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Maui Parks

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park

Park location: This national park is located on the western side of the island, reaching from the 10,000+ ft Haleakala down near Hana, to the Kipahulu coast. It covers nearly 33,270 acres, over one half of which is wilderness.

Park terrain: The terrain is as varied as a region can be, from the barren volcanic wasteland and the famous crater, to lush foliage, bamboo forests and coastal views; the 2 hour drive to the summit of Haleakala is said to host as many ecological zones as one might see on a drive from Mexico to Canada. There can be as much as 120 inches of annual rainfall, and temperatures tend to have extreme fluctuation in Haleakala National Park.

Activities: Haleakala National Park has a plethora of activities that nature-loving explorers will not want to miss. Star-gazing on the summit of Haleakala will offer one of the most glorious clear views of the Milky Way; and visitors can also enjoy watching a sea of clouds dissipate just after sunrise.

Hiking in Haleakala offers some of the best sport on the island. Trails will take wandering tourists through waterfalls, rugged coastlines, streams, and verdant plants and natural swimming holes in the region of Kipahulu. There are ranger talks, guided hikes that will make your exploration informative and educational. There are hands-on cultural workshops and activities at the Summit and in Kipahulu; information is available at the park’s visitor center.

Campers can enjoy either sleeping under the stars by backpacking through the national park, or by choosing fixed camp grounds like Hosmer Grove or the site at Kipahulu, where they may stay up to 3 nights per month. For those less enthused about pitching a tent in the wild, there are three strategically placed wilderness cabins all maintained by the National Park Service. Travelers must book these cabins in advance, and are only able to cancel their reservations up to 21 days before. The cabins are separated by a distance ranging from 4 to 9 miles, so hikers must be prepared to trek these lengthy trails. As the cabins are without supplies and electricity, campers must bring food and water with them, and may stay no more than two consecutive nights in any of these cabins. Each cabin costs $75 per night, per cabin which accommodates up to 12 people. For more details about the cabins and what they contain, refer to the Headquarters Visitor Center at Haleakala National Park.

Note also for avid campers/hikers: groups must be limited to 12 travelers or less when hiking or camping at the National Park. If your group is larger than 12, you will need to split up into two groups and wait 30 minute before the second group embarks. There are a variety of trails, ranging from brief stints to multi-day endeavors. The elevation of the summit as well as the temperature (ranging from 30-65 degrees) may subject hikers to feelings of dizziness or nausea from the altitude, as well as UV sun exposure and wind/rain chill.

There is no public transportation system in the National Park, and there are also no gas stations, so if visitors plan to drive through the Haleakala, they would be advised to stock up in the towns of Pukalani or the Kipahulu region as those are some of the final places to get gas.

While hiking the higher altitudes, fortunate travelers might also get to see the “Ua-u” Hawaiian dark-rumped petrel, a sea bird that eats squid. So if you and your hiking crew see random piles of squid beaks, you will know the beautiful bluish birds are not far. As Haleakala is home to a high number of endangered species, there are related regular events that take place near or in the national park. One such example is Nene (Hawaiian Goose) Awareness Day which is celebrated on September 26, when Haleakala National Park hosts cultural events to honor the endangered state bird of Hawaii.

On the clearest days, five Hawaiian Islands are visible from the highest points on Haleakala. Note that all visitors are required to buy passes into Haleakala National Park. There are additional charges for vehicles, and for commercialized groups. The park is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, except during extreme weather conditions.

Iao Valley State Park

Iao Needle on Maui.

Park location: This State Park is located just west of the town of Wailuku at the end of the Iao Valley Road. The valley extends 4,000 acres across 10 miles and prominently features the 1,200-foot tall Iao Needle mountain peak. There is an entrance fee of $1 per walk in and $5 per private vehicle to cover parking fees. The park is open daily from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Park terrain: After a long entrance road leading to the park, the terrain is primarily lush rain forest of historical significance as an ancient battle ground through the Iao Valley. There are also look-out points to panoramic views of Iao Valley. This state park is reputed to be the second wettest location in Hawaii.
Activities: The state park itself covers 6.2 acres of historical grounds and deep rainforests. Visitors can tour through a botanical garden to witness some of the rare indigenous plants of Hawaii. Iao Needle is one of the most famous features of the state park, and hikers can take the 133 steps to the highest point where there is a full view of the valley. The park is the historical site where the Battle of Kepaniwai occurred in 1790, when King Kamehameha I fought Maui’s warriors in an attempt to unify the Hawaiian islands under his rule. The Iao Needle was used in the battle as a lookout, but in spite of the Maui warriors’ attempts to hold their ground, Kamehameha I won the battle and brought the island into the Kingdom of Hawaii. The result of this battle is said to have changed the course of Hawaiian history. To maximize the experience at Iao Valley State park, tourists can trek through the rainforests, up to the lookout point, participate in the activities or enjoy the exhibits at the nearby Maui branch of the Hawaii Nature Center. Also nearby is Kepaniwai Park’s Heritage Gardens. The gardens have highlighted the diverse population of Hawaii since 1952, with models of missionary buildings as well as those from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Filipino cultures. Here guests can meander through a children’s education center and museum to learn about the valley’s history as well as conservation in Hawaii. The park areas have restrooms, trash cans and signs, but are without drinking water, so guests are advised to bring their own.

Kaumahina State Wayside Park

View of the Keanae Penninsula from Kaumahina State Wayside Park.

Park location: The Kaumahina State Wayside Park is located on the northeastern coast of Maui and spans across 7.8 acres. Visitors can arrive at the park from the Hana Highway, just 28 miles east of the Kahului Airport. There is no entrance fee and the park is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm daily.
Park terrain: Kaumahina is a coastal park, with scenic views of the beach and Maui’s coastline. This park has a forested area, picnic tables and trails with views of the ocean. Temperatures are pleasant year round, though rainfall can often be expected in this wet region.
Activities: Hawaii travelers will enjoy this picturesque pit-stop while driving on the Hana Highway. There are numerous looping trails ascending to the ocean, where the lookouts highlight views of the Ke’anae Peninsula and the northern coast. Along the paths are a plethora of vibrant plants and beautiful sites in the Maui landscapes surrounding the state wayside park. Guests can enjoy a brief wander through the trails or stop to take photos or enjoy a picnic at the tables provided. Inquiries about the indigenous wildlife can be made at the nearby park office. There is no drinking water available here, so visitors should bring their own.

Makena State Park

Park terrain: Makena State Park is on the south shores of Maui off Makena Road. The state park is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm and there is no entrance fee.

Park terrain: Makena is mostly a beach park, comprised of 164 acres of glittering coastline separated by lava outcropping into two sections, referred to as “Big Beach” and “Little Beach.” Off Makena Road stands Pu’u Olai, a 360-foot dormant volcanic cinder cone rising. Often there is also a unique cloud covering, referred to as the “Makena Cloud,” which shelters a wide area from these two beaches across the Alalakeiki Channel to the neighboring island of Kaho’olawe.

Activities: Travelers to Hawaii are drawn to Makena State Park because of the miles of wide coastal views and the extensive sandy shores. Big Beach stretches 1.5 miles long and is over 100 feet wide, leaving plenty of space for sunbathers or sand-sport enthusiasts to enjoy the sunshine and surf. The neighboring Little Beach is only about 660 feet and vacationers can enjoy a brief 5-minute hike up to the top of Pu’u Olai which divides the two main beaches of the park.Water-sport lovers should only enter the ocean here on days when the waves are calm since the currents and shore break can be extremely severe and definitely unsafe. Only when waves are not rough here can activities like body surfing, boogie boarding and surfing be safely enjoyed. The beach does not have restrooms, trash cans or drinking water. Visitors would do well to bring their own water as well as pack their trash when departing.

Wai’anapanapa State Park

View of east Maui shoreline. Image by Dexter Freitas.

Park location: Located on the eastern side of Maui, the Wai’anapanapa State Park is 53 miles from the Kahului Airport. The park spread over 122 acres and is open daily without entry fees.

Park terrain: Wai‘anapanapa State Park is a coastal park of rocky volcanic hills and cliffs over the ocean. There is a hala tree forest, natural stone wonders such as blow holes, stone arches and most notably, one of the iconic black sand beaches of Hawaii.

Activities: The park’s name Wai‘anapanapa means “fresh glistening water” and the streams and pools of the area certainly seem to do so. Visitors traveling on the Hana Highway should consider the Wai‘anapanapa State Park an absolute must-do. One of the most famous attractions is the black-sand beach known as Honokalani Beach in Pa’iloa Bay. Though the black shores burn hot in the sun, making the cool water more appealing, tourists should be aware that swimming is decidedly hazardous in this area. While one should definitely not swim here, there is plenty of fun that can be had at this beach, whether it is exploring the caves toward the right of the shore or taking in the scenery of one of Hawaii’s most stunning coast. Other points of interest include the sea bird colonies who roost and mate on these shores which make for some talkative neighbors.

Hikers should exercise caution venturing out across the lava rock formations to access the blow holes, nearby pools or wet caves. According to legend, the wet caves are where Popo’alaea, the wife of local Chief Ka’akea, escaped to avoid his beatings. As the story goes, the chief searched for her and seeing her reflection in the water of the wet caves, found and killed her there. The pools forever represent a memorial of this tragic tale.

Guests can take a step back in time on the ancient trails in Wai‘anapanapa State Park. One nearby hiking path called the King’s Trail leads to a historical Hawaiian place of worship, called the Ohala Heiau, as well as other caves, shelters and burial sites. This road leads all the way to the town of Hana for those who would enjoy finishing the journey on foot.

Vacationers can also pitch tents or rent cabins in Wai‘anapanapa State Park. Additionally, the park offers restrooms, trash cans, drinking water, payphones and outdoor showers for day visitors and campers.

Pua‘a Ka‘a State Wayside Park

Park location: Pua‘a Ka‘a State Wayside Park covers 5 acres located off the Hana Highway, just after the 22 mile mark and 38 miles east of Kahului airport.
Park terrain: This is a heavy rain forest area with small pools and waterfalls, picnic tables and a rest stop.
Activities: This park offers some mild walks on paved trails, which lead to little waterfalls and a seated area for picnicking. There is an additional dirt trail which includes crossing a viaduct, and leads to a larger waterfall. For families who would like a scenic bathroom break on the Hana Highway and a short stretch of the legs, the Pua‘a Ka‘a State Wayside Park is the perfect place to rest. There is an adjacent parking area, trash cans and restrooms for travelers’ convenience. There is no drinking water; so visitors should plan to pack plenty on their drive through Hana.


Wailua Valley State Wayside Park

Park location: The Wailua Valley State Wayside Park is located on the Hana Highway and is about 32 miles from the Kahului Airport. This area is less than 2 acres and is open daily without a fee.
Park terrain: The park provides a view of the distance taro fields of Wailua Village, the Maui coastline and the Ke’anae Valley.
Activities: This is another great stop for those who need a break from the winding road to Hana and who want a view of the surrounding landscapes. This park offers a spectacular view of the Ke’anae Valley, and for a few steps more to a higher lookout, guests can enjoy gazing at Wailua Village as well as the stunning blue ocean. This park provides no running water, restrooms or trash cans, but is one of the best ways to get a panoramic view the nearby areas.

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