15 Things You Might Not Know About Hawaii
1. There are only 13 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet and every word—and syllable—ends with one of five vowels.
2. That apostrophe-like mark you see in some Hawaiian words is called an ʻokina. It's a consonant that signifies a slight pause. If two words seem to be spelled exactly alike, but one has an ʻokina, you're looking at two different words. For example, "moa" means "chicken," while "moʻa" means "cooked."
3. The state of Hawaii consists of eight main islands, the biggest of which is called, you guessed it, the Big Island. The Big Island's official name is Hawai'i.
4. The Big Island's getting bigger—by more than 42 acres each year—thanks to Kīlauea Volcano. It's been erupting for 30 years! Mauna Loa, one of the world's largest volcanoes, is also on the Big Island. Astronauts once trained for moon voyages by walking on its hardened lava fields. Most recently, six NASA-funded researchers spent months on the northern slope simulating a Mars space station.
5. Hawaii is the only U.S. state that commercially grows coffee, cacao, and vanilla beans. (Also: It can take up to five years to grow a single vanilla bean.)
6. The Aloha State's also good at growing... people. It's got the highest life expectancy in the United States (81.3 years), despite the fact that...
7. The people of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the U.S.
8. No matter how old you are or how long you’ve lived in the state, only people with Hawaiian ancestry are called “Hawaiians.” People of non-Hawaiian ancestry—even those born and raised there—call themselves “locals."
9. One Hawaiian: Theridion grallator, also known as the happy face spider.
10. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Hawaii has the highest percentage of Asian Americans (38.6 percent) and multiracial Americans (23.6 percent) in the United States. It also has the lowest percentage of white Americans (24.7 percent).
11. In Hawaii, no celebration's complete without a lei. And the flower garlands come with strict rules. For starters, it's impolite to refuse a lei, remove it in front of the person who gave it to you, or wear one that you intend to give to someone else. A lei should never be thrown away. Instead, it should traditionally be returned to the earth, ideally to where its flowers were gathered. And it's bad luck to give a tied lei to a pregnant woman, as it suggests an umbilical cord around a baby's neck.
12. The state gem isn't a standard mineral. Black coral is technically an animal, but it's often used to make jewelry.
13. The Aloha State is one of four that have outlawed billboards. (The others are Alaska, Maine, and Vermont.)
14. Snakes are also outlawed. The only legal serpents are housed in zoos.
15. When you picture a beautiful Hawaiian getaway, you might imagine a black or white beach. They also come in yellow, red, and green.