The Big Island has so many jaw-dropping places to visit, and that includes its fourteen state parks. This is a guide to the beautiful state parks on the Big Island in Hawaii and why you should visit each of them!
One of the great things about the state parks on the Big Island is that they are a great mix of historical sights and natural areas.
You will find parks dedicated to Hawaiian kings and parks with a waterfall as the main feature.
Which Big Island state park is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
State Parks on the Big Island of Hawaii
1. Akaka Falls State Park
Akaka Falls State Park in Hawaii has a breathtaking view of two waterfalls – Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls, the latter being 442 feet high!
The beautifully paved route to the falls is full of pleasant views of lush green tropical vegetation. By just crossing a short route, travelers will behold a sight that can be cherished for a lifetime.
Akaka Falls State Park is located about 3.6 miles southwest of Honomu, right at the edge of Akaka Falls Road.
It serves as an amazing sightseeing spot in Hawaii. Also, the hiking trail to these falls is quite a favorite among tourists. Akaka Falls State Park is one of the best places to visit near Hilo!
2. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
The Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area provides a site to access the beach and offers visitors beach-related activities like sunbathing, fishing, surfing, and even swimming.
However, note that you can only participate in these activities during low tide. A full-time lifeguard is also present to ensure visitors are always safe. Add to all this the opportunity to go hiking along the trail, too!
Waves rise all the way to 3 feet and you are permitted to experience it with professional surfers.
As for where to stay, a four-person shelter consisting of a single room with a wooden sleeping platform and a picnic table is available for rent.
3. Hulihe’e Palace
If you love exploring historical places, then Hulihe’e Palace is a must-visit destination.
Located at the historic site at All Drive, Kailua-Kona, the Hulihe’e Palace is a royal museum that displays Victorian artifacts of King Kalakua and Queen Kapi’olani.
Hulihe’e Palace is made up of six exquisite rooms, two huge oceanfront lanai, and beautiful grounds.
You will also see exclusive koa wood furniture, portraits, ornaments, and many more artifacts that reflect the glorious Hawaiian culture.
4. Kalopa State Recreation Area
Kalopa State Recreation Area is another incredible hiking spot. The 0.7-mile loop trail passes through an arboretum of the native plants of Hawaii.
The adventurous and fun-filled walk through this native forest is a not-to-miss experience.
Travelers can visit the Kalopa State Recreation Area to enjoy family-friendly camping, hiking trips, or even picnicking with friends.
5. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
Situated over an area of 0.4 acres across the Kealakekua Bay, the State Historic Park is not only a traditional but also a religious site in the Hawaii Islands.
Travelers can pass through the Ka’awaloa Trail for hiking, or they may set up a guided tour and visit the bay if arranged by a permitted tour vendor.
The bay is surrounded by several archaeological and historical sites. The religious temples are gems that add to the serenity of the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park.
6. Kekaha Kai State Park (Kona Coast)
Kekaha Kai State Park can be reached through a 4.5-mile-long historic coastal trail, on which travelers can enjoy several activities like hiking the midway to the summit of Pu’u Ku’ili, which is a 342-foot-high cinder cone.
While on the trail, visitors will also witness the breathtaking view of the coastline of Mahai’ula.
The Mahai’ula section offers a beach-going site along with a sandy dune allowing travelers to relax, sunbathe, and swim, of course, when the sea is calm.
Plus, the site has plenty of peaceful spots for picnicking.
7. Kiholo State Park Reserve
If you are planning on a camping experience with your family or friends, then the Kiholo State Park Reserve allows you to camp during the weekends!
The stark, lava-covered coastal park provides camping facilities at the unimproved gravel access road. The area consists of a sparsely-vegetated coastline, small bays, and wide-open spaces created with the historic lava flow!
Travelers have access to facilities such as beach-going, swimming, fishing, hiking, camping, sightseeing, and much more.
8. Kohala Historical Sites State Monument
The Kohala Historical Sites State Monument has a national historic landmark in Hawaii – Mo’okini. The Mo’okini Heiau is the most famous sacrificial temple in Hawaii.
The Kohala Historical Site State Monument not only has a great view of the Mo’okini Heiau but also of the Kamehameha birth site, which is a memorial built in honor of the greatest king of Hawaii.
The king had united all the kingdoms into a 6.7-acre kingdom. This site is a must-see for those who enjoy a thrill.
9. Lapakahi State Historical Park
Another beautiful historical spot to visit is the Lapakahi State Historical Park. It is a stunning place that reflects the traditions and culture of the people of Hawaii.
You can go hiking along the coastline of this ancient Hawaiian coastal settlement, which is perfect for a self-guided tour.
The traditional area consists of what remains of the Hawaiian coastal settlement that has been partially restored.
10. Lava Tree State Monument
Surrounded by a forest of lava trees, the Lava Tree State Monument adds to the list of amazing must-visit spots for sightseeing.
The Lava Tree State Monument is led by the loop trail, which is 0.7 miles long and is one of the best things to do on the Big Island.
This loop trail along the forest of lava trees contributes to the beauty of the hiking spot. Fun fact: the trail was naturally made through volcanic eruptions and the solidifying of lava that flowed through this forest.
This unusual volcanic structure is a fun picnic-friendly spot for family and friends.
11. Mackenzie State Recreation Area
The Mackenzie State Recreation Area is yet another spot created through the solidifying of volcanic lava! The unique volcanic features attract tourists to this spot.
The area has a beautiful volcanic coastline and is a low-cliffed area that provides the opportunity to picnic in an ironwood grove. Visitors can also go fishing there, which can make the experience a lot more fun.
The beachside area is aligned with the lava park at the old Hawaiian coastal trail.
12. Manuka State Wayside
Surrounded by native and inspiring age-old trees, Manuka State Wayside is a beautiful spot for a picnic. The serene view of the greenery is spread across the 2-mile-long natural hiking trail.
Adjacent to the trail loop of the Manuka State Wayside is the Manuka Natural Area Reserve, which is 2500 acres long.
The area is ideal to experience the natural view of the Hawaiian forests such as the Mesic Montane Kipuka forests, wet montane forests, lowland mesic forests, and lowland dry forests.
13. Wailoa River State Recreation Area
The most relaxing area for travelers is the Wailoa River State Recreation Area, which provides visitors with different activities like fishing, hiking, sightseeing, and so on.
You’ll also find Landscape Park there where you can go boat fishing along the Wailoa River.
From the 131.9-acre-long Piopio Street, you can also reach the Waiola Center where the cultural displays and information services of the Hawaiian culture are featured.
14. Wailuku River State Park
Wailuku River State Park is comprised of two separate attractions – the Boiling Point and Rainbow Falls. The Boiling Pots are connected through an underground flow. The water appears as if boiling with bubbles, thus its unique name.
There is also an 80-foot deep waterfall named Rainbow Falls, along which a rainbow appears in the foggy mornings.
There is an amazing cave that has been formed right beneath the Rainbow Falls, believed to be the home of Hina, the mother of the demi-god Maui. The cave covers an area of 16.1 acres.
Taking a day trip to Wailuku River State Park is easy from Hilo and should be done by everyone visiting the rainy, Hawaiian city!
What are your favorite state parks on the Big Island of Hawaii? Let us know your top picks in the comments!
State Parks on the Big Island (On a Map!)
Additional Big Island Travel Guides
- Best beaches near Kona
- 7 days on the Big Island
- Things to do in Kona
- Things to do in Hilo
- Things to do in Waikoloa
- Big Island state parks
- Best helicopter tours on the Big Island
- What to do on the Big Island
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she has been traveling frequently to Hawaii for the last 15 years and loves exploring every corner of each Hawaiian island, while trying to promote sustainable travel and small, local businesses along the way. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She has co-authored a guidebook with Fodor’s Travel and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.