12 things you didn't know about Hawaii

Everybody knows that "aloha" means both hello and goodbye, and that the Hawaiian pizza wasn't actually invented there (Ontario, duh), but did you know that Hawaii is pretty much responsible for your precious pog collection? Or that Tom Selleck's mustache is considered a state treasure?!? Ok, not really. But it should be, right?

Yes, the 50th state in the Union is more than just a beautiful island destination where folks go to shred the gnar and private investigators never run out of cases; here are a few more things you should absolutely know about it.

Hawaiian interstate
Wikimedia Commons

1. The island of Oahu's got its own interstate highways
Though the name implies otherwise, a highway needn't necessarily connect two or more states to fit the "interstate" bill: it's more a standard of quality than anything else. Oahu's got three of them, and they're designated with an H, rather than the usual I.

Mauna Kea
Flickr user Anthony Crider

2. Apollo astronauts trained for the moon landing on Hawaii
Specifically, in a section of Mauna Kea (the tallest mountain in the world) where the terrain was believed to be comparable to the Moon's. The area's now known as "Apollo Valley" and, interestingly enough, the Mars Curiosity Rover also found its volcanic sand to be similar to the soil on the Red Planet.

Hawaiian islands

3. Two of the eight main islands are closed to visitors
Uninhabited and limited to native Hawaiian cultural uses, Kaho'olawe's the smallest of the group and was used as a bombing range during WWII, earning the nickname "The Target Island". Ni'ihau is similarly off-limits to everyone except US Navy personnel and government officials, but boasts a much more alluring moniker: "The Forbidden Island". Which leads us to...

Zero fighter wreckage
Wikimedia Commons

4. The Ni'ihau Incident 
Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, a Japanese pilot crash-landed on Ni'ihau and was captured by locals. With the help of three islanders of Japanese descent, he overcome his captors and took several hostages before ultimately being killed in the struggle.

Wikimedia Commons

5. The first non-Japanese sumo wrestler to reach the rank of Yokozuna was Hawaiian
Wrestling under the stage name Akebono Taro, Chad Haaheo Rowan achieved the highest rank in the sport after competing for just five years. At 514lbs and 6'8", he was also one of the tallest and heaviest sumo wrestlers in history. After retiring from sumo in 2001, Akebono/Chad became a professional wrestler with All Japan Pro Wrestling.

Flickr user Ben Thomasson

6. Snakes are pretty much non-existent there
Slithering reptiles aren't endemic to the Hawaiian islands, so the only ones you'll encounter were imported by unscrupulous visitors.

spam mcgriddle
Flickr user Ethan Prater

7. More Spam is consumed per capita here than any other US state
Each person on the island chain eats about five cans of Spam per year, with the state as a whole devouring 7 million cans annually. Seriously, the numbers don't lie. The stuff's so popular, in fact, that local McDonalds and Burger King franchises offer it as a topping. There's even an annual Spam Jam in Honolulu, where area restaurants cook up creative Spam-inspired dishes.

'Iolani Palace
Flickr user Daniel Ramirez

8. It's the only place in America with an officially recognized royal palace
Inspired by the grand residences of European monarchs, King Kalakaua commissioned the construction of  'Iolani Palace in the 1870s. Completed in 1882, it had electric lighting four years before the White House. The monarchy was ultimately overthrown in 1893 but the palace remains standing and open to visitors.

volcanic rock
Flickr user Eli Duke

9. The Big Island is continuously growing
Thanks to Kilauea, a shield volcano that's been erupting continuously since 1983, the island of Hawaii is indeed getting bigger: the lava flows contributed approximately 543 acres of land between 1983 and 2002.

Wikimedia Commons

10. It's basically responsible for Pogs becoming a thing in America
Pogs are part of an old Japanese game called Menko, and made their way across the Pacific with immigrants to the Hawaiian islands. It wasn't until shortly after a school teacher taught the game to her students in 1991, though, that they took the continental US by storm.

Hawaiian newspaper
Wikimedia Commons

11. It's the only state with two official languages
Both English and Hawaiian are recognized, although the latter continues to fade from use as the years pass; Ni'ihau is the only island where it's still primarily spoken, and the dialect is considered to be much closer to the way the language sounded before Europeans arrived.

Obama birth certificate billboard
Wikimedia Commons

12. Billboards are illegal
Having prohibited the construction of roadside advertising (for obvious, view-spoiling reasons) in 1927, Hawaii technically become the first US state to ban them upon entering the Union in 1959. Only three other states have banned billboards since: Vermont, Alaska, and Maine.

Gianni Jaccoma is an editorial assistant for Thrillist Travel, and he's kind of obsessed with Hawaii now. He plans to visit one day, as soon as he wins the lottery. Follow him on Twitter @gjaccoma.