Hawaii National Parks Celebrate Park Service 100th Anniversary

  • 01 of 06

    Two Hawaii Parks Also Celebrate Their Own 100th Anniversary

    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
    Getty Images / Douglas Peebles / Contributor

    The National Park Service will celebrate its 100th anniversary in August 2016 and two national parks in Hawaii will also be celebrating their centennial this year.

    Both Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island and Haleakala National Park on Maui turn one hundred in 2016.

    In honor of this centennial celebration, let’s take a look at the nine Hawaiian Islands National Park Service parks, monuments, sites and trails in the Hawaiian Islands.

    Hawaii Island, the Big Island

    Hawaii Island is home to three parks, one site and one trail: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site and the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.

    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

    The largest national park in the Hawaiian 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 August 2016, the flows are once again entering the ocean allowing for great views from one of the lava ocean tours.

    In addition to its boundless 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. Legends abound of Pele’s seemingly unquenchable need to simultaneously create and destroy; elements of her personality vividly on display throughout the park’s vast acreage.

    Mauanaloa (Mauna Loa) last erupted from March 24 to April 15, 1984, however it is overdue for another eruption and the mountain has been showing signs of activity in recent years.


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  • 02 of 06

    More Hawaii Island National Park Service Locations

    Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park
    Getty Images / Tibor Bognar

    Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park

    As if its showcase of more than 1,100 acres of native plant, animal, and marine life, as well as heiau (temples) and kii pohaku (petroglyphs), wasn’t sensory overload enough, this coastal park and its scenic three-mile oceanside trail also 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 catching sunrays. Kaloko-Honokohau’s two fishponds, Aimakapa and Kaloko, and restored loko kuapa demonstrate the engineering acuity of early Hawaiians who settled this rugged, lava-encrusted coastline north of Kona, found sustenance and created community.

    Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park

    Reflective of its Hawaiian name, which in English translates as “place of refuge of Honaunau,” Puuhonua o Honaunau offered sanctuary and full protection to fugitives breaking the pre-contact kapu system of Hawaiian sacred laws, and persons fleeing punishment of death or harm.

    Once within the walls of the oceanfront refuge at Honaunau Bay and granted absolution by its priests, all were free to return to society, protected by the mana (spiritual power) of alii (royalty) buried at the puuhonua who were deified as protection gods.

    Today, the 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 pre-contact past.


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  • 03 of 06

    More Hawaii Island National Park Service Locations

    Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site
    Photo by John Fischer

    Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site

    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 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 prophecy that the temple’s completion would lead to his uniting and ruling of the Hawaiian Islands.

    The heiau, standing 224 feet by 100 feet with 16- to 20-foot-high stone walls, was completed within a year without use of mortar.

    Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail

    The footsteps of modern-day visitors walking the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail follow the daily journeys of early Hawaiians who used it to trek between island settlements. More than 175 miles in its entirety, the trail tracks a coastal system of pathways from the northernmost tip of Hawaii, 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.


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  • 04 of 06

    Oahu National Park Service Locations

    USS Arizona Memorial
    Photo by John Fischer

    The island of Oahu is home to two national monuments: the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the Honouliuli National Monument.

    World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

    In the 75 years since the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on its U.S. naval base that launched 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.

    Partner sites to the NPS monument, grouped as Pearl Harbor Historic Sites, include the Battleship Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

    Much of the lagoon – originally given the Hawaiian names Puuloa (“long hill”) and Wai Momi (“waters of pearl”) – remains an active U.S. Navy and Air Force base, now known as Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam.

    Honouliuli National Monument

    Though not yet open to the public, Hawaii’s next National Park Service-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.

    Over its three years of operation, from 1943 to 1946, Honouliuli Internment Camp held captive nearly 4,000 individuals of Japanese, Korean, Okinawan, Taiwanese, German and Italian ancestry as prisoners of war.

    Many detainees were Hawaii resident Japanese-American citizens, held at Honouliuli while awaiting transfer to U.S. Mainland internment camps. When it opens, the Honouliuli National Monument will share the history of internment, martial law and the experience of prisoners of war in Hawaii during World War II.


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  • 05 of 06

    Maui National Park Service Location

    Haleakala National Park
    Getty Images / Reetom Hazarika / Contributor

    The island of Maui is home to one national park, Haleakala National Park.

    Haleakala National Park

    A volcanic landscape as unique as it is sacred; 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 rainforests, red cinder desserts and high-elevation native shrub forests, among them – enticing daylong and overnight escapes into the natural world.

    Catching the near-always breathtaking sunrise (and sunset) from Haleakala volcano’s 10,023-foot elevation summit – Maui’s highest peak – is all but a rite of passage for first-time island visitors.

    Encompassing more than 33,200 acres, from the sea level community of Kaupo on Maui’s remote southeast coast to the volcano’s windswept summit faux caldera, Haleakala National Park, like all of the greatest NPS locations, truly rewards repeat visitors. Like the NPS, the park also celebrates its 100th birthday this year.


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  • 06 of 06

    Moloka`i National Park Service Location

    Kalaupapa Peninsula
    Photo by John Fischer

    The island of Moloka`i is home to one national park: Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

    Kalaupapa National Historical Park

    For more than a century the site of a settlement for patients suffering from Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), the remote, breathtaking 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.

    A few patients still reside, by choice, at Kalaupapa, which is accessible only by mule ride or hiking tour descending its precipitous sea cliffs, or by plane touching down on the settlement’s tiny airstrip.

    Park entrance is limited to 100 visitors daily and all visits must be prearranged. The opportunity to learn about the settlement’s history and residents, and the natural forces that created the visually stunning peninsula, however, are worth the effort.