Hawaii’s state parks preserve some of the most remarkable places on Earth.
From fascinating historic sites to sublime tropical beauty, here are five state parks across the islands that will leave you breathless with their only-in-Hawaii scenery.
Waimea Canyon State Park, Kauai
When you arrive at the top of the long, winding road, you’ll understand why Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The canyon is 16 kilometers long, 900 meters deep and colored with rich reds and greens, complete with a picturesque waterfall in the distance. Head out on one of the many hiking trails, and you might just spot a nene – a very rare goose that is native to the Hawaiian Islands.
Overlooking Waimea Canyon in Kauai
Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii Island
A National Natural Landmark, Diamond Head is a remarkably symmetrical crater near Honolulu formed by an explosive eruption some 300,000 years ago. In the early 1900s, it was used as a military lookout.
Visitors come for the challenging, 1-kilometer hike to the summit of Leahi. Uneven terrain is followed by a climb up 74 stairs, a tunnel, 99 more stairs, another tunnel and finally a spiral staircase. Sweeping vistas of the ocean, Waikiki Beach and Honolulu make the climb well worth the effort.
Diamond Head, an icon of the Oahu shoreline
Lapakahi State Historical Park, Hawaii Island
More than 600 years ago, this stretch of coastline was a thriving fishing and farming village. Today, you can take a self-guided tour along hiking trails to see the partially restored hale (traditional thatched houses) and search for native flora such as mao (a cotton plant) and hinahina kahakai (a medicinal plant used in lei making).
The big attraction here is the view – beachside lava rocks set against the lapping Pacific waves, framed by palm trees, with Maui in the distance.
Traditional thatched house in Lapakahi State Historical Park
Palaau State Park, Molokai
Stop at the scenic Kalaupapa overlook for a breathtaking view of lush green cliffsides. At 1,000-plus meters, they’re the highest sea cliffs in the world. Kalaupapa National Historical Park lies on the peninsula below – it was once a site where people with leprosy were exiled. Take a mule ride into this once-forbidden area. A trail leads to a prominent stone, believed to promote fertility. Palaau State Park has a picnic area and tent camping for overnight stays.
Taking in the view at Kalaupapa overlook
Waianapanapa State Park, Maui
The name Waianapanapa means “glistening water,” and you will certainly find that here. From ocean vistas to crystal clear freshwater caves, there are dazzling water views in every direction. That’s not all – follow along the ancient Hawaiian coastal trail that winds through the jungle and discover a dramatic black sand beach. If you’re feeling brave, the nearby islets are popular spots for cliff-jumping. Overnight camping is available, so you can enjoy more than one day in this legendary park.
Waianapanapa State Park
Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is the main gateway to Oahu and the rest of Hawaii, but airports on each island make it easy to explore the entire state. Fly into Hilo (ITO) or Kona (KOA) international airports on Hawaii Island, Kahului Airport (OGG) on Maui, Lanai Airport (LNY) on Lanai, Molokai Airport (MKK) on Molokai and Lihue Airport (LIH) on Kauai.