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 countless incredible parks. With more than 50 state parks, waysides, recreation areas, monuments, and historic sites, there are countless Hawaiian parks to choose from, some more popular than others. From Hawaii Island to Kauai, here are 11 hidden parks you might not know about — but will want to visit.
1. 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."
2. 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.
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. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
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. 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.
11. 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.