The continental United States consists of the 48 states located between Canada and Mexico in North America. These states are bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast and the Pacific Ocean on the west coast. The only two states that are not part of the continental United States are Alaska and Hawaii. These two states are not adjacent to the other 48. In addition to Alaska and Hawaii, other areas have special relationships with the U.S. but are not considered states.
Alaska became a state on January 3, 1959, which made it the 49th state in the Union. Alaska is located northwest of Canada and has its own time zone, which is 9 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Alaska is closer to Russia than it is to the 48 contiguous states and is almost as close to Tokyo as it is to New York City. The majority of the people in Alaska live in Fairbanks. The capital of Alaska is Juneau.
The state of Hawaii actually consists of eight main islands and more than 100 smaller islands. Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959, making it the 50th state in the United States. Hawaii is the nation's southernmost state and the only one that is not on the North American mainland. Hawaii has its own time zone, which is 10 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. It is also the only state that grows coffee. Hawaii is a popular tourist destination and boasts many unique plants and animals, as well as beautiful beaches. Its capital is Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu.
Although Puerto Rico is not an American state, it does have commonwealth status. This means that Puerto Rican people have U.S. citizenship but that the country has its own constitution, which enables its citizens to elect a governor and govern themselves under U.S. law. Puerto Rico is a major shipping line to the Panama Canal, and the port city of San Juan is both its capital and its largest city. The other countries that have this commonwealth status with the U.S. are American Samoa, Guam, the American Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Native American Reservations
Although Native American reservations are geographically within the United States, they have what is known as “tribal sovereignty.” Tribal sovereignty means that Native Americans have the right to make and be ruled by their own laws and that reservations are independent communities outside the realm of the U.S. government. Native American reservations occupy more than 55 million acres of land in 30 states and in 2009 generated some $26.4 billion in gaming revenue.