An archipelago situated some 3,200 km (1,988 mi) southwest of the North American mainland, Hawaii is the southernmost state of the United States and the second westernmost state after Alaska. Only Hawaii and Alaska are outside the contiguous United States and do not share a border with any other U.S. state.
Hawaii is the only state of the United States that
* is not geographically located in North America
* is completely surrounded by water
* has a royal palace
* does not have a straight line in its state boundary
* continuously grows in area (due to currently active lava flows, most notably from Kilauea (Kīlauea).)
Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea stands at 13,796 ft (4,205 m) and is taller than Mount Everest if followed to the base of the mountain—on the floor of the Pacific Ocean.
All of the Hawaiian islands were formed by volcanos erupting from the sea floor from a magma source described in geological theory as a hotspot. The theory maintains that as the tectonic plate beneath much of the Pacific Ocean moves in a northwesterly direction, the hot spot remains stationary, slowly creating new volcanoes. This explains why only volcanoes on the southern half of the Big Island, and the Loihi Seamount (Lōʻihi) deep below the waters off its southern coast, are presently active, with Loihi being the newest volcano to form.
The last volcanic eruption outside the Big Island occurred at Haleakala on Maui in the late 18th century, though recent research suggests that Haleakala’s most recent eruptive activity could be hundreds of years earlier.
The volcanic activity and subsequent erosion created impressive geological features. The Big Island is notable as the world’s fifth highest island.
Because of the islands’ volcanic formation, native life before human activity is said to have arrived by the “3 W’s”: wind (carried through the air), waves (brought by ocean currents), and wings (birds, insects, and whatever they brought with them). The isolation of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the wide range of environments to be found on high islands located in and near the tropic, has resulted in a vast array of endemic flora and fauna. Hawaii has more endangered species per square mile and has lost a higher percentage of its endemic species than anywhere else on Earth.