Believe it or not, Hawaii actually has two national parks. When ‘deciding which Hawaiian to visit‘ remember to check out a National Park if you are on Maui or the Big Island!
Fun Fact: 90% of the 1,000 species found in Hawaii’s parks are found nowhere else on earth! (source)
For the first park we island hop to Hawaii (Big Island) where the first National Park is:
1. HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK – BIG ISLAND
Yes, that’s volcanoes – with an S. Not many realize that the Big Island is made up of 5 volcanoes, of which, 3 are STILL ACTIVE: Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea – one of the worlds most active volcanos.
Recently, on May 3, 2018, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake hit Puna, Hawaii which started a 3 month-long eruption. Fissures had erupted lava in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions which forced an evacuation of nearby towns until Aug. 4, when all volcanic activity abruptly declined. It was a spectacle of the decade!
The Volcano National Park is 45 minutes south of Hilo, Hawaii or a
2-hour drive from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
(recently re-opened on Jan 28 after the recent gov. shutdown)
Open daily: 9:00 a.m. – 5 p.m.
We highly recommend spending the day there as “there is much to take in“! Support your National Park Services by stopping through the visitor center which has a gift shop, information, and other historical artifacts to learn about.
Related: Short on time? Experience the Big Island in 12 hours!
2. HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK – MAUI
If you prefer to take things slow and cool, literally, head to the island of Maui where you can find a 10,000 feet high dormant volcano: Haleakala which means “the house of the sun” in Hawaiian. Haleakala National Park is near perfect for Sunrises, Sunsets & Stargazing.
Wake up early, eat breakfast, and bring warm clothes! It averages 61f-44f/16c-6c and yes, Hawaii does receive snow!
The chilly heights of Haleakala is home to the Ahinahina (Haleakala Silversword) – a rare plant of the daisy family that is currently endangered and almost went extinct in the early 1900s. For more info visit (here)
Although Maui is named as the ‘home’ for this plant, it can be found in scarcity on top Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea Volcano summits as well. Despite how rare the Ahinahima is, its bloom is ever more sparse. It can take up to 50 years for a plant to bloom its flower which lasts for about one day.
3. NA PALI COAST STATE WILDERNESS PARK – KAUAI
More people know this famous park as the home of Waimea Canyon – “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Although not a National Park (deserves to be one!), it still delivers a picture perfect scenery worthy for the cost of a trip.
In fact, I’d wager that the sights and variety of things to do in Na Pali State Park beats out Maui or the Big Island’s National Parks. To each their own: sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking up on Haleakala where seeing an active volcano on Hawaii island could leave a bigger impression to someone who loves volcanoes!
Visit it by Land (hike), Air (Helicopter) or Sea (Boat).
Fun fact: National Parks and National Monuments differ, but they are both operated by the US National Park Service.
PEARL HARBOR – OAHU
Pearl Harbor is one of the most visited attractions on Oahu with 1.8 million visitors annually. Although not a national “park”, there are national monuments inside Pearl Harbor in the form of warships. The Arizona Memorial, the Oklahoma Memorial, and the USS Utah Memorial are part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.
Related: VISIT PEARL HARBOR FOR FREE!
Hawaii’s National Parks aren’t big and grand like other parks. In fact, Hawaii parks aren’t even listed as the most visited parks in the USA! However, the Volcanoes National Parks and Haleakala National Park are the most unique of any with its active volcanoes and rare wildlife. Na Pali Coast is majestic in its own right with cliffs fusing with the ocean tides – Waterfalls cascade down the cliffs into the Pacific making Hawaii’s National and State Parks an assured visit!
Mahalo for Reading!
HEADED TO MAUI? Check out 10 Places You Must Visit in Maui!
HEADED TO BIG ISLAND? Check out 10 Places to Visit on the Big Island!