Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii

National Parks on the Big Island

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There are four national parks on the Big Island, and each of them is worth a visit. The national parks were established to preserve the island history and natural wonders which means that they are excellent sites to explore and to learn about and see the natural treasures of the Big Island.

Below we discuss the following four national parks:

You can find more information on the state and country parks here (external link).

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

This National park located between Hilo and Kona is by far the most popular attraction on the Big Island, both for locals and for tourists. It is one of the few places on this planet where you can safely watch an active volcano (Kilauea) up, close and personal.

According to us, this park is the one “must-see” destination on the Big Island. More information on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Opening hours – Daily: 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Kilauea Visitor Center), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Ranger station, chain of craters road)

Steam vents in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Steam vents in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a few minutes from the visitor center.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park

Pu’uhonua means “place of refuge”. This is the site where Hawaiians that broke a kapu (law) fled to avoid punishment. Warriors that were defeated during battle also sought refuge here. The park contains numerous archaeological sites: from temple platforms and royal fishponds to the “Hale o Keawe”, a reconstructed Hawaiian temple.

The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau national park is located in the middle of the tropical and lush Kona coffee belt and is very close to two of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island.  This makes it a great place to combine learning about native Hawaiian customs with a snorkeling trip and/or a visit to a Kona coffee farm.

See some of our favorite pictures of the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park.

Opening hours – Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Visitor Center).

Visit the official park website.

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii is a good place to take in Hawaiian History. Next door (300 feet from the park entrance) is one of the best places of the island to go snorkeling

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

This park protects an ancient Hawaiian settlement. It contains partitions of the typically Hawaiian ahupua’a (Land divisions that divided the land into zones between the mountain and ocean). You can also find ancient ki’i pohaku (petroglyphs or rock engravings), kahua (housing platforms), holua (stone slide) and heiau (a place of worship) here.

Opening hours – Daily 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Hale Ho’okipa Visitor Center)

Visit their website here.

Kaloko Fishpond in the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park, hawaii, national park
Aerial view of the Kaloko Fishpond in the Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park from the east. Image credit: NPS

A big bonus to the Koloko Honokohau park are the two beaches: Honokohau and Ai’opio beach. These two beaches combine into a 1-mile long sandy beach that never gets too busy. The water here is calm and there is plenty of shade. Perfect for a visit with small children.

Honokohau Harbor, directly below (south) of the park, is also a good spot to go snorkeling.

A close up of the sand at Ai'opio beach
A close up of the sand at Ai’opio beach

Pu’ukohala Heiau National Historic Park

In how many places in America can you walk in the footsteps of a king? Kamehamea I build this place of worship around 1790 and dedicated it to the war god Kūka’ilimoku. After having build the temple he set out to conquer the neighboring islands, in which he succeeded.  this was the first time that the Hawaiian islands were united under one king: King Kamehamea I!

Opening hours – Daily 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Visitor Center)

Visit their website here.

Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, national park, hawaii
The Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. Image credit: NPS