Hawaii National Parks
Hawai'i National Parks are an incredible mix of culture, history, and the firepower of Mother Nature. Come #FindYourPark in Hawai'i.
Hawai'i National Parks
Table of Contents
8 National Parks in Hawai'i
Other NPS-Affiliated Sites in Hawai'i
Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is a 175 mile corridor and trail network on the island of Hawai'i, connecting several historical and cultural sites. Four National Parks include sections of the trail: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park and Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site. Management of the trail is led by local communities, lineal descendants, and landowners along the route.
Haleakalā National Park
Haleakalā, meaning House of the Sun, is a dormant shield volcano on the island of Maui and was originally part of Hawai'i National Park designated in 1916 - well before Hawai'i became America's 50th state in 1959. It was later split into two parks in 1961 - Hawai'i Volcanoes and Haleakalā. The park is split into three sections. The Summit and Wilderness Areas are up on the mountain, and the Kīpahulu Area includes the coastal regions around the base.
Sunrise and sunset at the summit are by far the most popular activities at the park (you'll need a reservation), but the park also has several miles of trails to be explored during the rest of the day. Ranger-guided tours are available, as well as overnight camping. The park protects several wildlife habitats, including the endemic Nene (or Hawaiian Goose and Hawai'i's State Bird), along with delicate Silversword plants. Haleakalā is also one of the best places on Earth for sky watching. The altitude, clear skies above the clouds, and no light pollution make it an ideal environment.
If heading to the summit, the road is winding and steep and will take at least an hour from the bottom of the volcano - longer if you're driving from your hotel or resort. We were on the road at 3:00 a.m. to get there for sunrise from the Kaanapali Coast, and it took about two hours to reach the summit. It was absolutely worth it though. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and plenty of water if you're planning on hiking around, along with some warm layers. With an altitude over 10,000 feet, it's chilly at the summit even during summer. Haleakalā National Park protects 30,183 acres, 24,719 of which are designated Wilderness Area.
Read more about visiting Haleakalā National Park here.
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park was part of the original Hawai'i National Park in 1916, and today protects two of the world's largest and most active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Because of the volcanic activity, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (and Hawai'i itself) are getting bigger in size. In 2018, the eruption of Kīlauea reminds us of the awesome forces of nature taking place here.
The park has many things to do besides look at the lava, including camping, hiking, and some nice scenic drives around both the rim and down the crater to the sea. A family favorite is a walk through the 500-year old Thurston Lava Tube where molten lava once oozed its way toward the ocean. The Kīlauea Visitor Center has several overlooks to see the active caldera, along with a small museum about both modern-day history of the volcano and the Hawaiian folklore surrounding the home of Pele.
For a unique visit to this park, consider staying at the historic Volcano House. The hotel has 33 guest rooms that sit along the rim of the Volcano with views of the smoldering caldera. The original hotel was built in 1877 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Read more on the blog about visiting Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
Honouliuli National Historic Monument
Honouliuli National Historic Monument was established in 2015 by President Barack Obama to recognize the mass internment, incarceration, and martial law that was part of this site after the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. Most residents of the camp were Japanese Americans who were arbitrarily accused of disloyalty, although many others were held there as well.
Today, there are no formal buildings or facilities at the park to visit. The National Park Service is working with the local community on plans for the site.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
In the late 1800's, the Hawaiian islands were in the middle of a leprosy epidemic introduced to the islands by foreigners. Without a known cause or cure and a fear of wiping out the native Hawaiian population, King Kamehameha V decided isolation was best. Everyone who contracted the disease was sent to the Kalaupapa Peninsula, a remote part on the island of Molokai. It is estimated that over 8,000 Hawaiians died here. Today it is much quieter since the introduction of a leprosy cure in 1946. Many Hawaiians have chosen to remain, however.
Visitors to the park will need to make a reservation with the commercial tour company which makes stops at the major sites, along with a stop for lunch. Kalaupapa National Historical Park was established in 1980
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park
Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park was established to help visitors learn about traditional Hawaiian culture and natural history. Features of the park include native fishponds, beaches, forest, and cultural activities. The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail also runs through the park.
Be sure the visit the monthly calendar for activities during your visit. Honokōhau Beach is also a popular place in the park. The Hale Ho'okipa Visitor Contact Station has information, along with tours and special programs.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
A day that will live in infamy, Pearl Harbor was the site of the Japanese attack on the United States that plunged the US into World War II. The main attraction in the park is the USS Arizona Memorial. The ship which still lies at the bottom of the harbor is part of a guided tour that includes a short film about the day Pearl Harbor was attacked and a boat ride to the Memorial which sits on top of the Arizona.
Other features of the park include tours of the USS Missouri, USS Bowfin submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. The grounds also have two other exhibit galleries - "The Road to War" and "Attack" - which depict the events leading up to the attack and a bookstore. Guests can also stroll around the park and look at Remembrance Circle which memorializes the men, women, and children killed on December 7th, 1941, as well as look at other interpretive exhibits.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial was originally part of Valor in the Pacific National Memorial which included several memorials in Hawai'i, along with sites in Alaska and California. In 2019, the sites were split up, and the now redesignated Pearl Harbor National Memorial includes the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, and USS Utah Memorials, six officer bungalows, three mooring quays, and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
Read our post on the blog for more information on visiting Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
The the Pu'uhonua, or place of refuge to native Hawaiians, is where kapu, or law- breakers, would flee in order to receive their blessing from a priest to be absolved of their crimes. Today, the park offers visitors a place to fish, hike, or just enjoy a picnic amidst gorgeous scenery. Because the site is still considered a sacred place, visitors are asked not to bring chairs, towels, pets, and other items to the beach.
Visitors can enjoy the Ki'i (carved statues) that look after the site and former resting area of 23 Keawe line chiefs, the old Royal Grounds, and Ki'ilae Village with its abandoned house sites, agricultural features, animal pens, and salt vats.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is located on the Big Island about 22 miles south of Kona. The park is 420 acres and was originally established in 1955. It was renamed in 1978 and again in 2000 to what it is today to observe the traditional Hawaiian spelling.
Pu`ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site
Pu`ukoholā Heiau was constructed by Kamehameha the Great from 1790 to 1791 and is one of the last major temples built in the Hawaiian Islands. As the story goes, the temple was built because of a prophecy told to Kamehameha by a priest that said if he would build it, it would allow him to finally conquer all the islands and unite Hawai'i. Whether it's true or not, Kamehameha was able to unite the islands under the Kingdom of Hawai'i and is considered the greatest leader in Hawaiian history.
Visitors to the park can hike the half-mile loop trail or hike along the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail to various sites and beaches. Shark, whale and dolphin watching is also popular from the park's shore. The Visitor Center has a museum with exhibits and artifacts, as well a a bookstore and gift shop.
The shop is run by the Hawai'i Pacific Parks Association. Consider joining for discounts to other shops and bookstores, not only in Hawaii'i but around the National Park System. Many bookstores honor other Park Association Memberships and extend a discount on purchases at the store.