Guide to Kau State and National Parks

Big Island Guide Travel Guide

If you’re visiting the Kau Area, here are the Kau State Parks and National Parks you should see to gain a taste of Hawaii’s culture and unique natural wonders in the region.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718
By far the biggest attraction for adventure-seekers on the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers one of the only opportunities on the planet to witness an active lava flow at work. With plenty of hiking trails, volcanic craters, camping areas, dense tropical forests, a sprawling, arid desert, huge lava tubes, and a perfect vantage point from which to stargaze, there’s no shortage of activities and adventures available to visitors to this famed national park.

Manuka State Wayside Park
The easiest place to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby Manuka Natural Area Reserve, which stretches nearly 25,000 acres leeward, the Manuka State Wayside Park is a great place to have a picnic, hike or camp on your way to or back from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Complete with a 2-mile nature hike, an open shelter campsite, and restrooms, it’s a nice opportunity to rough it along the island’s least developed regions. The hike is through dense forest and has sections that require scrambling over trees and rocky stepped areas. This is a pretty natural area without much grooming or maintenance on the trail so make sure to bring hiking shoes. The park itself is well maintained and provides lots of areas to hang out or let the kids run around. It is a great spot to stop for a picnic if you are headed around the South Point of the Big Island.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park
Punalu’u is a gorgeous black sand beach in the Kau District of the Big Island. The shores here are made up of basalt, a side effect of the persistent lava flows on the island hitting the waters of the Pacific Ocean. The sand is dark and crystal-like, making the beach an incredible sight to behold. Swimming is hit or miss at this beach, with strong waves and lava rocks scattered throughout the nearby waters. Of all the Kau State Parks, this one is our favorite stop for sightseeing on the way around the southern tip of the Big Island. Be on the look out for hawksbill and green sea turtles, sunning themselves on the warm black sand.

Ka Lae – South Point
Ka Lae is A National Historical Landmark and marks the southernmost point in the US. This area is believed to be the first settlement by ancient Polynesian settlers, complete with ruins of Hawaiian temples and fishing shrines along the rocky cliffs. While there’s plenty to look at and enjoy, you really shouldn’t swim here – the strength of the waves and winds along Ka Lae are enough to send people into the rocks and quite a few swimmers drown here each year. Because of its protected status and historic significance, visitors are asked to treat the area with respect.

Whittington Beach Park and Honuapo Bay
Situated on the southern edge of the Kau desert, Whittington Beach State Park is a dry, windy beach park with vibrant colors and amazing views of the ocean and shoreline. The park has picnic tables, bathrooms, and barbecue pits. Sightseeing here will give you a stunning view of the rugged cliffs and possibly a glimpse of the hawksbill sea turtles on the beach. There’s a swimming and wading area past the fishpond allowing for access to the ocean in a calmer environment.

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