Hawaii’s Natural Parks
There are six major Hawaii natural parks which celebrate the extraordinary landscapes and unique bio-diversity of the islands. The most popular is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island which is home to one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and a sacred place for Hawaiians, the Kilauea Volcano. The park is huge with 150 miles of hiking trails snaking through its 330,000 acres of deserts, rain forest and volcanic craters. On the same island is the much smaller Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, once a royal park and a place where law-breakers in ancient times could find refuge and absolution. Although only 180 acres in size, the park is one of Hawaii’s most sacred and historic places.
Crater of the sun
On the island of Maui the main natural attraction is the Haleakala crater which rises to an altitude of over 10,000 feet and offers stunning views of the rising sun. It is located in the Haleakala National Park which offers 30,000 acres of landscape that vary from desert to tropical jungle. The peak of the crater can be reached on foot, horseback or by car and is an unforgettable place to visit. Another breathtaking natural wonder is the Waimea Canyon on Kauai Island, a place known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Although not an official national park it is one of Hawaii’s most stunning natural features – one mile wide, 14 miles long and well over half a mile deep. Nearby Kokee State Park is laid across a plateau up to 4,200 feet above sea level and offers some of the state’s best hiking trails.
Reached by a mule ride that runs along the tallest sea cliffs in the world, the Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai is one of the most remote Hawaii natural parks. It is laid out around the settlement of Kalaupapa where Belgian missionary St Damien devoted his life to helping sufferers from Hansen’s disease. The park is inaccessible by car and can only be reached on foot, horseback or by light airplane. The views alone make the journey well worthwhile.