Article Summary: National Parks Near Honolulu
National Parks near Honolulu! You don’t need any excuses to visit this vacation paradise. Surf’s up as More Than Just Parks has four exciting national parks you can travel to from Hawaii’s capitol.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
What is Honolulu Most Famous For? Honolulu, as Hawaii’s capital city, serves as the gateway to this beautiful volcanic archipelago in the Central Pacific.
Waikiki Beach is just a short stroll past an urban landscape of high-rise luxury hotels.
And let’s not forget about those fabulous national parks!
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii then one book that I highly recommend is: Fodor’s Essential Hawaii (Full-color Travel Guide).
Now let’s go ahead with 4 reasons why you’ll want to travel from Honolulu to one of these exciting places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Honolulu
National Parks Near Honolulu
- Best National Parks Near Honolulu
- Watch Our Award-Winning Haleakala Film
- Watch Our Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Film
- National Parks Near Honolulu FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Helpful Related Articles
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near Honolulu
1. Haleakalā National Park
How do you get there from Honolulu? It’s only 117 miles away, but to get there you need to:
- Fly from Honolulu (HNL) to Lanai (LNY)
- Take the ferry from Manele Harbor, Lanai to Lahaina Harbor, Maui.
- Travel from Lahaina Harbor, Maui to Haleakalā National Park.
Located on the island of Maui, this tropical park is a feast for the eyes with two main areas to explore. Haleakala is my personal favorite Hawaii National Park.
The crater is all the rage and has been deemed “the greatest sunrise in the national parks” by many.
The caveat is if you can beat the crowds (which are substantial and require a reservation) AND get lucky with the weather.
Seeing the sunrise at the crater requires an advance permit.
The other section is the more tropical side (near Hana) with jaw-dropping waterfalls, ocean, palm trees, and rain forest.
Read our Best Things to Do Haleakala National Park post here for trip ideas.
Watch Our Award-Winning Haleakala Film
HALEAKALA 8K is the culmination of several weeks and multiple trips to the remote outer reaches of the island of Maui in the Central Pacific.
Journey with us to the house of the sun and discover ancient volcanoes steeped in legend, rugged mountains, dense rain forests, hidden beaches, underwater worlds, and the last wild home to spectacular wildlife.
Things to Do at Haleakala
1. Haleakala Crater
Haleakala Crater Summit When we say the summit we mean the summit. Atop Haleakalā is an observatory, parking area, and a few trailheads.
From this area at sunrise or sunset you can take in some of the most spectacular views in the entire national park system.
Perched high above the clouds the Haleakalā Summit offers a commanding view of the island of Maui and the pacific ocean far below.
On a good day a sunrise or sunset here will be one that you’ll never forget.
2. The Road to Hana
The Road to Hāna, also known as the Hāna Highway is a narrow, one-lane, winding, scenic road that takes drivers through some of the most beautiful areas of Hawaii.
The road is definitely not for the faint of heart as it’s as famously narrow and dicey as it is beautiful.
If you’re renting a car and feel confident enough you just have to brave the Road to Hāna. It’s something you’ll be telling friends about for years to come.
3. Waimoku Falls & Pipiwai Trail
Waimoku Falls Cascading some 400 feet down to the forest floor is the beautiful Waimoku Falls in the Kīpahulu area of the park.
The falls can be accessed 2 miles into the 4-mile roundtrip Pīpīwai Trail.
This trail which provides hikers with beautiful views of various waterfalls, streams, and various other natural features.
4. Bamboo Forest
The bamboo reaches soaring heights and hearing the rustle of the chutes in the wind is quite a treat. We definitely recommend it.
For more, check out our Things To Do Haleakala post.
2. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
How do you get there from Honolulu? There is no direct connection from Honolulu to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. However, you can take the line 20 bus to Airport Upper Level, take the walk to Honolulu airport, fly to Hilo, then take the taxi to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Hawaii’s flagship national park, Hawai’i Volcanoes, used to encompass Haleakala National Park on the neighboring island of Maui as well.
Despite that subtraction the place is otherworldly (very mars-esque) and presents a rare opportunity to see lava (or at least it’s effects depending on whether it’s active during your visit) up close.
Watch Our Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Film
HAWAI’I VOLCANOES 8K is the culmination of several weeks spent filming in the rugged volcanic landscapes of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Situated on the island of Hawaii in the heart of the remote south pacific, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park boasts an awe-inspiring array of massive mountains, rare wildlife, and fiery volcanoes.
Journey with More Than Just Parks as we discover an ever-growing land shaped by fire. This is Hawai’i Volcanoes. Filmed primarily in stunning UHD 8K.
Things to Do at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
1. Thurston Lava Tube
Thurston Lava Tube is a 500 year old lava tube located near the incredible Kilauea Crater in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
This lava tube was carved out by a 2000F lava flow creating the subterranean cavern that exists today.
This hike through Thurston Lava Tube takes visitors through a lush tropical forest into the illuminated cavern below.
2. Kilauea Iki Crater
The Kilauea Iki Crater is a great spot for hikers to explore a crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park via the Kilauea Iki & Crater Rim Trails.
What was once a boiling lava lake is now a hardened surface for hikers to enjoy an afternoon in the park.
3. Pu`u Loa Petroglyphs
Given the amount of petroglyphs here, this site gives visitors an incredible opportunity to observe up close (without touching) an unbelievable array of petroglyphs dating back hundreds of years.
For even more things to do at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park check out our 8 BEST Things To Do Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park post.
3. Kalaupapa National Historical Park
How do you get there from Honolulu? Kalaupapa is an extremely isolated place, surrounded on three sides by ocean and two-thousand foot cliffs on the fourth.
Consequently, there is no road access into the peninsula from the southern side of Molokai. Once down in Kalaupapa, there are no food, beverage or medical services. In inclement weather, it is possible that getting out of Kalaupapa will not be feasible.
Due to this, it is suggested that upon a visit to Kalaupapa, you should bring any needed medications and even some extra food. To get to the park, visitors must travel by one of the following methods:
By Air: The park can be reached by air from O’ahu, and Ho’olehua, Molokai to Kalaupapa Airport (LUP). Small commuter plane air service is provided daily via Mokulele Airlines (877.260.7070 toll free).
By Mule: Descend the 2,000 foot sea-cliffs riding on the back of a sure-footed Molokai mule. Contact Molokai Mule Ride (808.567.6088) for information about rates, reservations, and visitor permits.
By Boat: It is prohibited to come within 1/4 mile of the Kalaupapa shoreline. Access by boat within the quarter mile offshore park boundary requires a special use permit. For more information regarding this offshore closure please contact Kalaupapa National Historical Park or the State Department of Health at Kalaupapa. (Source: NPS)
Things To Do There
As a retired history teacher, I can tell you that this place has quite a story to tell. This area served as an isolation settlement for those with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and home to Belgian missionary Father Damien and Saint Marianne Cope.
Today visitors can enjoy the breathtaking scenery and natural beauty of this magical place either on foot or by taking a famous mule ride. I recommend descending the 2,000 foot sea-cliffs riding on the back of a sure-footed Molokai mule.
The mule-ride operation is located on ‘topside’ Molokai off Highway 470 near Pala’au State Park and the Kalaupapa overlook.
4. Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
How do you get there from Honolulu? Visitor permits can be secured through Kekaula Tours (muleride.com or (808) 567-6088 or through Saint Damien & Marianne Cope Molokai Tours LLC (808) 895-1673. For those flying into Kalaupapa airport, hiking the pali (cliff) trail, or riding a mule as part of the tour, permits may have been arranged in advance.
Once again, a short history lesson is in order, but have no fear as I do not assign homework. Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park was once a place of refuge for kanaka maoli (Native Hawaiians). Until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke kapu (taboo, sacred laws) could avoid execution by fleeing to a place of refuge, or puʻuhonua (sanctuary, asylum, place of peace and safety).
Here the offender could be absolved by one of the sanctuary’s priests and then be free to leave. Now the site serves as a place of refuge for the Hawaiian culture itself, featuring reconstructed hale (traditional Hawaiian houses), temple platforms, royal fishponds, sledding tracks and coastal village sites. (Source: Hawaii Magazine)
Things To Do
There’s no shortage of wonderful activities which include:
A self-guided tour of the ancient cultural sites such as the Royal Grounds. The self-guided walking tour is about half of a mile long. The terrain is a mixture of crushed coral sand and lava rock.
Attend a demonstration of traditional Hawaiian craft techniques such as weaving baskets from lau niu (coconut fronds), bracelets from lauhala (dry leaves from the pandanus tree) or play Hawaiian games. Almost every day in the park you can experience a taste of life in ancient Hawaiʻi.
Check out the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail. It’s a 175 mile corridor encompassing a network of culturally and historically significant trails.
Snorkel at the “Two-Step,” which is an area adjacent to the park and is managed by the County of Hawaiʻi.
Or you can simply choose to relax in the shade of coconut trees as you enjoy the picturesque Picnic Area.
5. Pearl Harbor National Memorial
How do you get there from Honolulu? This is the easy one! It’s in Honolulu and located at Pearl Harbor which is 15 minutes away from the downtown via 1-H-1 W & 1-H-201 W.
Pearl Harbor is one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii. You don’t have to be a history buff to know what happened there on December 7, 1941. It was a date, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “which would live in infamy.”
I recommend beginning at Aloha Court. Visitors there can receive information about planning their day at Pearl Harbor immediately upon entering the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
From there you can examine two exhibit galleries which bring visitors closer to the sights and sounds of the events leading up to the attack on Oahu and its aftermath. These galleries display personal memorabilia, dramatic photographs, artifacts of the battle, and other exhibits. Kiosks are available to hear history from those who witnessed it.
The Pearl Harbor Memorial Theater is located across from the two exhibit galleries. As part of the 75-minute USS Arizona Memorial program (immediately preceding the boat trip to the Memorial), visitors will enter the theater to view a 23-minute documentary film on the Dec. 7, 1941 attack.
There’s also an excellent bookstore which is filled with over 120 book titles relating to the Pacific War.
Other Historic Sites At Pearl Harbor
The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, when their ship was bombed by Japanese Naval Forces. This loss of life represents over half of the Americans killed during the worst naval disaster in American history.
The National Park Service (NPS) in partnership with Pacific Historic Parks offers daily programs that include a movie about the December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and a boat ride to the USS Arizona Memorial. These tours start at 8:00 am and go through 3:30pm daily. Tours last approximately 45 minutes from the time you board your boat. (Source: NPS)
Other historic sites worth visiting include: The Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum, and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
National Parks Near Honolulu FAQ
There are no national parks on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai or Lanai. There are 2 national parks in Hawaii, and they are on Maui and the Big Island. There is 1 national memorial in Hawaii, and that is on Oahu. There are 3 national historical parks in Hawaii, and they are on the Big Island (2) and Molokai (1)
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cherished cultural landscapes in the world.
Honolulu, as Hawaii’s capital city, serves as the gateway to this beautiful volcanic archipelago in the Central Pacific.
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Honolulu?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Honolulu
List Of National Parks Near Honolulu
- Haleakalā National Park
- Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
- Kalaupapa National Historical Park
- Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial
Helpful Related Articles
Things to Do Hawai’i Volcanoes NP: 17 STUNNING Things to Do Hawaii Volcanoes (Photos + Helpful Advice)
Hawai’i Volcanoes NP Guide: Expert Guide to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii National Parks Guide: Expert Guide to the Hawaii National Parks
Haleakala NP Guide: Expert Guide to Haleakala National Park
Things to Do Haleakala NP: 11 BEST Things to Do in Haleakala National Park
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!