Hawaii is home to an impressive array of national parks, where you can witness stunning nature up close and go on epic hikes. You can also explore age-old historic sites and learn about pivotal moments in the country’s history.
One of the most beautiful national parks in Hawaii is Pu
Haleakala National Park is one of the most popular parks in Hawaii, and for good reason: It’s home to the dormant volcano Haleakala. Its summit is the best place to watch the sunrise or sunset, and visitors can also hike into the crater.
There are two main sections of the park: the Summit District and the Kipahulu District. The Summit District is the most popular, as it’s home to the summit of Haleakala and the Sliding Sands Trail.
The Kipahulu District is a coastal area that’s less popular than the summit. It’s characterized by lush rain forest scenery, waterfalls and natural pools.
The National Park Service recommends that visitors practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace when hiking or camping in the park. These include planning ahead, packing out what you bring to the hiking trail, not littering, and being respectful of other hikers and wildlife.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the world's most active volcanoes and a place that offers a wide range of activities for everyone from road tours to backcountry hikes. Its unique Hawaiian plants and animals, lava tubes, pit craters, sea arches and even cinder cones are some of the highlights, but there is so much more to see at this park!
It's also a great place for stargazing, with practically zero light pollution. You'll find a variety of ranger-led night walks as well.
In addition to its dramatic landscapes, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to a diverse variety of flora and fauna and a rich Hawaiian culture. It protects native villages, heiaus (temples) and grave sites dating back 700 years, and at Pu'u Loa there are a large number of petroglyphs.
Located near Hana, Wai’anapanapa State Park is one of the most unique spots on Maui. This 122-acre park features black sand beaches, fresh water pools, a seabird colony, natural stone arches, sea stacks, lava caves, and blowholes.
While most visitors make a quick stop here to see the black sand beach, Wai’anapanapa has so much more to offer. Its coastal hiking trail is also a nature lover’s dream, with anchialine pools, seabird colonies, caves, a heiau, and a natural stone arch.
As with all parks, it’s important to remember to keep your camera handy as you explore the natural beauty of this scenic area. You can even hike to the famous Wai’anapanapa Caves, which feature two small indentations that look like oversize bathtubs. These are a remnant of an old Hawaiian legend that tells the story of Popoaleae, a princess who was murdered by her mean husband Chief Ka’akea here. The tide pools at the site turn red regularly, in memory of this ancient bloodshed.
Akaka Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls on The Big Island and a must-see on any trip to Hawaii. Its breathtaking free-falling 442 foot drop through a green-lined gorge is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
The lush rainforest surrounding the falls provides a great break from the barren volcanic landscapes that characterize much of Hawaii Island. The pleasant paved loop hike that winds through the park offers multiple viewpoints of Akaka Falls as well as the smaller Kahuna waterfall.
You can also visit the nearby Mana’s Aloha Fruit Stand to stock up on fresh coconut water and tropical fruits after you’ve enjoyed Akaka Falls!
Located about 11 miles north of Hilo, the park is open daily. There is a $5 entrance fee to non-residents, but it’s free for Hawaiian residents.