Welcome to Hawaii! It’s always good to know the symbols of the state you visit. Best to start with the big 5 Hawaii state symbols, the state flower, the state bird, the state nickname, the motto, and the little state fish with the big name. Once you know these you’re on your way to being a real local.
You can already guess other Hawaii symbols like the state sport, surfing, and the state musical instrument, the ukulele (pronounced “oo”-ku-lay’-lee” not “you”-ku-lay’-lee). Take a wild guess at the state dance, you’re right, it’s Hula. State beverage? Not coffee, though Hawaiian coffee is highly prized. It’s awa – a beverage brewed from the roots of the kava plant (Piper methysticum).
You don’t really have to remember the state insect, which is the Kamehameha Butterfly or the state microbe, a wiggly one-celled thing with a long Latin name. But it’s good to know the state bird, flower, fish, and the nicknames. Let us begin.
Hawaii State Flower
The Hawaii state flower is the Yellow Hibiscus, the beautiful bright yellow flower with wide petals. Don’t ask me why it isn’t the well-known Red Hibiscus, but it’s the yellow one, maybe it’s more like bright Hawaii sunshine, who knows? Interesting, the Yellow Hibiscus grows the highest up (400-2,600 ft.) of all Hibiscus in Hawaii.
Hawaii State Bird
The Hawaii state bird is the Nene (nay nay) Goose. It looks like a Canadian Goose because it descended from it. Amazingly, it has been on the Hawaiian islands since the times they first popped up out if the ocean 500,000 years ago.
They are wild birds but they come right up to you and eat out of your hand.
Not long ago you could drive right near the edge of the volcano, Halemaumau Crater on the Big Island. In the volcano parking lot, near the edge of he crater, there was a flock of Nene Geese that waddled around taking hand-outs of bread and chips from the visitors.
They’re so tame they must know they are protected. The punishment for harming a Nene is $50,000 and a year in jail. Better be nice to the Nene Goose.
An interesting bit of bird trivia, Peacocks are wild all over Hawaii and so are green parrots.
Hawaii State Nickname
So, the nickname of the state of Hawaii everyone has to know. Hawaii is the Aloha State. Aloha means love, hello, goodbye, and so much more… what a word. You’ll see a rainbow on the license plates along with “The Aloha State”. Could it be anything else?
Hawaii State Motto
The state motto is “The life of the land is preserved in righteousness”. In Hawaiian it’s “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono”. This phrase is written in Hawaiian on everything official, from work trucks to the governor’s office.
There is a great story of how the phrase began. This is the short version.
It was uttered by King Kamehameha III in a speech in 1843. In February of that year an overly bold British Captain, George Paulet sailed into Honolulu and decided to take over the kingdom. He went ashore, pushed out the king and set himself up as ruler of Hawaii. His obnoxious rule lasted for five months.
In July, five months later, noble English Captain Richard Thomas sailed in, strutted into the capitol and told Paulet to leave. It wasn’t hard since Captain Thomas was his commanding officer. In a speech praising the great rescuer, the king said that the kingdom is preserved in “Pono”or righteousness, the goodness of Captain Richard Thomas.
Hawaii is one interesting place.
Hawaii Sate Fish
The Hawaii state fish is also is also a test. If you can pronounce it’s 21 letter tongue-twisting name you are an unofficial local person and will gain great respect. Prepare thyself, the Hawaiian name of the state fish is Humuhumu nukunuku apua’a.
Here’s how you say it, humu’-humu’-nooku’-nooku’-ah’-poo’-ah-ah. Start practicing now, in a week you’ll be able to say it at all the parties.
Now you know the 5 big Hawaii State Symbols – the Yellow Hibiscus, the Nene Goose, the Aloha State, the motto about the life of the land preserved in righteousness. You even know the state fish, and soon you will be able to pronounce it. But you know there is a state symbol for everything from songs to gemstones. Here are some.
Hawaii State Gemstone
The state gemstone is black coral, very rare. It’s an undersea animal that looks like a bush and feels like a rock. A living stone. It looks like a big black fern.
The overall state mammal is the Monk Seal, you see them lounging on the beach like tourists. They’re cute as a puppy but don’t go near them they are protected and have been known to bite. The state sea mammal is the Humpback Whale, the star of the ocean.
The state land mammal is the Hawaiian Hoary Bat. Go figure, a bat. Maybe they eat mosquitos, there’s a reason to be the land mammal right there.
The state plant is Kalo or taro, they make it into poi. You remember poi, the brown gooey stuff they eat at luaus. The state tree is the Kukui Nut Tree. The nut from the tree can be burned like a candle and string them together they make a nice lei. They are the nut leis you always see.
Time to go out singing the state song, “Hawai’i Pono’i” (Hawaii-po’-no-ee). A beautiful song written by King Kalakaua, with music by his head bandmaster Henri Berger, praising King Kamehameha, founding father of the islands.
The song was, and still is, the Hawaiian National Anthem. It’s sung at sporting events in Hawaii. They sing the Star Spangled Banner and afterwards sing Hawai’i Pono’i. When you hear Hawaiians and everyone sing the lilting sweet song, it carries you back to the old days of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Hawaiians have never left.