The youngest and largest of Hawaiʻi’s islands, the Big Island has great diversity to offer. Explore beaches, ancient fishponds, historic monuments, and beautiful waterfalls in the Hawai’i state parks on the Big Island.
The only real rivers to be found on the island are here in Hilo, so you know you can expect reliable waterfall viewing on the “green side” of the island. Take a drive up Waiānuenue Avenue until you reach Wailuku River State Park. There are two Big Island park sections, one at Boiling Pots and one at Rainbow Falls. Parking is free; swimming is not recommended.
12 miles north of Hilo, you’ll find a very popular roadside stop. ʻAkaka Falls State Park is famous for a 442-foot waterfall that plunges deep into a stream-eroded gulch. Viewing the falls requires a short loop hike of less than a mile; not wheelchair accessible. It’s $5.00 per car to park. Turn off the highway at Honomū and follow ʻAkaka Falls Road for 3.6 miles.
Farther up the coast, there’s a great spot for hiking and picnicking at a cool elevation in the Kalopā State Recreation Area. Several trails are available, so you can choose your level of difficulty. The 0.7-mile native forest trail is recommended if you’d like to see some of the tallest ʻōhiʻa trees to be found anywhere; for a longer hike, head uphill into the eucalyptus forest. Lodging and camping are also available here, though you must make reservations in advance.
As the birthplace of King Kamehameha, this windswept end-of-the-road location has some surprisingly interesting Big Island state parks to check out. Kohala Historical Sites State Monument includes Kamehameha’s birthplace as well as Moʻokini Heiau, one of the most famous luakini heiau (sacrificial temples) on the island. Please conduct yourself with the utmost respect, as these ancient temples are still regarded as sacred by most residents. Do not climb on the structures, move any rocks, or leave non-biodegradable offerings.
As you head back down the coast toward Kona, you might easily pass by Lapakahi State Historical Park. But if you’re interested in how people lived in days past, you should really pull over and check it out. It’s a partially restored ancient fishing village, of which you can take a self-guided tour via the Lapakahi Village Interpretive Trail. Information and trail guides are provided at the kiosk when you park.
Kona has so many fascinating parks to visit, but if you had time for only one, it would have to be a day at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park. Infamous as the location of Captain Cook’s death, the bay is also renowned for incredible snorkeling opportunities. Please note, the Cook Monument can only be reached either by hiking the Kaʻawaloa Trail or by taking a guided kayak tour from either Adventures in Paradise, Aloha Kayak, or Kona Boys. No other kayak operators are authorized to land there, and there are no kayak rentals permitted in the bay at this time.
There are many Hawai’i state parks on the Big Island to choose from. What are you waiting for? Start planning your visit today!