With numerous national parks as well as 50 state parks located in Hawaii, Hawaii easily becomes an earthly paradise. Honoring the beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape and rich indigenous culture, National parks in Hawaii provide various activities suitable for all ages.
There are two national parks in Hawaii – Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park – and several Hawaii national park sites, including national historical parks, memorials and historic sites.
From the stunning Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site to the tragic story of Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai, visiting Hawaii’s National parks can help you find out what is unique about these Hawaiian Islands.
National Parks in Hawaii
Haleakala National Park
First on the list of national parks in Hawaii we have, Haleakala Crater which towers over the island of Maui and is a spectacle of nature that emerged from the ocean floor over a million years ago.
At 10,023 feet (3055 meters) at an altitude of 3055 m above sea level, the dormant volcano provides the backdrop to a spectacular array of landscapes.
In the Hawaiian language, Haleakala means ‘home of the sun’. According to legend, the demigod Maui threw a lasso around the sun while standing on the volcano’s top, slowing its descent to make the day endure longer.
Mark Twain called Haleakala’s spectacular sunrises ‘the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed the first time he saw the bright hue on the horizon in the early morning hours.
Go towards The Haleakala Crater in the early morning hours to take in a natural beauty firsthand.
Haleakala National Park has plenty to do and see with its diverse landscapes ranging from Martian red rock to magnificent waterfalls and springs, all with lush tropical vegetation over 30 acres (12,141 square miles).
Park’s Keoneheehee and Pipiwai trails are two of the many hiking trails stretching across the top of the mountain and through the lush Kipahulu area. The stunning views are of Maui and the Pacific Ocean; hiking durations vary from a half-hour to three-day overnight trips. The horse riding experience is also popular in the park.
Haleakala National Park has more endangered species than any other Hawaii national park. Haleakala National Park is an ideal destination for anyone who loves nature.
See Hawaii’s state bird, the Nene, spot the rare ahinahina plant, which only grows on the slopes of Haleakala, and look for silversword blossom, which can take as long as 50 years to bloom.
The majority of the Haleakala flora can be found nowhere else in the world, making the natural beauty found in the Hawaiian national park extremely scarce and breathtaking.
If you are lucky, on clear days, you can see at least 3 Hawaiian Islands, Lanai, the Island of Hawaii and Molokai, from the top of the Haleakala Crater.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is second on the list of national parks in Hawaii. Hiking or camping in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the highlight of any Aloha State trip. This is because it is home to not just the world’s largest volcano in Mauna Loa, but its most active, too, as Kilauea erupted almost constantly from 1983 to 2018.
The park is a popular spot to visit with thousands of tourists each year. You can also see the giant fissures, large lava tubes, and smoking vents. Also, you can view their smoldering cones and lava flows slowly creeping across the already tortured terrain.
The five volcanoes with their majestic summits and lava-scarred slopes make the national park the most distinctive. But there are many other beautiful parts of the park to explore. Many beautiful beaches, historic ranches, and Ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites are scattered throughout the park. The visitor center offers a great overview of the area’s rich history and extensive outdoor activities.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
This place, third on the national parks in Hawaii list, is where you can learn about Hawaii’s fascinating culture and traditions. You can take a tour of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. It features reconstructed buildings, old fishponds, and an ancient seaside settlement.
It was established in 1978 on the Kona coast. There are hundreds of archaeological features, including some religious sites, stone walls, and fish traps. These features show how Hawaiians made use of the land and the abundance of marine life offshore. You can find beautiful petroglyphs, fishermen’s tracks, and the remains of a once-thriving settlement established over a thousand years ago.
You can learn about their beliefs and discover why they chose this lava-scarred area as their home. As well as beautiful beaches, gently swaying palms and old lava fields, it protects all kinds of wildlife with seals and sea turtles regularly sighted in its pretty waters.
Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
You’ll find the Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park if you travel a little further along the Big Island’s West Coast. This, too, protects a remarkable site – a refuge where Hawaiians who broke one of society’s important laws fled to avoid certain death.
The park is large enough to allow you to explore the coastal villages and fishponds and a royal complex with temples and residences. You can visit the ruins, read about them, and take photos of intricately carved statues. Its ruins offer a fascinating insight into the lives of the ancients.
You can also watch live basket weaving demonstrations and canoe carving performances. There are also centuries-old games and performances. The park’s royal grounds are also available for guests to explore, such as the tidepools and snorkeling around its beautiful coral gardens.
Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site
Puukoholaheiau, located on the northern coast of the Big Island, is another fascinating historical site. It preserves the remains of an ancient temple, but there are many other structures, trails, and a museum you can explore.
Kamehameha the Great took control of large parts of western and northern Hawaii in 1782. He built a huge sacrificial temple to please the god of war. It was built by thousands of people, and Puukohola Heiau, or the ‘Temple on the Hill of the Whale’, grew in less than a year. It reached a staggering 220 feet in height at its peak, with its massive red lava rocks visible miles away.
You can walk around the temple, which is a sacred place, and learn all about the civil war that ravaged the island in the late 1700s. The park, museum, and ruins are great places to visit.
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Although it’s now described as “The Friendly Isle”, the gorgeous Moloka’i was not always as welcoming and accommodating. Kalaupapa National Park preserves two leper colonies, where the people of low income were isolated from society for the remainder of their lives.
Initially introduced to the archipelago by foreign workers in 1830, the then incurable disease spread to many thousands of people over the next century and a half. To stop the spread of the disease, the Kingdom and the later State of Hawaii forced patients suffering from leprosy to the remote and beautiful Kalaupapa peninsula. Visitors can now visit the quarantine stations’ houses, medical facilities, churches and chapels.
The refuge was in use from 1866 until 1969; the isolated location is now designated a National Historic Landmark, with only a handful of brave adventurers visiting the refuge every year. This is due to the fact that it is still required to obtain a permit and its wild stretches are accessible only by plane or by a lengthy steep cliffside trail. The people who visit will be rewarded with stunning white sand beaches, as well as spectacular views of the coastline.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial
A must-see and moving place, The Pearl Harbor National Memorial commemorates the infamous attack that pushed the United States into WWII. At its waterfront museum on Oahu, visitors can learn all about the surprise strike and Pacific theater and take a boat trip to the offshore US Arizona Memorial.
Lying alongside the now peaceful harbor are numerous, which allow you to pay tribute to fallen soldiers. In all, more than 2400 Americans tragically lost their lives the day of the attack and twelve ships were lost. The informative plaques show the way in which the air strike was carried out, as well as museum exhibits that detail the aftermath as well as the country’s journey to war.
Exploring its authentic artifacts, exhibitions, and historical photos is a sad experience, as is listening to recorded audio recordings of the testimony of survivors. After you have explored the excellent exhibitions and galleries, stopping by the nearby USS Bowfin Museum and USS Missouri Memorial is worthwhile. They both give you a deeper knowledge of the tragic events that transpired on the day that changed history.
Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
An excellent way to dive deeper into Hawaii’s rich culture, history and heritage are to trek through the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. It runs through the breathtaking coastline of the Big Island; it winds through thousands of Ancient Hawaiian settlement sites with breathtaking views and stunning scenery on show everywhere you travel.
Divided into a number of smaller sections, this trail extends for over 175 miles around the beautiful Orchid Isle’s western and southern coastline. It follows exactly the identical route of the old fishermen’s tracks, with some of the trip being completed using a canoe. Along the way are the remains of centuries-old shrines, temples, houses, fishponds, and petroglyphs.
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