There are almost 687 public parks in the State of Hawaii, falling under federal, state and county jurisdictions. There are 7 national parks, 55 state parks, and 625 county parks. The national parks in total encompass almost 300,000 acres of land. The state parks contain almost 25,000 acres and the county parks another 8,300 acres.
The parks of Hawaii contain virtually every ecosystem and terrain imaginable to man. There are beach parks and there are parks that resemble the surface of the moon. There are parks which honor the brave men of this century who fought and died in the service of their country and there are parks which honor the ancient Hawaiians and their way of life.
Hawaii's parks are a not only a Mecca for geologists, botanists, culturalists and historians, but also many of them offer beautiful beaches and serene beauty for locals and tourists alike.
We have assembled a comprehensive library of resources on the net devoted to the parks of Hawaii. In this series we will point out a few of our favorites on each of the major islands. In this article we will look at some of the parks on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Big Island of Hawaii
No trip to the Big Island would be complete without a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. By far the largest of all of the parks of Hawaii, this park consists of over 230,000 acres and continues to grow every day.
Photo by Annie Ward
used with permission
The park is located approximately 30 miles southwest of Hilo. Within the park are the active volcanoes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea has been in a prolonged eruption since 1983 and continues to flow to the sea at this writing. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984 but geologists believe that another eruption could occur at any time. If you want to see the earth as it was millions of years ago and as it grows today, don't miss this park.
The Big Island also contains a number of State and County Parks which I would highly recommend. Located approximately 14 miles north of Hilo on the Hilo-Hamakua coast is Akaka Falls State Park. Contained within the park are two of the most impressive waterfalls in Hawaii, the 100 foot Kahuna Falls and the 420 foot Akaka Falls. Both falls are accessible via a clearly marked and easily traversed path.
Continuing our journey north, The Waipio Valley Lookout is actually a county park located at the edge of beautiful Waipio Valley.
Photo by John Fischer
For those who for whatever reason are unable to descend into the valley or for those who just want some wonderful views into the valley, this is a great viewpoint. The Waipio Valley is located approximately 50 miles north of Hilo but also within an hour's drive for those staying in the resort areas of Waikoloa and Kohala.
Located on the northwestern coast of the Big Island just a mile south of the port of Kawaihae and a short drive from the west coast resort area, is Pu'ukohala Heiau National Historic Site. This site consists of a huge Heiau (temple) built by Kamehameha I in reverence to the war god Ku, as well as the ruins of two smaller temples. You can take a self-guided walking tour of this site in about an hour and it is well worth the visit.
Located 22 miles south of Kailua-Kona on the west side of the Big Island is Pu'uhonua Honaunau National Historical Park. Otherwise known as the City of Refuge, this is where in ancient times kapu breakers, defeated warriors and those facing a death sentence fled for refuge. The park contains a reconstructed Heiau (temple) and contains a large 1000 foot long stone wall which separated the area reserved for the royalty from that accessible to commoners. For more information we suggest our two part feature on Pu'uhonua Honaunau National Historical Park
One of my favorite spots on the Big Island is the Punalu'u Beach Park, a county park located 48 miles south of Hilo just off of Highway 11. This park includes a beautiful black sand beach, perhaps the most lovely remaining in Hawaii. It is not uncommon to see large sea turtles sunning themselves on the beach.
Photo by John Fischer
It is a public park where swimming is allowed, although the surf is often quite rough.
These are just a few of the wonderful parks that you will find on the Big Island of Hawaii. For additional information, I would highly recommend the following book and our collection of links to information on the parks of Big Island of Hawaii.:
Exploring Hawaii's Parklands
Marnie Hagmann's excellent book contains detailed information on the national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, state parks and county parks in Hawaii.
Big Island Parks
Our collection of links to providing information to assist you in exploring the parks of the Big Island of Hawaii.