World Facts

Is Hawaii a Part of Oceania or North America?

Hawaii, the US's 50th state, is geographically located in Polynesia, a subregion of Oceania in the Pacific Ocean.

The States of Alaska and Hawaii are the only two states that do not share a border with any of the other 48 states. However, unlike Hawaii, Alaska is geographically located in North America. Hawaii, on the other hand, lies 2,392 miles west of San Francisco, 2,550 miles southwest of Los Angeles, 3,900 miles east of Tokyo, and 4,536 miles northeast of Australia. The absolute position of its capital city Honolulu is defined as 21º 18' N, 157º 51' W. The absolute location of Hawaii defies the layman’s concept of what the United States is and the correlation between the States. Regarding the absolute location of Hawaii, many cannot tell whether it is part of North America or Oceania.

Inclusion of Hawaii as a US State

On August 21, 1959, the United States Congress admitted the Island of Hawaii to the Union as the 50th state of the United States of America. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 (New States Clause) of the US constitution grants power to Congress to admit new states to the Union. According to the clause, all new states would be admitted to the union and granted equal rights as the original states in all respects whatsoever. On admission, Hawaii thus became an equal member of the Union. It is the birthplace of the 44th president of the United States, Barrack Obama, who was born two years after the state was admitted. The admission of Hawaii means it is a state rather than a territory of the United States, such as Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Islands of Hawaii

Hawaii is entirely an island consisting of several islands spread across 1,500 miles. Its total land mass is 10,931 sqm and is ranked the 43rd largest state of the Union. It has an estimated population of 1.45 million. There are eight main islands in the State of Hawaii; Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaiʻi. A majority of the islanders are of Asian origin (37.3%), but intermarriage between native Hawaiians, Asians, and Caucasians mean that the ratio of people with two or more races is on the rise. The major ancestries of the island are Filipinos (13.6%), Japanese (12.6%), Polynesian (9%), and Germans (7.4%).

Is Hawaii in Oceania or North America?

Geographically, Hawaii is considered to be located in Oceania. The continent of Oceania consists of four regions: Australasia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. Polynesia consists of a number of sovereign states and thousands of inhabited and habited islands. Initially, the term Polynesia referred to the islands of the Pacific, but in 1831, the Geographical Society of Paris restricted the word to mean South Sea Islands. The Polynesia Region is mapped by a triangle in the Pacific Ocean. Polynesia includes Samoa, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Tonga, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, and on the northernmost tip of the triangle, lies the islands of Hawaii.

The United States stipulates how a state can join the Union but fails to provide the guidelines for the exit of a state from the Union. Either way, if each of the 50 states was to be considered sovereign, forty-nine of the states would geographically be in North America while Hawaii would fall under the Polynesian states of Oceania. However, Hawaii has no plan to secede from the Union in the foreseeable future, it remains part of the United States and administratively governed as part of North America.

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