What Are the Eight Major Hawaiian Islands?


Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, home to white sand beaches, tropical forests and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Hawaii has eight major islands, six of which are suitable for tourists to visit. Each island is special and has a variety of sites for visitors to see as well as a signature flower.

The Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian islands with an area of 4,028 square miles. This island is home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and its volcanoes include Mauna Loa and Kilauea. The major settlements on the Big Island are Kailua-Kona and Hilo. This island's landscape is diverse and contains the Kau Desert, the Waipio Valley and the Puna Fern Forest. Sugar, coffee and macadamia nuts are grown here. The flower of the big island is the Red Lehua Ohia.


Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii. This island is home to the Koke’e State Park, the Na Pali Coast State Park, the Alakai Wilderness Area, Waimea Canyon and the Fern Grotto. The Wailua River, Poipu Beach, Hanalei Bay and Nawiliwili Bay are other popular landmarks here. Though this land is used primarily for ranching, Kauai also grows coffee, guava, pineapple and sugar cane. The flower of Kauia is Mokihana, or the Green Berry.


Lanai is also known as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Island.” This island was once primarily used as a pineapple plantation for the Dole Company. It is now welcoming more tourism to the area. Though still considered a relatively secluded island, Lanai is home to two world-class resorts and two golf courses. The official flower of Lanai is the Kaunaoa, or the Yellow and Orange Air Plant.


Maui is known as the “Valley Isle” and is home to Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano crater in the world at 10,023 feet. The Hana Highway, Halekala National Park and Iao Valley are popular tourist attractions here. The island’s major settlements are Lahaina, Wailuku, Kihei and Hana. Sugar, coffee, macadamia nuts, pineapple and papaya are grown here and the official flower is Lokelani, or the Pink Cottage Rose.


Molokai is known as the “Friendly Island” for the abundant aloha spirit that flourishes here. Though this island lacks some of the luxurious resorts and restaurants often associated with Hawaii, Molokai offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including mountain biking and snorkeling. Kalaupapa National Historical Park is located here. The flower of Molokai is the White Kukui Blossom.


Oahu is the most populated of the Hawaiian island with more than 900,000 residents. Honolulu is the capital city and home to the major airport and principle shipping port. The island’s visitor center is located in Waikiki. Popular tourist attractions here include the Pali Lookout, the Valley of the Temples, the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Ala Moana Shopping Center. Oahu’s flower is the Ilima.

Kahoolawe and Niiahu

Kahoolawe is the only one of the eight major Hawaiian islands to be uninhabited. This location was once used by the U.S. Navy and Air Force as a target. The military is currently cleaning up the unexploded shells here. For this reason, the island is strictly off limits to civilians. The flower of Kahoolawe is the Hinahina, or Beach Heliotrope.

Niiahu has a population of only 160 and is a privately owned island. The primary industry here is livestock. Access to Niihau is strictly limited. The official flower of this island is the Pupu Shell.

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