Selling Hawaii's National Parks

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island // Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) is encouraging Hawaii-bound travelers to visit the many national parks that the Aloha State calls its own.

As part of the National Park Service's (NPS) 100th anniversary, the HVCB is encouraging travelers to #FindYourPark at the nine Hawaiian Islands' National Park Service parks.

Travel Agent breaks down the selling points for each of Hawaii's impressive national parks for clients heading to the Aloha State this spring and beyond.

Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail - Hawaii Island

More than 175 miles in its entirety, the trail tracks a coastal system of pathways from the northernmost tip of Hawaii Island, commonly referred to as The Big Island, south along the Kohala and Kona Coasts and around southernmost point Ka Lae, to the easternmost boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

While not yet restored to a continuous trail, portions of the Ala Kahakai are accessible to the public from Anaehoomalu Bay, Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. Segments of the trail can also be accessed in backcountry areas of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but be sure to speak with rangers about weather and trail conditions, and trail locations, before hiking.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - Hawaii Island

The largest national park in the islands, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park comprises 333,086 acres ranging in elevation from sea level to more than 13,000 feet. 

It is the only Hawaii national park with active volcanoes – two of them, actually: Kilauea and Maunaloa. Kilauea, on whose summit you can take in the orange evening glow of lava beneath its caldera surface, has been erupting continuously since 1983. 

In addition to its geological and biological significance, the park has deep meaning to the Hawaiian culture as an area rich with multiple culturally important sites, and as the sacred home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park - Hawaii Island

This coastal park and its scenic three-mile oceanside trail encompasses centuries-old saltwater ponds and loko kuapa (lava rock seawalls) built for fish trapping, protected wetlands for native birds, and a natural beachfront sanctuary for honu (green sea turtles). 

A walk along the white sands of the park’s Honokohau Beach might even include a rare sighting of a Hawaiian monk seal.

Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park - Hawaii Island

This scenic, 420-acre south Kona Coast park preserves the site’s sanctuary area, fishponds and palm grove of its royal grounds, and remnants of fishing village Kiilae, offering a glimpse into Hawaii’s past.

Puuhonua o Honaunau’s slate of NPS centennial events will feature activities, classes, demonstrations and workshops exploring multiple subjects related to Hawaiian culture, including endemic Hawaii plants and animals, and Hawaiian musical instruments. The park’s annual Hawaiian Cultural Festival, set for June 25-26, will highlight the area’s royal and sacred history.

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site - Hawaii Island

Visitors to this massive temple, one of the largest and final pre-contact sacred structures built in Hawaii, are immediately offered visual confirmation of the ambition of King Kamehameha the Great and the brilliance of early Hawaiian architectural knowledge. 

Construction of the heiau began in 1790 on orders from Kamehameha the Great, seeking to honor his family war god Kukailimoku and realize the prophecy that the temple’s completion would lead to his uniting and ruling of the Hawaiian Islands. 

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument - Oahu

In the 75 years since the December 7, 1941, attack on its United States naval base that catapulted America into World War II, the natural lagoon and estuary Pearl Harbor has become a place of poignant contemplation on the human cost of war and much of humankind’s enduring hope for a peaceful world. 

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Pearl Harbor is home to the USS Arizona Memorial – which spans the mid-section of the sunken battleship – memorials for the USS Utah and USS Oklahoma, and other sites on the harbor’s Ford Island and former Battleship Row related to the attack. 

December 7 will mark the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The park will be hosting a series of special events December 1-11, including movie nights on Waikiki Beach and the documentary film premier of “Remember Pearl Harbor." 

Honouliuli National Monument - Oahu

Though not yet open to the public, Hawaii’s next NPS-managed site aims to preserve a historically significant marker of America’s past that, while dark and tragic, deserves remembrance and knowledge by future generations. 

Designated a national monument by President Barack Obama in February 2015, Honouliuli was the site of Hawaii’s largest and longest operating World War II-era prisoner-of-war internment camp. 

Haleakala National Park - Maui

Haleakala is rich with stories of early Hawaiian culture and the bond between aina (land) and kanaka maoli (native Hawaiians). 

First worn by ancestral footsteps, the park’s hiking trails guide visitors through diverse environments — emerald rain forests, red cinder deserts and high-elevation native shrub forests, among them – enticing daylong and overnight escapes into the natural world. 

Catching the sunrise (and sunset) from Haleakala volcano’s 10,023-foot elevation summit – Maui’s highest peak – is a must for first-time island visitors. 

Kalaupapa National Historical Park - Molokai

For more than a century the site of a settlement for patients suffering from Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), the remote Kalaupapa peninsula now honors the endurance of the human spirit and recalls for visitors a painful chapter in Hawaii’s history. 

In January 1866, a dozen Hansen’s Disease patients were taken from their families, segregated from society, and sent to Kalaupapa, banished by a newly established Hawaii government act requiring the isolation of all stricken by the then incurable and contagious disease.

By the act’s 1969 abolishment, more than 8,000 patients had been forced to relocate to Kalaupapa, isolated from the world by the peninsula’s churning ocean currents and surrounding 3,000-foot sea cliffs.

Visit and keep visiting for all your latest Hawaii news. Be sure to follow Travel Agent's Joe Pike on Twitter @TravelPike.