The state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian archipelago, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles. At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight main islands are—in order from northwest to southeast: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii. The last is the largest island in the group; it is often called the “Big Island” or “Hawaii Island” to avoid confusion with the state or archipelago.
The archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania.
Hawaii’s diverse natural scenery, warm tropical climate, abundance of public beaches, oceanic surroundings, and active volcanoes make it a popular destination for tourists, surfers, biologists, and volcanologists. Because of its central location in the Pacific and 19th-century labor migration, Hawaii’s culture is strongly influenced by North American and Asian cultures, in addition to its indigenous Hawaiian culture. Hawaii has over a million permanent residents, along with many visitors and U.S. military personnel. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oahu.