Hawaii is situated in the North Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles from the mainland. It is the southernmost state of the United States, and would be the westernmost, if not for Alaska. It is one of the only two states (Alaska being the other) that are outside the contiguous United States, and do not share a border with another U.S. state. Hawaii is the only state that: (1) is without territory on the mainland of any continent; (2) is completely surrounded by water; and (3) continues to grow in area because of active extrusive lava flows.
The Hawaiian Archipelago comprises eighteen islands and atolls extending across a distance of 1,500 miles. Of these, eight high islands are considered the "main islands" and are located at the southeastern end of the archipelago. These islands are, in order from the northwest to southeast, Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii.
The climate of Hawaii is atypical for a tropical area, and is regarded as more subtropical than the latitude would suggest, because of the moderating effect of the surrounding ocean. Temperatures and humidity tend to be less extreme, with summer high temperatures seldom reaching above the upper 80s (°F) and winter temperatures (at low elevation) seldom dipping below the mid-60s. Snow, although not usually associated with tropics, falls at high elevations on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island in some winter months.