“In Hawaii, color is everywhere. Emerald greens and golds on land vie for attention with azure seas. Visitors go local, putting on flowered aloha shirts and swimwear, some tasteful, some a bit over the top. Even the state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, is also known as the Picasso triggerfish, fitting because of the multicolored stripes along its flanks. In 2000, the State of Hawaii gave each island its own official color. In most cases that color matches the hue of the island’s official flower or lei making material.
Oahu – Yellow
Oahu, the most populated island and home to Honolulu and iconic Waikiki Beach, is represented by a bold, golden yellow. At the same time, the puailima flower, or ilima for short, was named the island flower. Ilimas come in shades of yellow, orange and red, but it is the yellow flower that is most prized and that matches the state color. The ilima is a symbol of love.
Maui – Pink
Magnificent Maui became the pink island, an easy decision because of the pink Damask rose found just about everywhere. Brought over from Asia in the 1800s, the Maui rose or lokelani, as it’s sometimes called, became the official flower in 1923. It is the only flower not officially recognized in 2000, and the only nonnative species selected. Boldly pink and fragrantly scented, the Maui rose proudly represents the pink island.
Kauai – Purple
Purple is the official color for Kauai, a nod to the light purple flowers found on the fragrantly scented Mokihana tree. The anise-scented berries were used by precontact Hawaiians as perfumes and room fresheners. Found only on Kauai, the purple flowers and berries are used in island leis.
Big Island Hawaii – Red
Pele still rules on the Big Island of Hawaii. The color red honors the fire goddess that still spills her lava along the shores and into the sea. Ohia flowers also come in white, orange and yellow, but it is the bright red feather-like blossoms that represent the Big Island. Another name for the flower is the pua lehua.
Molokai – Green
Green is the official color of Molokai, which suits the small, largely rural island that sits between Maui and Oahu. The island flower is actually the candlenut tree, or pua kukui. The flowers on this tree are tiny, white and found in clusters. Leis are made from the peeled and then polished kukui nuts, found in both black and spotted brown varieties. Hawaii designated the pua kukui as the official state tree in 1959.
Lanai – Orange
Lanai sits off the west coast of Maui and its official color is orange. The island flower is the kaunaoa, or native dodder. The stamens, or pollen holders of this white, cup-shaped flower are a light orange, as are the vine-like flower stems of this ground-hugging plant. The distinctive orange and green plant is found along island beaches. The orange also suits Lanai because the island gets less rainfall than most other Hawaiian islands, making parts of it dry, almost desert like.
Kahoolawe – Gray
Kahoolawe, off of southwest Maui, is uninhabited at the moment and visitors are not allowed. This island’s official color is gray. This time that color is reflected in the leaves of the hinahina plant, otherwise known as the native heliotrope. The flowers are fragrant and white with small trumpet shapes. Tiny hairs cover the leaves, which in a certain light appear silver.
Niihau – White
Sitting off Kauai’s western coast, the privately owned island of Niihau’s official color is white. Visitors rarely make it onto Niihau but the island’s famed shell leis are prized souvenirs. On the pricey side, they are found in high end jewelry stores throughout Hawaii and through online vendors. The shells used to make these leis, called pupu, are the official lei making materials of Niihau. Some of the shells are white, but they also come in pinks, tans and peach tones.”
Article by Monica Wachman