From cascading waterfalls and the inviting turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean to lush rain forests and mountain peaks, breathtaking natural beauty abounds on the Hawaiian Islands. And nowhere will you find more breathtaking scenery than within Hawaii’s incredible state parks. There are countless Hawaiian parks to choose from, with more than 50 state parks, waysides, recreation areas, monuments, and historic sites scattered across the islands from Kauai to Hawaii Island. These 16 parks might not be the most popular in the Aloha State, but they are all beautiful and worthy of a visit.
1. MacKenzie State Recreation Area, Hawaii Island
MacKenzie State Recreation Area is a secluded park covering 13 acres on Hawaii Island’s rural southern coast featuring tall ironwood trees, volcanic sea cliffs, and quite a few paranormal encounters. You see, although the coast is gorgeous here, the park is said to be haunted. Pair that with its remote access and you have the ultimate underrated Hawaii park.
2. Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area, Oahu
This forested park full of Norfolk island pine trees overlooking Manoa and Palolo valleys — as well as Honolulu — is heaven for hikers. With plenty of picnicking opportunities and panoramic views, you could spend all day exploring this picturesque forest.
3. Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park, Kauai
Just south of Waimea, on Kauai, is the last remaining Russian fort in Hawaii. Built in the early 19th century as a result of an alliance between the High Chief Kaumuali’i and the Russian-American Company. The "treaty" granted Russian Tsar Alexander I a protectorate over Kauai, with the implication that Russia could capture the entire island chain from Kamehameha if desired. It is said that Kaumuali’i never intended to give up his power, but that the Russians would help him reclaim his own kingdom.
4. Halekiʻi-Pihana Heiau State Monument, Maui
Near the mouth of the Iao Stream in Wailuku is this small 10-acre state monument that is home to two important luakini heiaus. Containing important Hawaiian history and culture within its borders, the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
5. Kalopa State Recreation Area, Hawaii Island
Known for lodging and camping, this park features only short hiking trails, with longer excursions in the neighboring forest reserve. Nestled on the slopes of Mauna Kea near Honoka’a, the Kalopa Forest receives substantial rainfall, resulting in the enchanting and lush native forest you’ll find here.
6. He’eia State Park, Oahu
At only 18.5 acres, this Hawaii State Park may be tiny and seemingly unremarkable, but features panoramic views of Heʻeia Fishpond, Kaneohe Bay, and the Ko’olau mountain range. The name He’eia translates from Hawaiian to mean "washed out to sea."
7. Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside, Maui
Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside is home to five acres of jaw-dropping rainforest and cascading waterfalls. A short hike will reward you with a relatively secluded and quite picturesque waterfall, cascading into the delightful pool below. Another stop on Maui’s Road to Hana, Pua’a Ka’a translates to "rolling pig" in Hawaiian.
8. Kehaka Kai State Park, Hawaii Island
Formerly known as the Kona Coast State Park, this coastal park is home to stunning beaches and bays, including Maniniʻowali Bay, Makalawena Beach at Puʻu Aliʻi Bay, and Mahaiʻula Bay. If you’re not interested in sunbathing, swimming or snorkeling, the park is also home to the stunning 4.5-mile Ala Kahakai Trail.
9. Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site, Oahu
This ancient historical site, located in Kailua, is associated with the legend of the Menehune, as well as various high chiefs of Oahu — including Kakuhihewa in the 15th century and Kualiʻi in the late 17th century. The temple was likely where locals would visit for bountiful harvests, and later success in war.
10. Wailua Valley State Wayside, Maui
Located just past mile marker 18 on Maui’s famous Hana Highway is the Wailua Valley State Wayside, a picturesque lookout point with views of Ke'anae Valley, Wailua Peninsula, the Ko'olau Gap, various waterfalls, and even the rim of Haleakala Crater. This slice of paradise is often overlooked for more famous stops along the Road to Hana, but should not be discredited.
11. Lava Tree State Monument, Hawaii Island
A 17-acre park that features a forest of lava trees, the result of a lava flow that swept through the forest, leaving behind lava molds of the tree trunks.
12. Ahupua’a Kahana State Park, Oahu
Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park, formerly known as Kahana Valley State Park, is often overlooked for more accessible spots on Oahu but is an absolute natural oasis for anyone who wants to get away from it all and have a little adventure.
13. Wailoa River State Recreation Area, Hawaii Island
Located in Hilo, the Wailoa River State Recreation Area is often overlooked for the nearby Liliuokalani Park and Gardens. However, this state park is often much less crowded, equally as picturesque, and the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll, picnic, or boat fishing.
14. Ahukini State Recreational Pier, Kauai
Located on the southeast shore of Kauai near the Lihue Airport is this unique Hawaii State Park situated on Hanama’ulu Bay. You will not only find breathtaking natural scenery but an excellent spot for pole fishing and crab netting.
15. Kaumahina State Wayside, Maui
Home to 7.8 acres of exotic plants and tropical forest, Kaumahina State Wayside is located along Maui’s famous Hana Highway but is often overlooked for more popular stops. This scenic rest area is an idyllic spot to enjoy a picnic and bask in the beauty of Maui’s coastline.
16. Kiholo State Park Reserve, Hawaii Island
This stark, coastal, lava-covered park is home to stunning trails, a breathtaking bay, and some wild camping, accessible via an unimproved gravel access road, with no amenities, and no water — recommended only for those serious campers who prefer isolation over large, close together campsites.
Which of these underrated state parks is your favorite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and then join our
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