5 Underrated Public Parks in Hawaii
Hawaii is full of attractions, beach parks and gathering places. Looking for something new and lesser-known? Somewhere you are sure to find locals hanging about? Check out these five underrated public parks throughout the islands.
Kapiolani Park (Oahu)
Located in the shadow of Diamond Head adjacent to Waikiki Beach, there’s a lot to love about Kapiolani Park. It was the first public space designated in Hawaii—it was created in 1877 by the last king of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, who named it after his wife, Queen Kapiolani.
At that time, it was mostly used for horse racing and polo matches, as well as other games, like cricket. Now, it is a hub for local recreation of all types. It’s huge—160 acres—and its green fields are used daily by locals for intramural sports, meet-ups and exercise. It’s a nice place to get a glimpse of local life in Waikiki, and the Park is also home to the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Shell.
Waihee Beach Park (Maui)
Located off the main tourist trail, on the lesser-visited northeast coast of Maui, is Waihee Beach Park. The beach is small but scenic, with views looking north at the mountains and plenty of shade (as well as picnic tables and restrooms). Those looking for a wide beach won’t find it here, but they will find a small slice of paradise free from crowds, mostly visited by fishermen. Though narrow, the beach is long, making it perfect for a morning or evening walk.
Prince Kuhio Park (Kauai)
Prince Kuhio Park on Kauai is a monument to Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who served ten terms as a congressional delegate for Hawaii. Close to Poipu Beach, the park has a nice view of the ocean and well-groomed grounds.
To the naked eye, that’s about it. But, this Park serves as an opportunity to learn more about the lesser-known Kalanianaole, who is so revered in Hawaii that his birthday, March 26th, is a state holiday. On the closest Saturday, a celebration is held in his honor at the Park, full of chanting and dancing. Read up on his contributions to Hawaii and take a walk through the Park at sunset. It was announced last year that it will soon expand by 16 acres.
Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens, Reed’s Bay, Kuhio Kalanianaole (Big Island)
Most visitors to Hilo are so focused on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that they don’t take the time to experience the town itself. Though the downtown area is where you’ll find the restaurants and attractions (like the Pacific Tsunami Museum), it is in and around three waterfront parks—Liliuokalani Park, Reed’s Bay, and Kuhio Kalanianaole (yet another park named for Kalanianaole)—where you can get the best glimpse of local life.
Hilo does not have beaches, but it does have a strong waterfront presence, and locals take advantage of swimming, fishing, and paddling offshore. Liliuokalani Park at sunset is especially nice thanks to its Japanese-style gardens and ocean views.
Kahana Bay (Oahu)
This gem is located north of Kaneohe on the east side of Oahu. The draw of its location, other than being away from the busy south and north shores, is that it is surrounded by the towering, jagged Koolau Mountains on three sides. The horseshoe-shaped bay is narrow, making its views dramatic. It’s not great for swimming due to murky water (especially during the rainy season), but it’s ideal for kayaking, sunbathing or picnicking. Adjacent to the beach park is fishpond, campground and a State Park with hiking trails.