Hawai’i is a world-famous destination that consists of some of the world’s most isolated islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Known for its beautiful beaches, amazing surfing, unique culture, hospitality, and more. Many people dream of visiting Hawai’i and when they can, and continue to return there again and again. There is always more to explore, and aside from the crowds and pricing, there is very little to be disappointed in.

That all being said, there’s a lot to think about, learn about, and plan around when it comes to Hawai’i. This collection of my posts on Hawai’i will give you some ideas for hiking, nature, culture and more.

General Information

Type: U.S. State (1959)

Region: Oceania

Official Languages: English, Hawai’ian

Population: 1.4 million (2020)

Capital: Honolulu

Currency: US Dollar

Outlets: Type A and B, 120 v 60 Hz

Highpoint: Mauna Kea

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Papahānaumokuākea

National Parks: Check out the U.S. National Park Services

Nature in Hawai’i


things to see in eastern maui

(c) ABR 2019

The islands that we know of as Hawai’i sit in the middle of the Pacific tectonic plate, and each one was formed as the Pacific plate moves northwest, over the stationary hot spot. This spot pushes magma up through the mantle of the Earth, to the surface. And there, this magma cools and over thousands of years creates mountains that slowly rise out of the ocean, to form the land masses that we all know and love. You can look at the islands and guess at their age due to this.

The Big Island of Hawai’i is the youngest of the islands, and is home to the active volcanos of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which are still growing to this day. Moving north, the islands above the Big Island are progressively older. Each one having moved off of the hot spot in times immemorial. To the south is also an active seamount called Loihi, which will someday form a new Hawai’ian island.


(c) ABR 2019

Although Hawai’i is relatively small, it has extremely high ecological variation. The islands are also very isolated, being more than 2,000 miles from any continent and this has led to a high number of species found no where else in the world. Along with this, the islands are highly dynamic, with the tallest mountain being more than 13,000 feet tall. This provides a wide variety of conditions for the species living on there. Within Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park alone there are seven ecological zones that include seacoast, lowland forest, mid-elevation woodland, rainforest, upland forest, subalpine, and alpine.

Nightborn Travel Posts on Nature in Hawaii

Hiking and More in Western Maui – Explore everything from the coastal cliffs to the tropical mountains of Western Maui.

Explore Eastern Maui – The larger side of Maui is home to the road to Hana, as well as the massive Haleakala mountain.

Lana’i in a Day – Hike and 4WD to the most beautiful spots on Lana’i island.

Kamakou Preserve – Find out how to hike through the wild, tropical mountains of Moloka’i.

Mo’omomi Preserve – Learn more about exploring the preserved, coastal areas of northern Moloka’i.

More Resources

National Geographic: Hawai’i Geology

USGS: Learn More About the Ecology of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

NOAA: 2022 Ecosystem Status Report for Hawai’i

History of Hawai’i

The Hawai’ian islands were first settled by Polynesian explorers, who braved 2000 miles of ocean in canoes to travel to the unknown lands sometime around 400 CE. From this point onwards, the Hawai’ian people utilized their already exceptional knowledge in sea-navigation and food production to create a thriving population on the islands. The culture that they build over many generations was vibrant, complex, and held a deep respect for the Hawai’ian islands.

More than a thousand years after the islands of Hawai’i had become home to people, the first Europeans arrived. In 1778, Captain James Cook landed on Kaua’i – setting off a new era of struggle and cultural change (not all linked to Europeans and other peoples).

By 1810, King Kamehameha created the first singular kingdom of Hawai’i by defeating the rulers of the other Hawai’ian islands. As he originated from the island of Hawai’i itself, his victory resulting in the naming of the entire archipelago for the Big Island – Hawai’i. And by 1820, European missionaries and traders began coming to the islands. As with many indigenous peoples who had not previously been exposed to the diseases of the “Old World,” this had a devastating impact on the Hawai’ian population. Within a less than a century, disease had killed 77% of the indigenous population.

Kamehameha II, became involved in the Christian church, and he abolished the Kapu, or the spiritual laws of Hawai’i. The following kings of the Hawai’ian nation tackled some of the world’s biggest challenges, increasing the literacy of their people to 91-95%, and forming connections with many nations of the world, as a progressive, Pacific nation. In 1874, King Kalākaua came into power and he was known for his focus on revitalizing traditional, Hawai’ian culture. This led to the formation of the unaptly named “Hawai’ian League” which consisted of missionary descendants who wanted to wrest power from the native people of the islands.

In 1887, the American League staged a violent takeover of Hawai’i, during which time they forced King Kalākaua to sign a new constitution that striped much power from the native Hawai’ian people, and regressed much of the progressive work that the country had been doing.

When Queen Lili’uokalani came into power in 1891, she listened to the concerns of her people, who were no longer able to vote, and she was planning on drafting a new constitution for Hawai’i. However, this was considered a threat to the economic, colonizing powers on the island, and this led to a struggle for power, which eventually led to the downfall of the Hawai’ian Kingdom. It was made a US territory in 1898 and became the 50th state in 1959.

There was an attempt to erase Hawai’ian culture throughout this time and afterwards, but through the passion and resistance of many exceptional native Hawai’ian people, these efforts have failed. And elements of Hawai’ian culture, like surfing, have become world-wide phenomena that continues to this day.

Hawai’i also played a major role in World War II, which the US entered into after December 7, 1941, when 2,300 Americans were killed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to the United States joining World War II.

More Resources and References

PBS: Learn About the Rich History of Hawai’i

Smithsonian: Hawai’i History and Heritage

Cultures of Hawai’i 

Please note, the following sections are just meant to give you a brief overview of these cultures. I don’t belong to either, and I cannot profess to be an expert in Hawai’ian culture. However, I will share a few things of note that I found interesting here, and help you start exploring on your own by sharing some resources for further learning.

Some Tips for Cultural Respect in Hawai’i

Native Hawai’ian Culture

The Native Hawai’ian people can trace their heritage back to master navigators that came first from the Marquesas Islands and then the Society Islands. For some time, the people who took up residence on the islands maintained a connection between their growing society and the rest of Polynesia. However, this connection was eventually ended, leading to about 400 years of solitude for Hawai’ian culture to develop in its own direction.

Cultural well-being and ecological well-being are linked for all humans, and Hawai’i is not exception. Indigenous Hawai’ian’s had a very close and caring relationship with the land, and this has been maintained to this day. From an ecological perspective, it is really interesting to note that the Hawai’ian people were far ahead of their time. They divided their lands into sections called moku, and these usually included the entire ecological gradient, from the mountains all the way to the reefs off the coast. Now a days, there is a conservation movement around this concept due to the linkages (particularly of water) from mountains to the ocean. They valued and cared for the land – a legacy that continues to this day.

At the time that Europeans and Hawai’ian people first met, Hawai’ian society exhibited a caste system with ali’i (chiefs) at the top, then kahuna (professionals), maka’ainana (commoners), and the kauwa as the lowest class. This structure of inequality and power has been similarly found elsewhere in the world in some famously instrumental societies, and since the time of contact with Europeans (but not due to them), Hawai’ian society also underwent many progressive changes, not least of which were encouraged by some of their most recent kings and queens.

Like many peoples, religion and spirituality was also a part of nearly every aspect of Hawai’ian culture. Traditionally, they worshipped two kinds of deities: akua or the spirits of nature, and ‘aumakua or the ancestral, protective gods.

At the same time, Native Hawai’ians did and continue to have a complex culture of music, dance, art, and all-things built.

To learn more about Hawai’ian history, a great resource is HawaiiHistory.org. This site covers a variety of topics to explore the past of Hawai’ian people and some elements of Hawai’ian culture as well.

The Polynesian Cultural Center has a section that explores Hawai’ian culture. More can be learned by visiting their site on Hawai’i.

Immigrant Fusion Culture

In the Hawai’i of today, Native Hawai’ian people still shape the islands and of course, many traditional elements of their culture – dances, surfing, food (if commodified for most tourists), but there are also many other cultural elements that make up the culture you will experience there.

As a part of the United States, American culture is pervasive, but Hawai’i has also seen many other cultures come to find refuge and a life in the islands and there is a unique fusion of food, ceremony, and ideas that you will experience as a visitor. Some of the cultures that will shape the experience that you have today are Native Hawai’ian, US America, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos, and more. It all comes together in a uniquely Hawiian way, and you will notice this in the food, architecture, and day-to-day interactions if you pay attention.

Other Resources

National Park Service: Native Hawai’ian Heritage And Culture

Hawai’ian Ecosystems and Culture: Why Growing Plants for Lei Helps to Preserve Hawai’i’s Natural and Cultural Heritage

Exploring Hawai’i by Island

Hawai’i (“Big Island”)

Coming soon.


Coming soon.


Kaho’olawe is not open to visitors.


Lana’i is one of the smallest, inhabited Hawai’ian island, and it is also lacks high mountains that would allow for the tropical forests that characterize many of the other islands in the minds of most visitors. Instead, Lana’i is known for the iconic Cook Island pines that lines its roads and ridges. There is one small town called Lana’i City on the island, where there are still remnants of the Dole Company, that once grew crops there, along with cultural attractions, shops, and restaurants. The rest of the island is accessible via dirt roads and lead to unique places that are unlike anywhere else in Hawai’i. These include the old wooden church of Keomuku and Shipwreck Beach.

To get the full experience of Lana’i, several days would be necessary, but I was only able to visit for a day. So, I have a guide that covers how to recreate that experience.

Where I’ve Been


things to see in eastern maui

(c) ABR 2019

Maui is a popular vacation spot for many, and with its exceptional beaches and mountains, it is no surprise. While it would be impossible to see all the amazing things that Maui has to offer in one, regular length trip – there are definitely ways that you can get a good sample of the what the island has to offer. In western Maui, you can explore beautiful beach-side towns and hike into the tropical mountains of the island. Meanwhile, Eastern Maui is home to the road to Hana which will take you to back sand beaches, waterfalls, and secluded desert canyons. It is also home to Haleakala National Park, where you can drive into a unique, alpine environment.


Explore Eastern Maui – The larger side of Maui is home to the road to Hana, as well as the massive Haleakala mountain.

Hiking and More in Western Maui – Explore everything from the coastal cliffs to the tropical mountains of Western Maui.

 Where I’ve Been


Moloka’i is one of the smaller Hawai’ian islands, both in terms of population and land area. It is also considerably harder to get to than the islands with big cities and bigger airports. Somewhat shielded from the impact of tourism and modern influx of wealthy, non-indigenous residents snapping up housing, Moloka’i is also noted for a higher proportion of native Hawai’ian people than many of the other islands. It’s small towns, farms, and wild spaces are welcoming to those who respect the people here, and visitors will find this unique and beautiful place to be peaceful and breathtaking.

Cultural sites open to visitors on Moloka’i include a local museum, and Kalaupapa National Historic Park. If you aren’t familiar with that name, Kalaupapa is the historic settlement where Hawai’ian people with leprosy (introduced by colonizers) were exiled before treatment for the disease was developed.

There is also amazing hiking on the island. Two of the sites that I visited were cared for by the Nature Conservancy and include the beach hiking of Mo’omomi Preserve and tropical hiking of Kamakou Preserve.

If you are interested in checking out a hiking and culture itinerary for Moloka’i, look no further.


If you want to know how to spend some time in Moloka’i, check out my itinerary for the island.

Kamakou Preserve – Find out how to hike through the wild, tropical mountains of Moloka’i.

Mo’omomi Preserve – Learn more about exploring the preserved, coastal areas of northern Moloka’i.

Where I’ve Been


Ni’ihau is currently only open to very few visitors, myself not included.


Hoping to explore O’ahu in the future!


Spend a few spectacular, action-packed days on the small island of Moloka’i with this Nightborn Itinerary to Moloka’i.

Where We Have Been

More Information From Around the Web

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