12 Best State & National Parks in Oahu You Should Visit

Oahu is one of the most beautiful islands in the world, and it is home to more than just its fair share of gorgeous beaches and popular tourist spots.

This island has so much more to offer than its picture-perfect image, and its natural beauty is reflected in its many state and national parks.

Breathtaking waterfalls and dormant volcanoes are a sight to behold; you don’t have to be a nature lover or an outdoor adventurer to appreciate the jaw-dropping vistas.

We’ve narrowed down 12 of the best state and national parks in Oahu to give you a better idea of where to go and what to expect!

1. Diamond Head State Monument

Looking for a thrilling way to commemorate a special day or just see some cool natural scenery?

Diamond Head is a volcanic tuff cone located east of Waikiki and is perhaps Hawaii’s most recognized landmark.

The monument was named by British sailors who saw the sparkling calcite crystals on the head of the peak from the sea.

This dramatic volcanic peak is the most popular day trip from Honolulu and features some of the best hiking on Oahu.

The trail to the summit is steep but well worth it for the stunning views of Waikiki and Honolulu, as well as the surrounding islands.

The hike can be done in about an hour, but be prepared for some strenuous sections.

There is also a military history to Diamond Head, as it was used as an artillery station by the U.S. military in World War II.

Kaʻena Point State Park
Kaʻena Point State Park Photo by Thomas Jundt

2. Kaʻena Point State Park

Kaʻena Point State Park is a scenic, remote park on the western coast of Oahu.

This protected area is home to some of the last remaining coastal sand dunes on the island, and it serves as a vital habitat for native plants and seabirds.

Depending on your pace, you should plan to spend between 1 and 3 hours exploring this beautiful park.

And be sure to keep an eye out for whales in the winter months – they are often seen along this coastline!

3. Puu Ualakaa State Park

Located just mere minutes away from bustling downtown Honolulu, Puu Ualakaa State Park is an oasis in the midst of busy city life.

Whether you’re looking to get a breath of fresh air or simply want to enjoy stunning panoramic views of Oahu’s southern coastline, this park never disappoints.

With an easily accessible hiking trail that leads to Tantalus Lookout, Puu Ualakaa is an absolute gem.

A true hidden treasure in Oahu, this park is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch or simply relax in nature’s beauty.

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4. Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park

Ahupuaʻa ʻO Kahana State Park is a coastal valley on the windward side of Oahu that is rich with cultural history and remnants of ancient Hawaiian traditions.

This beautiful natural area is home to more than 30 families who help preserve these cultural traditions and care for the land, ensuring it continues to flourish for generations to come.

There are two hiking trails available at the park, both of which offer stunning views of Kahana Bay and a unique opportunity to explore this fascinating area.

The Kapa’ele’ele Ko’a and Keaniani Lookout Trail is perfect for those looking for a shorter walk, as it takes you past two Hawaiian cultural sites and offers sweeping views from the top.

For those who are looking for something more challenging, the Nakoa Trail is a 2-hour loop trail that passes through stunning tropical rainforest landscape.

5. Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area

If you’re looking for a great place to fish and picnic, look no further than Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area.

Located near the Wahiawa Reservoir, this park offers plenty of opportunities for both activities.

There’s a boat ramp if you want to try your hand at fishing, but if you’re not in the mood for that, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore.

So whether you’re looking to catch a big one or just enjoy a meal in the great outdoors, Wa’ahila Ridge State Recreation Area is sure to please.

Hanuma Bay Nature preserve
Hanuma Bay Nature preserve

6. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Hawaii.

The bay is a stunning wineglass-shaped cove located on the southeastern side of Oahu and known for its excellent snorkeling, with 400 species of fish inhabiting the area.

It’s also home to a large population of green sea turtles!

Visitors can enjoy the tranquil morning hours before the crowds arrive, or join in the fun later in the day.

Either way, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is sure to provide a memorable experience.

7. Ulupo Heiau State Monument

The Ulupo Heiau is an ancient Hawaiian religious site located in Kailua.

The heiau, which is a type of temple, was probably used for various ceremonial purposes such as sacrifice, celebrations of good harvests, or the births of Hawaiian royalty.

Today, the Ulupo Heiau is a popular spot for tourists and history buffs alike, offering a glimpse into the past of this beautiful island.

Malaekahana State Recreation Area
Malaekahana State Recreation Area Photo by Chiara Switzer

8. Malaekahana State Recreation Area

Malaekahana State Recreation Area is a very popular beach park on the North East side of Oahu.

It is well known for its smooth, forgiving waves perfect for beginner surfers as well as confident swimmers.

Additionally, there are several designated camping areas within the park for those looking to stay overnight.

The campgrounds tend to fill up quickly, so it is recommended to make reservations in advance.

Overall, this park is a great place to spend some time outdoors with family or friends!

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9. Kualoa Regional Park

Kualoa Regional Park is truly a jewel of Kāneʻohe Bay.

With its stunning white sand beachfront, peaceful surroundings, and idyllic island backdrop, this park has something for everyone.

Spend your time relaxing in the sun or brushing up on your saltwater fishing techniques; whatever tickles your fancy, the 153-acre park has something for you.

And if you have a taste for adventure, don’t miss exploring nearby Mokoliʻi Island – just a 1/3 mile out into the bay and formed entirely from basalt.

At Kualoa Regional Park, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy and sights to see, making it one of the most popular parks in Oahu.

10. Heʻeia State Park

Heʻeia State Park is the ultimate bonding experience for families and friends; with 18 acres of picturesque bayfront property, this park truly has it all.

From kayaking and canoeing to fishing and stand-up paddleboarding, thereʻs something for everyone to enjoy.

The on-site educational programs provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about Hawaiian culture and the importance of preserving natural resources.

And the breathtaking views of the Ko‘olau Mountains are sure to leave you speechless.

Lāʻie Point State Wayside Park
Lāʻie Point State Wayside Park Photo by Al Case

11. Lāʻie Point State Wayside Park

Tucked away in a quiet residential area, Lāʻie Point State Wayside Park is a scenic spot that offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

This spot retains its natural beauty and remains family-friendly, making it the perfect destination for anyone looking to spend a relaxing day out in nature.

Immortalized in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you can even make the trek out to where Pete and Rachel jumped off that iconic cliff into the ocean!

Parking is extremely limited here, so be prepared for some crowds and plenty of competition for prime spots – but trust us, it’s well worth any minor inconveniences to experience this hidden gem for yourself.

12. Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site

The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site is its commanding presence among the cliffs and ocean vistas around it.

This heiau, or place of worship, was built sometime in the 1600s by ancient Hawaiians who needed a place to conduct sacred rituals. It is the largest heiau on O’ahu and one of the most significant in all of Hawaii.

Today, Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site is a popular spot for hikers and provides stunning views of the North Shore coastline.

Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site is a place of great historical and cultural importance – it’s a must-see for anyone visiting Oahu!