The Ultimate Family Guide to Hawaii National Parks
FAMILY FUN AT HAWAII ISLAND NATIONAL PARKS
Hawaii Island is home to 5 National Parks. Each of the parks are beautiful and unique. A fun way to see all of them with the family is to have the kids complete a Hawaii Island National Parks Junior Ranger Adventure Book!
These books are free and available online or at any of our National Parks. They are perfect for kids up to 12 years old. There are scavenger hunts, games, crafts, hiking and so much more. Traveling with the kids can get expensive, which makes this FREE program so great!
The only fees involved will be for entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ($15 per vehicle) and Pu’uhonua O Honaunau ($5 per vehicle).
If your travels will also include Maui, you should purchase a Tri Park Annual Pass for just $25. After each park’s section has been completed, present it to any of the Park Rangers for review.
If the park section was completed correctly, the kids will receive a Junior Ranger Badge. Not to worry, the Park Rangers will help you answer any questions that you may not have been able to find on your own.
The more parks you complete, the more prizes you will get in addition to the badges!
Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
Ala Kahakai translates to “path by the sea”. This park is actually a 175-mile long trail system connecting much of the coastal areas around our island. This trail is not a continuous one, but parts of it are located within the other 4 National Parks and can be easily accessed. There, you can look for petroglyphs, ancient Hawaiian fishponds, and even ancient Hawaiian dwellings. Be sure to bring plenty of water!
Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Pu’ukohola Heiau (temple) was constructed by Kamehameha the Great from 1790 to 1791. Stories that have been passed down through the generations tell us about the thousands of men who lined up shoulder to shoulder all the way from Pololu Valley. They passed stones along to build this heiau almost 25 miles away. This structure was built without any mortar or cement, yet still stands strong on the hill. Make sure to have plenty of water, as it can tend to be hot here with limited shade areas. Whale watching is wonderful here from December until March! Half way through the loop trail be sure to look for black tip reef sharks. The water is murky and not a swimming area, but if you look closely you can see the sharks tips pop out of the water in the small adjacent bay.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park
This park was established by Congress in 1978 to preserve the resources found there and perpetuate Hawaiian culture as it once flourished. Here you will see many ancient Hawaiian fishponds, fishtraps, heiau (temple), shelters, petroglyphs, and turtles. There is a moderate hike, to either end of the park from the Visitor Center. The Rangers will also give you driving directions to access other areas of the park if you get a late start to the day. The amount of green sea turtles that hang out on the Honokohau side is just breathtaking!
Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
Also known as the “Place of Refuge”. In old Hawaii, the penalty for breaking laws was certain death, unless you could find your way to one of these pu’uhonuas. These places were genuinely places of refuge. A place to make good, the bad choices you had made. When you visit the park, you can still feel a sense of peace and forgiveness at this sacred spot. While there, be sure to bring along your snorkel gear. There is a shoreline access to the right just before the park entrance and it has some of the BEST snorkeling on Hawaii Island. Be sure to get there early because it can get pretty crowded by mid day.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park includes Mauna Loa and Kilauea, which are both active volcanoes. The glow from Halemaumau Crater lures you in on those cold volcano nights and is one of the many reasons people travel from all over the planet just to catch a glimpse. You can hike through the rainforest, into craters, by steam vents, and even through a lava tube! The Visitor Center is full of information and has a theater where the family can take a rest and learn some really interesting facts. Maybe take a drive down to the end of Chain of Craters Road to see the Holei Sea Arch. There’s so much to do and see at this park and the entrance fee will give you 7 days of access. Check with the park for daily weather conditions as it can tend to be rainy and much cooler at this high elevation park.
Let us know your thoughts and share with friends and family that may be visiting Hawaii soon!