree, and you definitely won’t find any fast food restaurants nor street lights. Many who visit say it’s this laid-back lifestyle that makes the islanders here the friendliest.
Oahu – “The Gathering Place”
Because Oahu is home to about 80 percent of Hawaii’s population, it’s often been deemed THE main island of the major islands. (By “major,” we mean the islands accessible to tourists). Oahu (the third largest at 596.7 square miles) is also the home to more than 125 beaches, including the famous Waikiki Beach. And because it’s a nice balance of a tropical Paradise and urban city, Oahu easily suits the interests of all its occupants; therefore, attracting more to its shores as a place of gathering.
Kauai – “The Garden Isle”
As the oldest geological island, Kauai (fourth largest at 562.3 square miles) gets its nickname because about 97-percent of its land consists of undeveloped mountain ranges and rainforests. It manages to stay green, too. Known as the second “wettest spot on Earth,” Kauai gets about 460 inches of rain every year.
Niihau – “The Forbidden Isle”
Niihau is the seventh largest (69.5 square miles). It’s known as the Forbidden Isle because it’s generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island’s owners, U.S. Navy personnel and government officials. There are a few supervised activity tours and hunting safaris that opened to tourists in the late 1980s, but for the most part, the island remains fairly isolated from the rest of civilization.
Kahoolawe – “The Target Isle”
Kahoolawe is the smallest island (44.6 square miles). It became known as the “The Target Isle” after serving as a training ground of the U.S. Army during WWII. Today, the state still prohibits the public from accessing the island because there is no way to guarantee that it is free of unexploded bombs.