The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated archipelago in the world. It is thought that Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands first populated the islands roughly 1,500 years ago, with a second wave of settlers arriving from Tahiti 500 years later. The Hawaiians developed a unique social, economic and agricultural system based on pie-shaped land divisions, and a flourishing culture that gave rise to the art of hula and the sport of surfing.
In 1778, Captain James Cook landed on the island of Kaua'i. He was soon followed by the first Protestant missionaries, and in the 19th century Hawai’i became a port for foreign seamen, traders and whalers, whose diseases nearly decimated the native population.
Western influence continued to grow, and in 1893, American business interests – the sons of the missionaries turned sugar planters – overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani, and seized the Hawaiian Kingdom in an illegal coup that is still controversial today.
Hawai’i was annexed by the United States in 1898 and become the 50th state in 1959. In 1993 President Clinton issued a formal apology for American involvement in the overthrow.
The islands are home to a wealth of flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet. Unfortunately, many of these indigenous species are now on the verge of extinction.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Hawai’i underwent a cultural renaissance, which sparked a revival of traditional Hawaiian arts, music, navigation, hula and language, as well as greater awareness and activism with regard to the rights of the Hawaiian people.