Whether you prefer hiking to scenic viewpoints or driving to them, Oʻahu’s State Parks offer plenty to choose from. There are also historic heiau (ancient temples) and royal residences to explore. Get ready for some adventure!
Lēʻahi (Diamond Head) State Monument
Oʻahu’s most well-known landmark, this ancient cinder-cone volcano stands majestically at one end of Waikīkī. Visitors capable of a short but steep hike will cherish the incredible view from the top. Keep in mind that the trail is very steep, including some long flights of stairs near the end. Allow about 2 hours for your hike. Not ADA-accessible, though park facilities at the bottom of the crater are. As this is one of Oʻahu’s most popular attractions, it can get very, very crowded. To beat the crowds and the heat (there is no shade along the trail), it’s highly recommended to arrive early. O’ahu state park gates are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Last entrance to hike the trail is at 4:30 p.m. There is a fee of $5.00 per car to enter the park.
Nuʻuanu Pali State Wayside
For a truly spectacular drive-up view of Oʻahu’s windward side, stop off at the Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout. This was the site of a pivotal battle in 1795, during Kamehameha’s campaign to unite the islands; over 700 warriors fell to their deaths over the steep pali (cliffs). Most days, the wind coming up the cliffs is so strong you can lean against it and not fall over! There is a $3.00 parking fee per car.
Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area
Located in central Oʻahu, this is a great spot to visit for a family-friendly loop hike. The ʻAiea Loop Trail is 4.8 miles and not particularly strenuous, though it does include a steep switchback climb and a stream crossing, and may be muddy. Hikers are rewarded with great views of Pearl Harbor (Puʻuloa) and the Waiʻanae mountain range. If you look carefully near the start of the trail, you might also spot the remains of a B-24 bomber that crashed in 1944. The trail starts and finishes at Keaīwa Heiau, a traditional temple dedicated to the healing arts. Please respect all heiau, as they are still considered sacred by most people in Hawaiʻi. Do not climb on the structures, move any rocks, or leave non-biodegradable offerings. Camping is allowed at this O’ahu state park; make reservations online through the State Parks website.
Queen Emma Summer Palace
Finally, if you’re in the mood for an indoor activity, consider a visit to the Queen Emma Summer Palace, a former royal residence. Though smaller and less ornate than ʻIolani Palace, this home had the advantage of a cooler climate in which to spend the summer months. Guided tours are available for a fee; the facility is also available for rental through the Daughters of Hawaiʻi, in case you’d like to feel like a queen on your wedding day.
The island’s tremendous diversity means there is a state park in O’ahu for everyone to enjoy. Start planning your visit today!