The beauty of Hawaii is seemingly endless, from its pristine beaches to its majestic mountain ranges. Here, we take a look at some of the best places to admire Hawaii’s natural wonders, with a list of the top five state parks on these islands in the Pacific.
A canyon in Hawaii? Yes it’s true – Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai is often referred to as ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific’. It’s approximately 14 miles long, one mile wide and up to 3,600 feet deep. The formation of the canyon is quite unique – it came to be thanks to a slow process of erosion coupled with the collapse of the volcano that created Kauai itself. A lookout point offers spectacular views of the rugged terrain and colorful vistas that seem to go on for ages.
Nu’uanu Pali, on the island of Oahu, was the stage of one of the most significant battles in Hawaiian history. Kamehameha I invaded Oahu and defeated the island’s warriors here in 1795, on his way to eventually unifying the Hawaiian islands. The lookout point at Nu’uani Pali (pali translates to ‘cliffs’) is a favorite spot among visitors to Oahu, as it offers unparalleled panoramic views of the windward side of the island. Sometimes the gusts of wind are here are strong enough to support a person’s body weight!
This tranquil river is located on the east side of Kauai and winds through beautiful waterfalls and lush tropical landscapes. One of the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, Wailua is also one of the most popular. It stretches 20 miles, beginning from the 5,148-foot tops of Mount Waialeale in the center of the island. Wailua can be explored by kayak, outrigger canoe or on a boat tour, and visitors should be sure to look out for the many scenic spots along the way, such as the Fern Grotto, a natural lava rock cave that’s sheltered by draping ferns.
Covering 165 acres on the island of Maui is Mākena State Park. Mākena Beach, also known as ‘Big Beach’, is a top spot for sunbathing and body boarding amongst tourists and locals. This massive stretch of sand is 1.5 miles long and more than 100 feet wide, and the shore is protected from the trade winds by two black lava outcroppings. Also of note is Pu’u Olai, a 360 foot dormant cinder cone that divides ‘Big Beach’ from a smaller, aptly named ‘Little Beach’.
Located on the northwest coast of Kauai, Nā Pali Coast State Park is a sight to behold, featuring stunning cliffs along the shoreline that rise as high as 4,000 feet above sea level. Inaccessible by vehicle, this coastal area can only be reached on land by hiking or by air in a helicopter. The Kalalau Trail is an 11 mile hike that crosses five major valleys before reaching a beach at the base of Kalalau Valley. Waterfalls and swift flowing streams cut through the narrow valleys of Nā Pali, and stone walled terraces can still be found, where Hawaiians once lived and cultivated taro.