From cascading waterfalls and the inviting turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean to lush rainforests and mountain peaks, breathtaking natural beauty abounds on the Hawaiian Islands. And nowhere will you find more incredible scenery than within Hawaii’s state and national parks. With more than 50 state parks, waysides, recreation areas, monuments, and historic sites, there are countless Hawaiian state parks to choose from, some more popular than others. From Hawaii Island to Kauai, these 14 state parks all have one thing in common: they are severely underrated.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
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. Kekaha 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.
3. 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.
4. Haena State Park, Kauai
Located on the north shore of Kauai, serving as the gateway to the infamous Na Pali Coast, Haena State Park is home to beaches, trails, historic sites, and even enchanting sea caves. Haena’s crowned jewel, found at the end of Kuhio Highway, is Ke’e Beach, a protected reed and an idyllic spot for snorkeling and swimming during the summer.
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. 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.
7. Pala’au State Park, Molokai
Perhaps most famous for its scenic overlook of Kalaupapa, a leper colony with the ocean on one side and giant 1,600-foot cliffs on the other described by Robert Louis Stevenson as a "prison fortified by nature," Pala’au is a perfect spot for a picnic or camping getaway.
8. Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, Oahu
Instead of heading to the paved Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail, veer right at the trailhead and take the dirt path that leads down to the ocean, Kaho‘ohaihai Inlet, Pele's Chair, and beyond. This is the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, and the trail, w is approximately 2.5 miles long round trip, and will surely leave you feeling at peace with the world.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
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. Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area, Maui
Polipoli is perhaps most famous for its breathtaking redwood forest: Located approximately 7,000 feet above sea level is a forest populated by redwood trees that were brought to Hawaii in the 1920s to re-establish the watershed. The popular Redwood Trail is 1.7 miles, and guides hikers through a forest of baby Redwood trees, and is the access point for many other trails.
14. 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.