Happiness Is … Hawaii

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Honolulu

Honolulu (Photo credit: snowpeak)

According to a recent Gallup report, the happiest state in the nation is Hawaii. In fact, Hawaii has held the number one spot since 2009. To that I say … well, yeah. How could anyone not be happy living in Hawaii? The weather, the beaches, the palm trees … but it isn’t just a beautiful island getaway.

Hawaii is the youngest state in the Union, joining in 1959. As an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is unique – the small collection of islands were formed from volcanoes, many of which are still active. The islands consist of Hawaii (the largest island), Maui, Oahu, Lanai, Kauai, Niihau, Molokai, and Kahoolawe.

But what makes the islands even more special is the exotic flora and fauna – because the islands are so isolated, the animals and plants native to the islands were brought by wind, waves, or wings, which led to some exotic and endangered species. Roughly 95 percent of the plants and animals native to Hawaii can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

To protect its extraordinary environment, the National Park Service protects many areas of the islands. Haleakala National Park on Maui covers 33,265 acres and includes the Haleakala Volcano, a dormant volcano that last erupted between 1480 and 1600. The volcano’s crater is the highlight of the park, spanning 6.99 miles across, 2 miles wide, and 2,600 feet deep. Two trails lead to the crater from the summit, and three cabins can be reserved by hikers wishing to stay the night near the crater. They want to do this mainly for the sunset and sunrise, which is a truly spectacular sight.

If you’d rather see an active volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii contains two: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, where Mauna Loa is the biggest. Both are impressive, attracting tourists and scientists alike. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was named a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. The park covers 323,431 acres with half of it designated the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness – a spectacular place to hike and camp.

When you crave history, visit the Kalaupapa National Historical Park on the island of Molokai. This historical park is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark District. It was the site of two leper colonies built in 1866, housing over 8,000 patients who suffered from the disease before it was eradicated in the 1940s. The site was placed on the National Register in 1976. In addition to the history of the location, visitors can enjoy the amazing sea cliffs, a volcanic crater, rain forests, lava tubes and caves, coral reefs, and lush valleys.

If hiking emerald green cliffs that rise from a cobalt blue sea isn’t enough to make you happy, diving among the coral reefs, surfing, or walking along some of the most beautiful beaches in the world might. Or perhaps it will take watching the whales or standing on top of a volcano … or having a mai tai during a luau … or taking one of Hawaii’s amazing scenic drives. Or, perhaps shopping in downtown Honolulu has something to do with its high happiness rating.

Honolulu, which ranked highest in the same Gallup study for Emotional Health, is the state capital. It is also a major city for military defense, international business, research and development, trade, and manufacturing. Companies based in Honolulu include Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii Pacific Health, Alexander & Baldwin, and several banks. Honolulu is also home to a variety of museums, botanical gardens, the Hawaii Opera Theater, the Honolulu Symphony, the Waikiki Aquarium, and the University of Hawaii.

From dense rain forests, stunning waterfalls, soaring cliffs, and volcanoes to black sand beaches, hidden coves, whale sightings, and tumbling surf, it’s no wonder Hawaii’s one-million-plus residents are so happy. Add in the culture and economic powerhouse of Honolulu, the food, the tropical temperatures, and the island lifestyle, and it’s enough to make the residents of the islands downright giddy. Aloha!