So, are there national parks in Hawaii?
YES! There are national parks in Hawaii.
Which Hawaiian islands have a national park?
Here’s what’s below!
First, a bit about the 2 best national parks in Hawaii. (Okay, they are the only 2 national parks in Hawaii!)
Then, a list with the various types of national park sites in Hawaii.
And then there will be brief descriptions on each of the national park sites in Hawaii.
After that, a bit about the cost to go to Hawaii national park sites.
National parks in the U.S.
United States flag and Hawaii state flag
As of the beginning of 2021, there are a total of 63 national parks in the United States operated by the National Park Service (NPS).
In addition to the 63 U.S. national parks, there are many more national historical parks, national historic sites, national memorials, and more nationally designated sites also operated by the National Park Service.
For reference, here is the list of ALL national park sites in the United States. This includes the National Park Service’s “related areas” as well.
Where are the national parks in Hawaii?
There are 2 official national parks in Hawaii.
Is it worth visiting the national parks in Hawaii?!
YES!! Well, I think so anyway. 😉
What’s great about Maui’s Haleakala National Park?
There are 2 sides to Haleakala national park: the summit side and the coastal side.
The big thing to do here is to see the Haleakala sunrise at the summit, with this being one of the popular activities on Maui. Due to the popularity of this, a permit is required for entry into the park between 3am and 7am.
If you are not so much up for waking up super early, it can be a worthy activity to visit the park during the day and visit the summit at that time.
Besides visiting the Haleakala summit, the other worthy activity to do on this side of Maui’s national park is the Haleakala crater hike where you’re hiking into the crater that has the famous desert landscape views.
There’s also a “backside” of Haleakala, and that’s the coastal side of Haleakala, called the Kipahulu district.
The summit side and coastal side aren’t connected by road through the national park. You get to the coastal side by driving the famous Hana Highway, which is not a part of the national park but is a worthy activity all on its own.
The popular activities on the coastal side of the national park include a hike through Maui’s famous bamboo forest.
There are also waterfalls to see on this side of the national park.
On the summit side, there are also backcountry cabins available for a fee that require hiking to get to, and reservations for these tend to go quickly. There’s also backcountry camping that you can do too.
Haleakala National Park: See more about planning a trip to this Hawaii national park
- Things to do in Haleakala National Park
- Sliding Sands Trail (THE Haleakala NP crater hike to do)
- Camping on the summit side
- Camping on the coastal side
- Official NPS Haleakala National Park website:
- Tips for planning your trip to Maui
What’s great about the Big Island’s Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?
What has been the super popular thing to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is to go for a chance to see active molten lava flowing (aka the red stuff).
The Big Island is known as THE island to visit in Hawaii if you want a chance to see active lava flowing. It’s not always guaranteed, though.
There was a volcano on the Big Island that continually was producing lava that could be seen for something like 30 years. But in 2018, that stopped. That meant no chance to see active lava.
It stopped for over 2 years.
But then, in December 2020, active lava started flowing again.
Video from W rim of the caldera just before midnight. As of December 21 at 1:30 a.m. HST, the growing lava lake has almost reached the level of the lowest down-dropped block that formed during the 2018 collapse events. Over the past 2 hours, the lake has risen by ~10 m (32 ft). pic.twitter.com/Qbx1d6hbq4
— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) December 21, 2020
So, will you be able to see active lava during your Hawaii national park trip in 2021?! There’s no certain way to know! You can check for the updates here.
Even if you can’t see the lava actively flowing, if you’ve never been to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it can still be worth it to visit this national park even though there’s no lava!
What you can see in the national park no matter what is the aftermath of all the lava that has flowed through over the years.
So you can still visit the park to see the result of all that active lava that flowed in the past by seeing the lava fields all around. There’s a road through the park that will allow you to drive past it, and you can also get out and walk across the hardened lava too. There’s old lava flows all over spanning to the coast.
There are 2 main roads in the park.
And then driving the Chain of Craters Road will take you to the coast.
It’s possible to see Hawaiian petroglyphs and it’s also possible to see where old lava flows stopped right on the road.
Another one of the top spots in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a hike into a crater that used to be a lava lake.
And if you’re interested in volcanoes, there are other things to do on the Big Island outside of the national park to see remnants of past volcanic activity.
There are parts of the island where you can see vast lava fields aka great places to see old lava flows in Hawaii.
There are also many black sand beaches to see that get its black color as a result of volcanic activity. (Old lava flows eroded away and turned into black sand.)
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: See more about planning a trip to this Hawaii national park
- Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Kilauea Iki Trail (THE Hawaii Volcanoes NP crater hike to do)
- Crater Rim Drive
- Chain of Craters Road
- Official NPS Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website
- Tips for planning your trip to the Big Island
So that’s a bit about the 2 national parks in Hawaii!
Here is the list of US national park designated sites in Hawaii
This is based on the official NPS list of parks, and it includes national parks, national historical parks, national historical sites, a national memorial, and a national historic trail. It does not include National Historic Landmarks in Hawaii, which is a separate list.
- Officially, there are 8 National Park Service units in Hawaii
- Including both the NPS units and NPS related areas, there are 9 national park designated sites in Hawaii on the Hawaiian islands of Maui, Big Island, Oahu, and Molokai
- There are no national parks on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai or Lanai
- There are 2 national parks in Hawaii, and they are on Maui and the Big Island
- There is 1 national memorial in Hawaii, and that is on Oahu
- There are 3 national historical parks in Hawaii, and they are on the Big Island (2) and Molokai (1)
- There are 2 national historic sites in Hawaii, and they are on the Big Island and Oahu
- There is 1 national historic trail in Hawaii, and that is on the Big Island
Hawaii national parks by island
- Maui national parks
- Big Island national parks
- Oahu national parks
- Molokai national parks
- Kauai national parks
- Lanai national parks
Maui national parks
There is 1 national park on Maui.
Big Island national parks
There is 1 national park on the Big Island, along with 2 national historical parks, 1 national historic site, and 1 national historic trail.
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
- Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
- Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
Oahu national parks
There is 1 national memorial on Oahu, along with 1 national historic site.
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial
- Honouliuli National Historic Site (not open to public)
Molokai national parks
There is 1 national historical park on Molokai.
- Kalaupapa National Historical Park (permit/tour required)
Kauai national parks
Lanai national parks
There are no national parks on Lanai.
The list of 9 national park sites in Hawaii
The quoted national park site descriptions below are as described by the National Park Service.
National parks in Hawaii
1. The only official national park on Maui is Haleakala National Park
No place can prepare you for the experiences and feelings you will have on the summit of Haleakala volcano.
The landscape – deeply sculpted, richly colored, and intensely evocative – will be unlike any landscape you have known.
Read the reviews of this national park on Maui.
Haleakala National Park: See tips for planning a trip to Maui and this Hawaii national park
2. The only official national park on the Big Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes in the world.
Extending from sea level to 13,677 feet, the park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kilauea and Mauna Loa.
Read the reviews of this national park on the Big island.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: See tips for planning a trip to the Big Island and this Hawaii national park
National memorial in Hawaii
3. The only national memorial in Hawaii is Pearl Harbor National Memorial on Oahu
At the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, learn about one of the most pivotal moments in US history: the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II.
Read the reviews of this national memorial on Oahu.
If you are not staying on Oahu during your Hawaii vacation but really want to visit Pearl Harbor, it can be reasonable to do a day trip from another Hawaiian island to visit Pearl Harbor.
Also, if you are interested in the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, you may also be interested in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. This is not a national park site but it is also located on Oahu.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial: See tips for planning a trip to Oahu and this Hawaii national memorial
- Things to do at Pearl Harbor
- Tree of Life inside the memorial
- Official NPS Pearl Harbor national memorial website
- Tips for planning your trip to Oahu
National historical parks in Hawaii
4. Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island
Imagine you had just broken the sacred laws, the kapu, and the only punishment was death.
Your only chance of survival is to elude your pursuers and reach the Pu’uhonua, a place of refuge.
The Pu’uhonua protected the kapu breaker, defeated warriors, as well as civilians during the time of battle.
No physical harm could come to those who reached the boundaries of the Pu’uhonua.
Read the reviews for this national historical park on the Big Island.
5. Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on the Big Island
To survive in a hot and arid environment the native Hawaiians (kanaka maoli) used ancient fishing skills, including the building of fishponds, and the knowledge of the location of precious fresh water (wai) that flows into the many brackish pools throughout the park.
The spirit of the people (poe) and the knowledge of the elders (kupuna) created a tradition of respect and reverence for this area.
Read the reviews for this national historical park on the Big Island.
6. Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai
When Hansen’s disease (leprosy) was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, King Kamehameha V banished all afflicted to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula on the north shore of Molokai.
Since 1866, more than 8,000 people, mostly Hawaiians, have died at Kalaupapa.
Once a prison, Kalaupapa is now refuge for the few remaining residents who are now cured, but were forced to live their lives in isolation.
Read the reviews for this national historical park on Molokai.
National historic sites in Hawaii
7. Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site on the Big Island
How many places in America can you walk in the footsteps of a king?
Where else has a stranded sailor risen up to become a great chief over an entire island?
Where else can you experience the culminating event of a people, foretold from centuries past?
Where else can you stand on a beach and watch as sharks pass over a submerged temple?
Experience all this and much more – only at Pu’ukohola Heiau!
A heiau is a place of worship for Hawaiians, often referred to as an ancient Hawaiian temple.
Read the reviews of this national historic site on the Big Island.
8. Honouliuli National Historic Site on Oahu
Although not yet open to the public, Honouliuli National Historic Site will tell the history of internment, martial law, and the experience of prisoners of war in Hawaii during World War II.
National trail in Hawaii
9. Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail on the Big Island
Established for the preservation, protection and interpretation of traditional Native Hawaiian culture and natural resources, Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is a 175 mile corridor and trail network of cultural and historical significance.
It traverses through hundreds of ancient Hawaiian settlement sites and over 200 ahupua’a (traditional land divisions).
Technically, this is considered a “related area” of the National Park Service. Related areas are said to be “linked in importance and purpose to places managed directly by the National Park Service by preserving important segments of the nation’s natural and cultural heritage.”
Read the reviews for one portion of this national historic trail on the Big Island.
Cost of Hawaii national park sites
There are 3 national park sites that require a national park entry fee:
- Haleakala National Park (Maui)
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Big Island)
- Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (Big Island)
You can also get a Hawaii national park pass which will allow you unlimited entry to all Hawaii national parks for a year. You can buy this when you visit your first national park in Hawaii.
If you have an America the Beautiful annual national park pass, this will get you unlimited entry to the vast majority of national park sites in the United States, and that includes these Hawaii parks!
Aside from these parks, the cost to enter other national park sites is FREE.
While entry is free to the park grounds, there may be museums or tours you want to pay for at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial (Oahu) though.
And that’s a bit about the national park sites in Hawaii!
Plan your Hawaii outdoor vacation!
- Things to do in Haleakala National Park (Maui)
- Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Big Island)
- Things to do at Pearl Harbor (Oahu)
- Maui’s best national park hike
- More of Maui’s best hikes
- The Big Island’s best national park hike
- Maui’s best national park campground
- More of Maui’s best campgrounds
HAPPY PLANNING A VISIT TO A NATIONAL PARK IN HAWAII!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Maui maps for tourists!The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on Maui:
- Molokini Crater and Turtle Town snorkeling or snuba tour
- Haleakala sunrise tour with breakfast
- Road to Hana driving tour with lunch
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight #1: Fly over 2 Hawaiian islands to see Maui and Molokai waterfalls, rainforest, and sea cliffs
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight #2: Hana waterfalls and rainforest from above plus Hana fruit plantation walk on the ground
- Sailing the ocean with a sail + snorkel trip