Kahoolawe Island

The smallest of the Hawaiian Islands.

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• General: Educational • General: Guide
• General: History

Matt Anderson's Take
Kahoolawe Island is the smallest of the main Hawaiian Islands and it's located around seven miles southwest of Maui. The tiny island is only six miles wide and eleven miles long with a total land area of 45 square miles.


The tallest point on Kahoolawe Island is only 1,477 feet above sea level and can be found at the summit of Pu'u Moaulanui in the crater of Lua Makika. Unlike other islands with taller mountains that catch the tradewinds and dump rain, Kahoolawe is quite dry with only 26 inches of annual rainfall.


Because the island lacks a fresh water source it never has been highly populated. It was used as a training ground during World War II as well as a bombing range by our incredibly shortsighted armed forces. It took decades of protesting before the U.S. Navy finally agreed to end their target practice on the island in 1990 after President George Bush made them stop. In 1994 the jurisdiction of the island was given to the State of Hawaii and it currently falls under Maui County.


Having some foresight that our military leaders lack, the state turned the entire island into the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve and is restoring the island. A major cleanup effort took place over the next decade and congress authorized $400 million to clean the place up and restore natural resources. Some parts of the island were cleared of surface ordnance and are said to be relatively safe for humans. Unfortunately, many parts of the island and surrounding waters are still littered with debris and unexploded bombs and remain very dangerous.


Unfortunately, you likely can't visit the island today. It's only allowed to be used for Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, and subsistence purposes.
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