From magnificent white sand beaches and crystalline waters to mountain peaks and continuously erupting volcanoes, the Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world – as well as some pretty fascinating history. And with a visit to each of these six national parks in Hawaii, you will not only see awe-inspiring places and landscapes, but learn about our history and culture as well.
1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
With more than 323,000 acres to explore, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the state’s largest national park – and it’s still growing! The park is home to Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive subaerial volcano.
While it would take days – or even weeks – to explore all this captivating state park has to offer, you absolutely must check out Kilauea Caldera, Thurston Lava Tube, Chain of Craters Road, the Ha’akulamanu Sulfur Banks, and the four-mile Kilauea Iki trail.
2. Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
Located on the Big Island is this national historical park, full of archaeological sites and reconstructions of an ancient Hawaiian “place of refuge.” The site, once home to Hawaiian royalty and those who broke a law or defeated military, features a self-guided tour.
3. Kalaupapa National Historical Park
On the small island of Molokai, surrounded by 1,600-foot cliffs on one side and the Pacific on the other, Kalaupapa served as a leper colony from the early 1900s to 1969. There are no roads that lead to Kalaupapa – only a torturous mountain path accessible by hiking, or by riding on the back of a mule.
Kalaupapa is now a U.S. National Park, and home to a dwindling population, those of whom are outnumbered exponentially by those in the cemetery – where an estimated 2,000 graves lie unmarked, in addition to those with headstones.
4. Ala Kahakai National Historical Trail
Traversing nearly 175 miles of pristine coastline on Hawaii Island is the Ala Kahakai Trail, established to access the traditional Hawaiian culture and natural resources. The section of trail between Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Anaeho'omalu Bay is the most popularly-travelled.
5. Haleakala National Park
Just 27 square miles short of equaling the entire size of Oahu, Mount Haleakala is a gentle giant – a dormant volcano that has inspired those who make the journey to its summit for centuries.
Translating to “House of the Sun,” Haleakala rises more than 10,000 feet above sea level, comprises 75 percent of Maui Island, and is home to desert-like conditions, rainforests, and everything in between.
The national park covers an area of approximately 33,000 acres, and the Haleakala crater is a massive seven miles across, two miles wide, and more than 2,600 feet deep.
6. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
Once the site of an ancient Hawaiian settlement, this famous national historical park was established in the 1960s. The archaeological site is home to ancient Hawaiian aquaculture fishponds, petroglyphs, house site platforms, and sites with religious significance.