Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside
Park location: Nu’uanu Pali is located on the windward coast of Oahu. Open during daylight hours, this natural pass in the Ko’olau Mountain Range is located off Pali Highway. There is an entrance fee of $3 per car for non-Hawaii residents.
Park terrain: The Nu’uanu Pali Wayside is a lookout point reaching up to 1,200 feet in elevation. From this breezy wayside, you can see breathtaking and panoramic views of Oahu’s vibrant windward coast. This is site where King Kamehameha I and his army won the 1795 Battle of Nu’uanu against warriors on Oahu, which unified the Hawaiian Islands under his rule. On this tragic battle site, 4,000 opposing Oahu warriors jumped or were pushed off Nu’uanu Pali’s towering cliffs to their deaths.
Facilities: While there is no drinking water, the site does have trash cans and interpretative signs.
Park Location: Ahupua’a O Kahana State Park is located on the windward side of Oahu, roughly 26 miles from Honolulu. An ahupua’a is a division of land, stretching from the mountains to the sea, used by ancient Hawaiians.
Park Terrain: The terrain ranges from sea level at Kahana Bay to almost 3,000 feet at its crest at Pu’u Pauao in the Ko’olau mountain range. There is frequent rainfall, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees.
Activities: Those interested in Hawaii culture and lifestyle would enjoy this park as its primary purpose is to nurture and foster native Hawaiian cultural traditions and the cultural landscape of rural windward O’ahu. Ahupua’a O Kahana was established a “living park,” with thirty-one families living in it. The families participate and assist with interpretive programs about Hawaiian values and lifestyle. Hikers can also enjoy two hiking trails: Kapa’ele’ele Trail which is one mile long, with views of the bay; and the Nakoa Trail, a 2.5-mile long journey through the tropical rainforest and streams. If you are lucky to be there in season, there may even be local tropical fruit to pick along this trail. Campers can choose from 10 beach campsites, which provide outdoor beach showers, drinking water, picnic tables and restrooms. Camping requires a permit with fees starting at $12 per campsite a night. The park is open to visitors during daylight hours and there are no entrance fees.
Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Wayside
Park location: This wayside area is located in Honolulu off Round Top Drive. The park is open during daylight hours from April to Labor Day 7:00 am to 7:45 pm and from Labor Day to March from 7:00 am to 6:45 pm. There is no entrance fee.
Park terrain: This wayside area in Honolulu is located a densely forested area that was once created by volcanic cinder cone activity. The park offers what some consider as the best views of Honolulu, including Diamond Head, Waikiki and the downtown area. There is also a one-mile trail look for a brisk hike or jog.
Park terrain: The park is mostly ocean front property, consisting of an entertainment hall and learning center, water-sports rental stations and seated areas that offer views of the He’eia Fishpond, Kane’ohe Bay and the Ko’olau mountain range. Various native flora grows in the park, including coconut trees, breadfruit and monkey pod trees.
Activities: The word “he’eia” means “washed out to sea;” so one can only imagine the watery adventures that await vacationers and locals alike. Families can enjoy traveling to the He’eia State Park to engage in sporty outings such as kayaking, snorkeling or taking a boat ride to nearby islands within Kaneohe Bay. Such tours can be individually experienced or led by knowledgeable guides. Some of the best snorkeling locales include: Coconut Island, Turtle Canyon, Horseshoe Reef and Barracuda Alley, to name a few. Tourists can also rent stand-up paddle boards, go catamaran sailing or learn to how to canoe.
Note that every one of the He’eia State Park staff is a certified lifeguard, who is also able to any questions visitors might have. This park is geared toward outdoor activities and enjoyment for the whole family to experience and provides trash cans, drinking water, payphones, restrooms and outdoor showers.
Park location: The State Park is located on the furthermost tip of the western side of Oahu, accessible from the Waianae and from the North Shore sides of the island where the road ends on Farrington Highway. It is open daily during sunlight hours and there is no fee for entering the park. Take note that it is not possible to drive around Kaena Point itself to reach the other side of Farrington Highway.
Park terrain: The Ka’ena Point area of the State Park Is largely a shoreline area that is remotely located and can be only accessed by foot trails. It is mostly a rocky lava coast with coves, tide pools, large sea caves and offers pristine views of the coast and horizon. The Kaena Point area of the State Park is a natural reserve for a number of rare and endangered plant species as well; so visitors must be careful not to damage the foliage as they walk through these areas.
Activities: Visitors can enjoy fishing in the pools of water, hiking on the 2.7 miles track over the rocky lava coasts, or viewing the tide pools for variety of marine life. The area at Ka’ena Point does not offer many shaded areas and the hikes are notoriously long and dry; so visitors should pack ample amounts of water, in addition to sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.
Dolphin sightings are fairly common on this part of Oahu’s coast; so keep your eyes on the horizon for a glimpse of these graceful divers. Ka’ena State Park is a Natural Area Reserve protecting the nesting space for Laysan albatrosses, wedge-tailed shearwaters and Hawaiian monk seals. Visitors are should be aware that it is illegal to disturb the wildlife here in any way.
The rocky coast at Ka’ena Point has historically been regarded as having some of the largest waves in the State; however it is not a very popular surfing location due to the rip currents and undertows that make water sports here very risky. It is definitely not safe to swim at or near the Ka’ena Point area of the park. There is a sandy beach on the Waianae side of the park called Yokohama Bay and Makua beach, right outside the park area, which are the only places in this area where swimming may be safely done. But even in these areas it is permissible only on days of extremely calm conditions or when a lifeguard is present.
Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline
Park location: The Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline is open free to the public from April to Labor Day 7:00 am to 7:45 pm and from Labor Day to March from 7:00 am to 6:45 pm. It is located off Kalaniana’ole Highway, near Makapu’u Head and Makapu’u Beach Park.
Park terrain: The most outstanding element of this scenic shoreline is the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse. While visitors are not permitted to explore the lighthouse itself, the historic building is visible from the trail, creating a striking contrast of red and white against the blue ocean behind. The trail ascends up 500 feet in elevation and tends to be a hot and windy 2-mile journey.
Though there may be less exhausting hikes in Hawaii, this trail provides some unparalleled views for whale watching. From November to May, it has been estimated that over 10,000 humpback whales use this passage on their migratory paths, giving birth and mating in these Hawaiian waters. The lookout point allows for clear perspectives of the coast and teeming ocean below. This hike is perfect for those who want an ideal bird’s eye view of some of the largest mammals in the ocean.
Facilities: Note that there is no available drinking water in this area, and because of the dry and hot conditions, travelers must bring plenty of bottled water. Also bear in mind that while there are trash cans available, there are no restrooms at the lookout or head of the trail.
Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site
Park terrain: This historic site is believed to have been constructed in the 17th century. The name “pu’u o mahuka” means “escape hill” and historians believed this heiau, which is the largest on Oahu, played a key role in political power, decision-making and religious practices during its peak period of use. The heiau remained an active element of religious worship and sacrifice until the early 19th century when such Hawaiian traditions were eradicated. The heiau extends over nearly 2 acres of land and has 3 walled areas stacking several feet high. It offers views of Oahu’s North Shore as well as Waimea Valley. This heiau is supposedly aligned to another heiau in Wailua, Kauai where signal fires could be sent between the sites for communications between the islands.
Facilities: At this time, the Pu’u o Mahuka heiau is viewable only from the outside, as visitors are asked not to enter the enclosures to avoid any damage to the site. There are walkways, signs and trashcans; but visitors should bring bottled water as there is no drinking water available on the premises.
Kea’iwa Heiau State Recreation Area
Park location: This State Recreational Area is located roughly 12 miles west of Waikiki, above Aiea and Pearl Harbor. It is over 380 acres wide and is open from 7:00 am to 7:45 pm from April to Labor Day, and 7:00 am to 6:45pm from Labor Day to March. There is no entrance fee to enjoy the park, though there are campsite rental and permit fees for those staying overnight.
Park terrain: Kea’iwa Heiau State Recreational Area is lined with groves of balmy eucalyptus trees and Norfolk pines, views of the coast, lengthy hiking trails and campsites. There are innumerable native plants with heavily healing properties, well-suited for the location of a heiau.
Activities: “Kea’iwa” comes from the word “mysterious” or “incomprehensible,” which certainly seems to aptly reflect the ambiance of this recreational area. A sense of mystic Hawaiian history seems to hang off the very branches over the harbor lookouts and the stony heiau. The Kea’iwa Heiau was once a “healing temple” where a priest would diagnose and treat ailments suffered by the people. The vegetation surrounding this area is laced with remedial herbs and plants that would have aided the healing process. Many believe the heiau, marked by a 4-foot rock wall enclosure reaching 100 by 160 feet, to have been constructed in the 16th century. This sacred place was damaged during WWII, though efforts have been made to restore the natural plant life and original structure of the temple. Visitors are asked to remain respectful during their visit by not tampering with or removing anything from the ancient site.
Vacationers and guests can also rent camping plots in the park and hikers can venture out on the 5-mile Aiea Loop Trail. This trail offers views of Halawa Valley, Diamond Head and Honolulu. Along this hike, travelers can also witness the remains of a B-24 bomber which crashed during World War II.
Camp sites are available in four places within the recreational area, each of which cost $5 per campsite per night. There are restroom facilities, showers, covered picnic tables, barbeque stands, trash cans, drinking water and payphones for visitors’ convenience.
Kukaniloko Birthstones State Historic Site
Park location: Located in the central northern side of Oahu stands the birthstone at the intersection of Kamehameha Highway and Whitmore Avenue. There is no entrance fee and the site is accessible during daylight hours. Any questions about the history and cultural significance of this site can be directed to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (808) 594-1835.Park terrain: The site, which is on the northern end of Wahiawa, spreads across a 5-acre area between the Wai’anae and Ko’olau mountain ranges. There are eucalyptus trees, palms, pineapple fields, petroglyphs and monoliths at the State Historic Site.
Activities: At this monumental historical location, visitors can step back in time to a sacred site where ancient Hawaiian queens gave birth. The Hawaiians believed that if a woman in labor held on to or lay against the birth stones, that the gods would bless her offspring. The rocks are said to be potentially as old as the 13th century and these hallowed grounds were likely the main royal birth place from 1400 to 1500 AD.
This place has been called one of the most significant sites of Hawaiian history, as it not only reflects its culture and religious superstitions, but is a place where life began for many notable kings and chieftains. Two of the most well-known chiefs who were born here were Kakuhihewa and Kuali’i. Many have also likened this place to a “Hawaiian Stonehenge” believing that the rocks were arranged in order to track the movement of stars.
Visitors can explore the grounds or the surrounding fields, which grew sweet potatoes and yams, or can hike nearby trails and see an ancient heiau near the birth stones. If guests happens to be there on a stormy day, they may get to witness a thunderstorm and imagine how the natives felt, believing the rumbling sound to be the voices of their ancestral gods. For anyone interested in Hawaiian history, this site is a must-see.
Malaekahana State Recreation Area
Park location: The Malaekahana State Recreation Area is located on the windward coast of Oahu, about one mile northwest of the town of Laie, off the Kamehameha Highway. The area is open each day during sunlit hours and is free of charge. There are also camping permits available for those hoping to stay overnight.Park terrain: This recreational area is 37 acres of wooded, coastal areas and beach, with security services available onsite at all hours of the day and night.
Activities: Visitors can make themselves at home by enjoying a picnic in a shady wooded area near the shore. After a peaceful afternoon lunch, they can venture off into the waves and enjoy swimming, body surfing, boogie boarding, among other water sports. The beaches at Malaekahana State Recreation Area also have ample shore space to enjoy fishing or playing games by the water.
For those who want to extend the fun to a mini vacation, there are nearly 40 designated camp sites as well as various yurts, shacks, cabins and eco-cabins to rent in the recreational area. The nightly price per campsite is $18 for non-residents (6 people or less). For every additional camper exceeding 6 per site, there is an additional nightly fee of $2 to $3 per person. Check-in time begins at 2:00 pm with check-out time no later than noon. The campsites are available from Friday to Wednesday weekly. Please note, beyond purchasing a camping permit, guests must also obtain overnight parking passes as well. Since there are no fire pits or grills in the park, campers will be responsible to bring their own. There are outdoor showers, restrooms, campsites, picnic tables, drinking water, trash cans and payphones for the guests’ convenience.
Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site
Park location: This Heiau State Historic Site is located near the town of Kailua, adjacent to the Kawainui Regional Park. The site is open during daylight hours and does not require any entrance fee.
Park terrain: The park is located next to the Kawainui marsh with a tropical garden and nearby taro patches. The heiau is comprised of lush open spaces and an expansive rock structure.
Activities: The Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site is the second largest heiau on Oahu and is considered one of the more important spiritual places on the island. Ulupo Heiau is surrounded by ornate garden walkways, a fishpond, fresh taro patches, banana trees, coconut palms and views of distant mountains. The site is made of a 30-foot high rock wall covering 140 by 180 feet of space. This heiau was used likely as an agricultural worship place, or an offering location for success in battle. Because of the monumental size of this heiau and the fact that many of the foundation rocks seem to have been sourced from miles away, many attribute this site to having been built by the menehune. History suggests that the 15th century chief Kakuhihewa and the 17th century chief Kuali’i were actively involved in the construction and frequent use of the heiau during their seasons of leadership on Oahu.
Visitors can feel free to wander around the ancient site or enjoy the nearby marshes, garden, farm lands and a 400-acre fishpond. Travelers should be respectful of the site’s history and should note that there are no services (such as restrooms, trash cans or phones) available in this area.
Laie Point State Wayside
Park location: The park is located in the town of La’ie at the end of Naupaka Street, off Kamehameha Highway. The site is open during daylight hours and is free of charge.
Park terrain: This is a rocky point with views of the surrounding coast and nearby Kukuiho’olua Islet. Kukuiho’olua Islet, among other islets in the area, serves as a seabird sanctuary and features a unique and picturesque sea arch that was created by tsunami waves in 1946.
Facilities: There is no drinking water provided, though there are a few trash cans.
Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area
Park location: This park is open free of charge, from April to Labor Day from 7:00 am to 7:45 pm and from Labor Day to March from 7:00 am to 6:45 pm. Wa’a’hila Ridge State Recreation Area can be found near Ruth Place, off Wai’alae Avenue in Honolulu.
Park terrain: In this Norfolk Island pine forest, guests can enjoy a shady picnic while overlooking the scenic Palolo and Manoa Valleys. There are hiking grounds in the nearby forest reserve for anyone hoping to explore the grounds further. The hike offers great views of Ka’au Crater and a waterfall from side the crater as well as spectacular views of Manoa and Palolo valleys.
Facilities: There are picnic tables, hiking trails, trash cans, drinking water and restrooms available.