Hawaii is a land of diversity, a land of much beauty and of many contradictions. Mother Nature pulled out all the stops when forming this place. And the life that has since inhabited these green gems is as diverse as the entire world itself.

From lush rainforests to barren deserts, Hawaii is as eclectic a place as you'll ever visit. A favorite get-away for people around the world, Hawai'i has become famous for its miles of beaches, erupting volcanoes, lush rainforests, and exotic flora and fauna. Let's take a look at what makes Hawaii like no place else on earth.

Older than Time / Younger Than You

All good things take time. Hawai'i's existence is no different. The islands likely began their journey upward from the seafloor some 70 million years ago, before even the dinosaurs met their end. These islands have been springing up from the sea in assembly line fashion, moving to the north and west on the earth's crust over time, eventually sinking below the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. But as old as the islands are, many hundreds of acres on the island of Hawai'i are likely younger than you are. So young in fact that even if you were born today some of the earth there would be newer than you still. And in another 50,000 years or so a new volcano will likely pop above the waves. Two dozen miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, Lo'ihi continues its ascent to become the next Hawaiian island.

Lost World / New World

When Michael Crichton wrote his book famously entitled, "The Lost World," many people had flashbacks to 'Jurassic Park.' If you ever watched the show "LOST" on ABC, you might call it a "lost world."  Perhaps this is all more than just ironic. The 'Jurassic Park' movies were, of course, filmed on Kauai, and "LOST' is filmed on Oahu. Such visions of a lost world were very real just a short time ago. Hawaii was the true "lost world" until around 2000 years ago. While much of the planet was inhabited by peoples far and wide, Hawai'i stood alone in the middle of the pacific for millions of years. Hawaii is approximately 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. Some 65-million square miles of open water surround the islands without interruption.

Even after the original settlers from the Pacific discovered and inhabited Hawaii, it wasn't another 1700 years that "modern" man would discover the islands. Captain James Cook stumbled upon the islands in 1778. The rest, as they say, is history.

Hawaii

Hawaii's Incredible Climate Diversity

Hot and Cold, Wet and Dry

Considering there are 13 climate zones in the world, you'd probably assume Hawaii fell into a single category or two; something in the tropics perhaps? Try 11 - that's not a typo - ELEVEN!

 No place on earth is quite as diverse as Hawaii when it comes to climate and weather on such a small geographical area. From barren lava desert on the leeward side of select islands to lush rainforest directly on the other, you'd think you were in two separate parts of the world. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, and even Haleakala on Maui can been seen with a white snowy cap during several months in the winter. Down below the water is a warm 76 degrees. There aren't a lot of places you can surf and ski in the same day.

Consider also that select locations receive but a few inches of rain a year, as in 10 inches or less. Other parts of the islands receive upwards of 440 inches of rain a year. In Wai'ale'ale Crater on the island of Kauai, an average yearly rainfall of 440-470 inches is not uncommon - making it the wettest spot on earth. Hilo, the second largest city in the state, located on East Hawaii, is the wettest city in the United States. Just over 30 miles away, on the western flank of Kilauea exists the Ka'u Desert.

Big and yet so Small

At one end of the chain the mountains reach nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, their peaks often capturing snow during the winter. On the other end of the chain, some 1,600 miles away, many of the oldest Hawaiian Islands barely scratch the surface of the waves that relentlessly pound away at their ever shrinking shores. Even Kauai, the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, likely used to reach up to 5,000 foot higher into the clouds then even Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea do today. But five million years of wave action, wind, and erosion have reduced it to a peak of only 5,200 feet at Kawaikini. Over time the Hawaiian Islands will all suffer the same fate and sink beneath the blue ocean once again.

In total area, the seven major islands rank in at number 43 amongst the United States, one of the smallest. When considering only land area, they're a smaller 47th. But if one considers all of the Hawaiian Islands stretching 1,600 miles out into the Pacific, all legally part of the state of Hawaii, and if you include their territorial waters, you might be surprised that you'd have an area more than TWICE the size of Alaska. Move over Alaska, California, and Texas, you're not so big anymore.

Two Fish and some Bread

It's hard to take a little bit of anything and turn it into a lot. But Hawaii isn't playing by the same rules. Here there are some 6,000 birds, plants, sea creatures, and insects found nowhere else on earth. They are endemic to Hawaii and have evolved here and only here. From a few hundred seeds flown in by the birds, blown in by wind, and carried by the currents - Hawaii has bloomed with extraordinary flora. The fauna evolved too, especially the birds, creating some of the most amazing honey creepers found in the entire world. Many are rare or endangered today - many more have already gone extinct. It is important that visitors and locals alike band together to protect these priceless forms of nature. Since the arrival of man, thousands of exotic plant and animal species have been introduced, and many are invasively taking over the true natives.

Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick
Published/Updated:

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