Green mountain ranges, towering volcanic landscapes, and bright blue oceans—these are only some of the things that await you on the “Valley Isle” of Maui. Even more magical? Some of the island’s parks contain all three!
This state park’s claim to fame is its black sand beach, a popular stop in the town of Hana and one of the most unique beaches anywhere in the world. The 122-acre volcanic coastline park has much more to offer than the black lava sand, however. There are plenty of hiking trails to enjoy, along with camping facilities and fishing spots. The sea bird colony within will give bird-watchers quite the show, the heiau (ancient Hawaiian religious temple) will appeal to history buffs, and the famous sea cave and blowholes offer great photo opportunities. Campsites must be reserved in advance and start at just $12.
Kahekili Beach Park
While the majority of tourists head to neighboring Kaanapali Beach on Maui’s west side for activities, traveling just a few more minutes towards the north offers a much less crowded option. Kahekili Beach Park is arguably just as beautiful, with the added benefit of ample space to enjoy the pristine Maui waters. Even better, the beach here is known for being great for beginner snorkelers (when the surf is calm), as the shallow reef is close to shore. Expect to see an abundance of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles and tropical fish enjoying this area, as well.
Located along the Hana Highway about 39 miles east of the town of Kahului, Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside is often a welcomed sight to visitors taking the epic Road to Hana road trip. As pretty much the only option for public restrooms between the beginning of the Hana highway and the final destination of Hana town, forgoing a rest stop at this park would be a mistake if you plan on making the drive. At only five acres in size, this little state park packs a punch with its dense rainforest, relaxing picnic area, and accessible natural waterfall. Just look for the access trail near the road and take a short walk to view the falls.
Keopuolani Regional Park
Keopuolani Regional Park contains 110 square acres of land, 85 of which are developed, making this park the place to be for community activities in central Maui. As the largest park in the Maui Country park system, here you will find the local YMCA, the Central Maui Youth Center, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, and the War Memorial Complex, which houses the annual Maui County Fair. Enjoy the botanical gardens while the kids play right next door at the on-site skate park. Along with the basketball courts, baseball diamonds, and Little League fields, there is also an indoor gymnasium, pool, and track and field facility.
Mākena State Park
There aren’t many state parks on earth containing both a dormant volcano cinder cone and two spectacular beaches inside, but remember, this is Maui. Visitors to Mākena State Park have the option of hiking the loop trail at Puʻu Olai, a 360-foot-tall hill naturally built around a volcanic vent (aka a volcano cinder cone) in the center of the park. Or relax at 1.5-mile-long Makena Beach or the smaller Puʻu Olai Beach, each a short walk from the other. Puʻu Olai Beach was once known as a popular nude sunbathing beach, but the practice has since become less common due to cell phones and cameras restricting privacy.
Ho'okipa Beach Park
Many visitors tend to pass by Ho’okipa Beach Park, a white sand beach off the Hana Highway, because the waves often look too rough for swimming. What they don’t realize, however, is that this is one of the best spots to enjoy or watch surfing and ocean activities on Maui. Some of the island’s best waves can be found here at Ho’okipa Beach and have been attracting surfers since the 1930s. It is also a popular venue for competitions with several events sponsored by the Maui Sports Foundation taking place here each year. It has even been the site for the Aloha Classic and the famous Red Bull surfing competition in the past.
D.T. Fleming Park
Located in West Maui near both the Kapalua Resort and the Ritz Carton, D.T. Fleming Park is a less touristy option than Kaanapali Beach. The beach here is known for having large swells perfect for surfing and bodyboarding, and it has facilities such as restrooms, lifeguards, a playground, and picnic areas available. The park gets busy during the weekends, so come early to claim one of its five public grills for your epic beach barbeque.
Kamaole Beach Park
On the southern side of Maui, Kamaole Beach Park is divided into three different beaches, appropriately named Kamaole Beach I, II, and III. On a clear day, the nearby islands of Molokini, Kaho’olawe, and Lana’i can be seen in the distance from this park, a unique feature that adds to the already beautiful surroundings. It can get a bit crowded on the weekends due to its location in the middle of Kihei, and the park is more accessible to the tourists staying in nearby resorts, but there is usually plenty of space to go around. Kamaole I tends to be more popular among snorkelers and locals while Kamaole II is known for getting rocky after unfavorable weather. Kamaole III is the more popular of the three, as the waves can get larger, and there are more facilities available.
Haleakalā National Park is nothing short of a natural wonder. Its 30,000 acres of stunning public, and the amount of activities available for outdoor enthusiasts makes it one of the most exciting national parks in the entire state. It’s hard to miss the massive Mount Haleakalā (a dormant volcano); at over 10,000 feet above sea level, it’s the tallest peak on Maui. Most visitors wake up early and drive up to the Haleakalā Visitors Center to watch the sunrise or stay late to witness the sunset and stargaze from on top of the mountain. There is also camping, horseback riding tours, and numerous hiking trails that take you through lush rainforests and rocky deserts. More endangered species live inside this park than any other in the National Park Service.
West of Wailuku in central Maui, the iconic Iao Needle towers 1,200 feet high from the valley floor of this historic state park. The valley was the site of one of the most famous battles in Maui’s history, where King Kamehameha I defeated Maui’s warriors to eventually unite the Hawaiian Islands under one kingdom. Visitors can explore the valley’s many maintained trails or enjoy exhibits at the Hawaii Nature Center also located on the park grounds.