Hawaii sits on a geological hot spot, and many of the volcanoes that helped create the archipelago are still active. Mauna Loa, on the Big Island, is the Earth’s largest volcano, rising two and a half miles above sea level. It is also one of the most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since records began in 1843. The most recent eruption was in 1984. Nearby Kilauea, believed to be the home of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, is even more active—it has erupted continuously since 1983. Both volcanoes are part of Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, which is also a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Site. The park covers about 360 square miles and features both the Kau Desert, an arid section formed by lava, and tropical rain forests that shelter many species of birds.
Hawaii is best known for its beaches, with their powdery white sand and calm turquoise water or curling waves. Surfing was invented by the islands’ earliest settlers, and it was popular among both men and women until 19th-century Christian missionaries deemed the sport sinful and banned it. In the last century, however, surfing became popular again, and tourists and locals hang ten at beaches throughout the islands, including Oahu’s famous Waikiki Beach.