Hawaii may be known for its eight main islands, but the Hawaiian archipelago is a string of 137 islands, most of which exist beyond the shores of Kauai. These islands, including reefs, islets and atolls, make up the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, established in 2006.
Of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, there are two that contain archaeological evidence of human life: Mokumanamana and Nihoa. They were labeled the “mystery islands” by early archaeologists. Though the islands held clues that people once lived there, archaeologists had no idea who they were or where they went.
Of these two, Nihoa holds the most archaeological sites of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Nihoa is not to be confused with Niihau, also known as the “forbidden island,” which is the westernmost inhabited Hawaiian island, seen off the coast of Kauai. Nihoa cannot be seen from Kauai as it is 138 miles farther west.
The island of Nihoa is small, about 170 acres, but its appearance is striking. Out of the ocean, its sheer cliffs soar to nearly 1,000 feet. The most biologically diverse of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Nihoa hosts an innumerable number of seabirds that fly around its steep and rocky landscape. The island’s one and only beach is covered with monk seals in the summertime and its valleys are filled with loulu palm trees.
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