20 Hawaii State Parks

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The way you’ve probably imagined Hawaii: pearly blue waters, lush forests and palm trees are exactly what the state delivers and more! Although Hawaii is known for its eight main islands, the state actually recognises 137 islands. There are no run-of-the-mill state parks in Hawaii and every state park is like something from a magical land. Check out these 20 Hawaii state parks you must visit on your trip to the Aloha State.

Hawaii State Parks

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State Parks in Maui

1- Waianapanapa State Park

Waianapanapa State Park is Maui’s only black sand beach and it’s worth adding to your Hawaii bucket list.

This volcanic coastline is stunning and offers a beautiful reprieve from urban life.

Not only is this park like something from a movie but there are plenty of things to see while you are there.

There are natural blowholes, freshwater caves, stone arches and lava tubes.

If you are extremely lucky you might be there when some of the tidal pools turn red because of shrimp migration! It is quite the site.

This is a great spot for fishing, hiking, snorkelling and swimming. You can also camp with a permit.

Waianapanapa State Park is at Hana, HI 96713.

2- Iao Valley State Park

Haleakala National Park, Iao Valley & Makawao

Another of Maui’s incredible parks is the Iao Valley State Park.

Just west of Wailuku this 4,000-acre (1619 ha) park is home to one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the state, the Iao Needle.

This vegetation covered outcrop as well as the nearby stream make for an excellent place to hike.

There’s a clearly marked trail heading from the car park to the Iao Needle and the ridge top lookout.

From the needle you can enjoy excellent views of the valley.

It is always best to start out on this hike early as the clouds tend to come as the day progresses and you will be left with a bit of a lackluster view.

Iao Valley State Park is at 54 S High St, Wailuku, HI 96793.

Recommended tour: Haleakala National Park, Iao Valley & Makawao

3- Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside

This state park in Hawaii is just off the road and is a small but picturesque area to visit in eastern Maui.

The park is only five acres (2 ha) but there’s so much rainforest to explore and a couple of small cascading waterfalls.

Hike for just a short amount of time and you will be able to see these amazing waterfalls with a great pool at the bottom.

If the weather gets too hot be sure to take a dip in the falls.

As the park is by the road side it’s an excellent place to take a rest, maybe eat lunch and still enjoy Hawaii’s endless beauty.

Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside is at Hana Hwy, Haiku, HI 96708.

Recommended tour: Molokai and Maui Helicopter Tour

State Parks in Kauai

4- Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

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Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is 6175 acre (2500 ha) State Park in the north-west of Kauai.

Imposing sea cliffs and the golden sandy beach make this one of the most beautiful state parks.

The State Park was actually established in 1983 to protect the Kalalay Valley.

You have to hike or kayak to see this beautiful landscape. Or for a touch of luxury take a helicopter ride to see it from above.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed way to see the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park then you can take a catamaran tour from Hanalei Bay or Port Allen.

Looking at this rugged landscape from the water you almost wouldn’t believe it’s real.

Recommended tours:

5- Polihale State Park

Leila Na Pali Sunset Dinner Sail

On the west coast of Kauai, you will find Polihale State Park.

This park offers that remote beach feel owing to the fact that you will probably need a four-wheel drive to get there.

This is one of the beautiful things about these Hawaii state parks is as soon as they become a little trickier to get to you can expect to see fewer people.

The beautiful golden beach is several miles long and there’s a safe swimming area at the southern end of the beach known as Queen’s Pond.

Don’t swim along the rest of the coastline because there are strong rip currents on this shoreline.

Despite its remoteness there are picnic pavilions, showers and restrooms.

Polihale State Park is at Lower Saki Mana Road, Waimea, HI 96796.

Recommended tour: Leila Na Pali Sunset Dinner Sail

6- Ha’ena State Park

Another one of those utterly “wow” Hawaii state parks is Ha’ena, which is on the northern part of the island of Kauai.

This state park is often referred to as the “end of the road” as its where the Kuhio Highway ends.

This park is home to Kee Beach and the breathtaking Kalalau hiking trail.

It should be mentioned that the park is subject to daily visitor limits, so it’s advisable to obtain an advanced paid reservation to enter the park. 

To preserve nature and culture, take the North Shore Shuttle bus which is included in the price of your ticket.

There’s no doubt that this is a sublime Hawaii park, leaving you with memories that will far outlast the flight home.

Ha’ena State Park is at 6CC9+8R Wainiha, Hawaii, Kapaʻa, HI 96746.

7- Koke’e State Park

Wow, wow, wow!

Does anything more need to be said about Koke’e State Park?

Well, you probably do want to know more about this beautiful place so here goes.

Koke’e State Park is on Kauai in the northern part of the island, offering stunning views of the Kalalau Valley from 4,000 feet (1219 m).

Of course, you can enjoy endless miles of hiking but there are also other activities in the park such as camping, picnic tables and plenty of scenic viewpoints.

Koke’e State Park is at Hanapepe, HI 96716.

State Parks on O’ahu

8- Hanauma Bay State Park

Tour of North Shore & Sightseeing

Hanauma Bay State Park is on O’ahu, which is the island that is home to the state capital Honolulu.

The horseshoe-shaped Hanauma Bay offers crystal clear water swimming, a picturesque sunbathing spot and the perfect place to snorkel and see coral reefs.

There are around 300 different fish species in this part of Hawaii.

While you are there definitely check out the volunteer booth which educates visitors about helping to conserve the local reefs and the dos and don’ts of snorkeling in this pristine environment.

Hanauma Bay State Park is at 7455 Kalanianaʻole Hwy, Honolulu, HI 96825.

Recommended tour: Tour of North Shore With Sightseeing

9- Ka’ena Point State Park

Another top O’ahu state park is Ka’ena Point on the westernmost tip of the island.

This place is known for its diverse wild and plant life.

Animals like the Laysan Albatross and the Hawaiian monk seal can be seen in this park.

The sandy beach at Ka’ena Point is an excellent spot for snorkeling, swimming and surfing for those with experienced (the waves are powerful here).

You can also enjoy the Ka’ena Point Trail, which provides you with a mixture of wildlife, beautiful scenery and the remains of the old Honolulu to Kahuku railway.

Ka’ena Point State Park is at Farrington Hwy, Waianae, HI 96791.

10- Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park is around 20 minutes outside of downtown Honolulu on O’ahu island.

This is a great park that provides a green space to Honolulu and excellent views of Oahu, from Pearl Harbor to Diamond Head.

The Ualaka’a Loop Trail is a short (one mile) but enjoyable walk and an excellent place to watch the sunset over Honolulu.

Either sit out on the grass or perhaps enjoy a picnic at one of the tables.

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside Park is at 2760 Round Top Dr, Honolulu, HI 96822.

11- Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park

On the east coast of O’ahu between Punaluu and Kaaawa there’s the Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park.

This is another one of Hawaii’s state parks that provides effortlessly stunning views of rainforest.

This park is almost 5,300 acres (2144 ha) and is set in the Kahana valley.

This valley is one of the wettest in O’ahu, so be sure to come prepared for frequent showers.

There are two hiking trails in this park, both of which are relatively easy but often they are muddy.

Starting at the Orientation Center Kapa’ele’ele Ko’a and Keaniani Lookout Trail will take you around one hour to complete and covers around one mile.

The other trail is the Nakoa Trail which is named after the koa tree which is found along the 2.5-mile (4 km) trail.

Ahupua’a ‘O Kahana State Park is at 52-222 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaaawa, HI 96730.

State Parks on Big Island (Hawaii)

12- Lapakahi State Historical Park

This state historical park is on the west coast of the northern pinnacle of the Big Island (which is officially named Hawaii).

This state park was created to preserve the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village.

Hawaii isn’t just about the stunning geographical landscapes, it is also deeply rich in history.

Here you can learn more about traditional Hawaiian culture.

While in the area, head to nearby Mahukona Beach Park.

Lapakahi State Historical Park is at HI-270, Waimea, HI 96743.

Recommended tour: Hawaiian-Style Moped Rental for the Day

13- He’eia State Park

He’eia State Park is on the east coast of Big Island between He’eia Pond and the He’eia Kea Boat Harbor.

You might also see this park being referred to as Kealohi Point.

It is a relatively small state park at only 18.5 acres (7.5 ha).

The park has a beautiful beach and is surrounded by rich rainforest.

This is a great place to enjoy the sea views as well as have a picnic with friends or family.

Kane’ohe Bay where the park is located is known for its calm waters so you will find people swimming here.

He’eia State Park is at 46-465 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744.

14- Akaka Falls State Park

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There’s just something so “Hawaii” about a single drop waterfall and Akaka Falls is stunning.

The falls plunge 442 feet into the gorge and though the footpath to see the waterfall is only 0.4 miles it’s a grueling hike.

Fans of Jurassic Park might notice that Akaka Falls was made into the movie! The place definitely evokes prehistoric vibes.

It might not be a dinosaur that emerges from the lush vegetation but there’s something about this place that makes you think you might be lucky to see some breathtaking wildlife.

You will find this waterfall again on Big Island on the east coast.

Akaka Falls State Park is at 96728 Hawaii.

Recommended tour: Big Island in a Day: Volcanoes Waterfalls Sightseeing and History

15- Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area

Hapuna Beach & Hawi

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area is the northwest coast on the Island of Hawaii.

Bluer than blue waters and a white sandy beach await you at Hapuna Beach.

This beach area is popular as it’s got all the facilities you need for a good day out at the beach.

There are restrooms, a pavilion, picnic spots and showers.

This is a go to state recreation area for swimming and body boarding.

While you can attempt to surf on rough weather days the waters are usually calm.

The calm waters attract many families.

Head into the water for a spot of snorkeling and if you visit early on during the year you might be lucky enough to spot breaching migratory whales in the distance.

Hapuna Beach State Park is at Old Puako Road, Waimea, HI 96743.

Recommended tour: Hapuna Beach and Hawi

16- Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

Another of Big Islands’ state parks is Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park on the west coast of the island.

This is not only a beautiful part of the island but it also plays an important role in the history of the state.

Back in 1779 Captain Cook arrived at Kealakekua Bay and this marked the point where Hawaiians first met Westerners.

The park’s main site is the rocky beach.

This became a site for loading cattle and transporting goods from boats.

Today you can enjoy swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving or you can rent kayaks.

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is at Captain Cook, HI 96704.

Recommended tour: Captain Cook/Kealakekua Bay

17- Wailuku River State Park

Wailuku River State Park is around 15 minute’s drive from Hilo International Airport on the Island of Hawaii.

This state park is best known for its two popular attractions – Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots.

This place is really beautiful and well worth exploring.

The Wailuku River is actually the longest river in the state and on this island.

The lower part of the river is found mostly with the state park and is a popular spot for swimming and tubing.

Be sure to check the conditions before entering the river though as the wai means fresh and luku means destruction, meaning the river of destruction.

The water levels can rise quickly!

Boiling Pot is home to these basalt lava colums and creates a spectacular geographical spectacle for visitors.

Rainbow Falls is around 80 feet and it causes beautiful rainbows, especially on misty mornings.

Wailuku River State Park is at 2-198 Rainbow Dr, Hilo, HI 96720.

Recommended tour: The Ultimate Waterfall Experience (Private Tour)

18- Kiholo State Park Reserve

The Kiholo State Park Reserve is another of Big Island’s parks that you must add to your list.

The park is immediately behind Kiholo Bay.

You will find that the park’s beach is covered in black fossilized lava which was believed to have been created during the eruption of Mount Hualalai in 1801 and Mauna Loa in 1859.

On a perfect weather day, the jet black rocky “sand” contrasts beautifully with the vibrant blue waters.

If you are looking for places to camp there are primitive camping spots at this state park.

Other activities in the park you can enjoy include, fishing, snorkeling, swimming.

You could also spend a fair few hours’ beachcombing.

Kiholo State Park Reserve is at 2000 96740, 71-2000 Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740.

19- Kekaha Kai (Kona Coast) State Park

Kekaha Kai State Park beach is on the northwestern side of Big Island around 10 minute’s drive from the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.

This park used to be known as the Kona Coast State Park and is home to a fascinating coastline.

The Mahai’ula section of the park has a serene sandy beach backed by dunes.

The Maniniʻōwali (Kua Bay) section of the park at the northern end is a great swimming spot as the waters are calm.

Kekaha Kai State Park is at HI-19, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740.

Recommended tours:

State Parks on Moloka’i

20- Pala’au State Park

Moloka’i is the fifth largest island making up the state of Hawaii but its one of the most untouched landscapes.

You will find Pala’au State Park on the northern side of this somewhat rectangular shaped island.

This area was once used as a place to send people who suffered with leprosy to avoid infecting other people.

Today however there this isn’t a place of punishment but it is arguably still a place of peaceful isolation.

The park has many interesting features including Kaule O Nanahoa which was a phallic stone believed to improve fertility.

Take one of the pathways that leads through ironwood forest and you will reach Kalaupapa Lookout.

This stunning lookout gives you expansive and awe-inspiring views of the lovely coastline.

Pala’au State Park is at Kualapuu, HI 96729. 

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!