A lookout in Koke'e State Park, one of the best state parks in Kauai, Hawaii

9 Spectacular State Parks in Kauai You Have to Visit (+ Map!)

Featuring some of the most spectacular landscapes in the state of Hawaii, the nine state parks in Kauai deserve top spots on your itinerary for the island.

While Kauai does not have any national parks, Kauai’s state parks protect the island’s most treasured landmarks, from the famous cliffs of the Na Pali Coast and the impressive Waimea Canyon in the west to the lush Wailua River Valley in the east.

Whether you are looking to hike, kayak, chase waterfalls, relax on postcard beaches, or tour historic sites, there’s a Kauai state park that’s perfect for you.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail in the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is one of the top things to do in Kauai's state parks.
A view of the Na Pali Coast from the Kalalau Trail

And Kauai’s state parks are scattered about the island, so even if you do not want to drive too far from your base, you’ll find a beautiful state park to visit nearby.

In this article, we’ve rounded up all of the Hawaii state parks on Kauai, with information on how and when to visit each park.

We recommend putting at least the first five Kauai state parks in our round-up on your itinerary for the island, especially if it’s your first visit to Kauai. They are, simply put, spectacular!

Let’s get started discovering the nine incredible state parks in Kauai.

Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour!

Wailua Falls in Kauai, HI
Wailua Falls in Wailua River State Park

Some links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For more details, refer to our disclosure.

State Parks in Kauai

Looking for national parks in Kauai to visit? There are none!

But Kauai’s nine state parks are the places to go, to visit the most spectacular landscapes on this Hawaiian island.

1. Ha’ena State Park

Located on Kauai’s scenic north shore, Ha’ena State Park is one of the most-visited Kauai state parks. The highway literally ends at the park!

Haena State Park is a visit-worthy destination in its own right, but for hiking enthusiasts, the park is also the entry point for the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.

Ke’e Beach, considered one of the best summer swimming beaches in Kauai, is part of Haena State Park. A reef offers protection, creating a relatively calm lagoon.

Ke'e Beach Haena State Park Kauai HI
Ke’e Beach is great for strolling and sunbathing

The beach also offers views of the stunning cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, tidepools to explore, and shore fishing.

You can also see historical sites in the park, including restored taro fields, and a site associated with the traditional Hawaiian dance form of hula.

One of the top things to do in Haena State Park is hiking a part of the Kalalau Trail. The trailhead is located near the beach in the park.

Many visitors hike to Hanakapiai Beach (4 miles round trip) or to Hanakapiai Falls (an 8-mile round trip). It’s one of the prettiest Kauai waterfalls.

Sunset at Ke'e Beach on Kauai
A colorful sunset at Ke’e Beach in Haena State Park

Advance entry reservations for Haena State Park are required for non-residents of Hawaii, unless you have a camping permit for the Kalalau Trail.

You also need a parking reservation if you plan to drive. Or you can take the North Shore Shuttle to the park if you’d rather not deal with driving in traffic and parking hassles.

Haena State Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7.45 p.m.

While the park is free for Hawaii residents, there is an admission fee of $5.00 per person for non-residents. Non-residents also pay $10.00 for parking for a standard vehicle.

Pets are not permitted at Haena State Park.

Check out our detailed Haena State Park guide!

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

2. Waimea Canyon State Park

Offering overlooks with expansive views of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon State Park is a must on any Kauai itinerary.

Waimea Canyon is one of Hawaii’s top landmarks. It is located along the west coast of the island.

Gawking at the spectacular canyon is one of the top things to do in Kauai!

Waimea means “red water,” and you’ll see lots of the rich red shade of soil and rock in this region. The red color of the rock, along with the green of the vegetation, makes for a very colorful canyon!

A view of Waimea Canyon in Kauai, HI
Admiring Waimea Canyon from a lookout in the park

The striking canyon, made by the Waimea River, stretches for about 10 miles. It is about a mile wide in some places, and about 3,000 feet deep. That’s a big gorge, worthy of its nickname!

Take the scenic drive through Waimea Canyon State Park to admire the buttes and ridges of the canyon.

Admire the panoramic views at leisure from the lookouts in the park. Snap lots of photos! On a clear day you may even be able to see the 800-foot Waipoo Falls, one of the most striking waterfalls in Kauai, in the distance.

A very short walk from the road leads to the Ni’ihau Lookout, a viewpoint from where you may be able to see the island of Ni’ihau, known as “the Forbidden Isle.”

Most visitors come to Waimea Canyon State Park for the views over the canyon, but hikers will find some strenuous trails in the adjoining forest.

Waimea Canyon in Kauai, Hawaii
Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

The Kukui Trail, one of Kauai’s hardest hikes, goes down the west side of Waimea Canyon to the floor, where the Wiliwili campsite is located.

There’s also a short nature walk at the start of the trail, the Iliau Nature Loop Trail, one of the best easy Waimea Canyon hikes.

The park offers picnic tables, public restrooms, and trash disposal, but there is no potable water available.

Waimea Canyon State Park is open daily during daylight hours. Come early for lower crowds and generally better visibility.

While the park is free for Hawaii residents, there is an admission fee of $5.00 per person for non-residents. Non-residents also pay $10.00 for parking for a standard vehicle.

Pets are not permitted at Waimea Canyon State Park.

Read our detailed Waimea Canyon State Park guide!

For a bucket-list experience, adventure-loving visitors will want to consider a doors-off helicopter tour of the island.

Tours fly low over the stunning Waimea Canyon, offering unmatched views deep into the gorge and the opportunity to take some fabulous photos!

The Waimea Canyon is usually on the itinerary for all the top-rated Kauai helicopter tours.

3. Kōkeʻe State Park

Kokee State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Kauai!

Encompassing more than 4.3K acres, Kokee State Park sits at an elevation of 3,200 to 4.200 feet above sea level.

Located just north of Waimea Canyon State Park on Kauai’s west coast, Kokee State Park is famous for its views of the Kalalau Valley. It also houses the popular Awaʻawapuhi Trail, one of Kauai’s best hikes.

Most visitors plan a trip to both parks, and the entry and parking fees are valid for both Waimea Canyon SP and Kokee SP if you visit on the same day.

Other than the sensational views from the lookouts (if you are not socked in by clouds when you visit!), the park offers several hiking trails, tent camping (reserve sites in advance), birdwatching, and picnic facilities.

The Pu’u o Kila Lookout and the Kalalau Lookout are the two viewpoints at Kokee State Park.

A view of the Na Pali Coast from Kokee State Park in Kauai, HI
A view of the Pa Pali Coast from Kokee State Park

The challenging Awaʻawapuhi Trail is about 6 miles round trip, with a significant elevation change, but your reward is spectacular views down the cliffs and into the Awaʻawapuhi and Nualolo Valleys near the ocean.

Awaʻawapuhi Trail is one of the best hikes in Koke’e State Park!

The moderate Pihea Trail is great for observing local Hawaiian flora and endemic Hawaiian birds, and has an optional spur that ends at the Pihea Overlook, the highest point along the rim of the Kalalau Valley.

A view of the Kalalau valley from the Pihea Trail in Kokee State Park, Kauai, HI
Looking down into the Kalalau Valley from the Pihea Trail

You’ll find restrooms, drinking water fountains, and trash cans at Kokee State Park.

The park has a lodge with a gift shop and a restaurant, and offers cabin rentals as well. There is also a small natural history museum you can visit for free.

Kokee State Park is open daily during daylight hours.

While the park is free for Hawaii residents, there is an admission fee of $5.00 per person for non-residents. Non-residents also pay $10.00 for parking for a standard vehicle.

Pets are not permitted at Kokee State Park.

Check out our comprehensive Koke’e State Park guide!

If you do not wish to drive, consider this guided visit to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Parks that picks up from many places on the island.

The tour includes narration, stops at scenic viewpoints, and lunch.

4. Wailua River State Park

The only navigable rivers you’ll find in Hawaii are in Kauai, and the Wailua River is the most popular recreational river on the island!

In fact, the Wailua River is the only river in Hawaii where you can take a boat cruise. Ride the riverboat to lush Fern Grotto, or go kayaking or water skiing.

Wailua River State Park, on the east coast of Kauai, is also home to two beautiful drive-up Kauai waterfalls: Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls.

Wailua Falls, Kauai
The twin falls at Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls, consisting usually of two lovely side-by-side falls, can be viewed right from the parking area. It’s a great photo op! Opaeka’a Falls are just as easy to view but more distant.

The park also offers expansive views over the lush Wailua River Valley from roadside lookouts.

The most popular activity in the park is the Secret Falls kayak and hike, which can be done as a guided tour or on your own.

History and culture enthusiasts will want to explore the series of heiau (sacred places) along the river, which ancient Hawaiians considered sacred.

The Wailua Complex of Heiaus is a National Historic Landmark, and includes places of worship, places of refuge, birthing stones, and petrogylphs. It’s a fascinating look back into the past when chiefs ruled the region.

The park offers kayak rentals, a boat cruise (fee-based), picnic tables, restrooms, trash disposal, and drinking fountains.

Kayaking the Wailua River in Kauai, HI
Kayak the Wailua River!

There’s also food available! Be sure to bring cash, to buy some delicious banana bread from vendors at the Wailua Falls parking lot.

Wailua River State Park is open daily from 7 a.m. until 7.45 p.m., and it is free to enter.

Pets are not permitted in the park.

The Wailua River kayaking and Secret Falls hike combination is one of the most popular excursions on Kauai. On this highly-rated guided tour, you will paddle and hike, and possibly even swim under the 100-foot waterfall.

5. Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park

The Na Pali Coast of Kauai is one of the most jaw-dropping landscapes anywhere on the planet, and the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness park manages visitation to this very special spot.

Na Pali means “the cliffs,” and these cliffs are breathtaking in their beauty. The scalloped cliffs rise up into the sky at the edge of the ocean, their red and green colors contrasting beautifully with the blue waters.

In between the tall rugged cliffs are narrow deep valleys, where Hawaiians once lived and even cultivated food crops.

The Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is home to the Kalalau Trail, the epic 22-mile out-and-back trek into the Kalalau Valley. The trail is the only way to explore the Na Pali Coast via land.

Kalalau Trail Na Pali Coast Kauai HI
A view from the Kalalau Trail

Many visitors day hike a part of the trail to experience its beauty. You can hike 0.5 mile each way to the first viewpoint, or 2 miles each way to Hanakāpī‘ai Beach.

You’ll need a valid camping permit to hike the Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakāpī‘ai Beach. Reserve campsites as soon as your dates are open!

Camping facilities in the park are located at Hanakoa Valley (6 miles into the trail) and Kalalau Valley (at the end of the 11-mile trail).

And you need parking and entry reservations to Haena State Park, where the trailhead is located, (or a camping permit) to hike any part of the trail.

A view of Ke'e Beach from the Kalalau Trail in kauai, Hawaii
Looking down at Ke’e Beach from the Kalalau Trail

There is no drinking water and no trash disposal at Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. There is also no cell phone service in the park.

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7.45 p.m.

Pets are not permitted in the park.

Want to admire the Na Pali Coast without hiking? You can view the coast up close from the air on a Kauai helicopter tour, or you can visit by boat.

By sea, visit on a small boat snorkeling and sailing excursion in the morning for calmer waters, or choose a sunset catamaran cruise for better light for photos.

Or, to get up close to the coves, caves, and waterfalls of the Na Pali Coast, adventure-loving visitors can check out this exciting raft tour!

6. Polihale State Park

It’s not an easy drive to Polihale State Park, but visitors that do make the effort are rewarded with a very scenic place to spend some time.

Located on the island’s west coast, Polihale State Park is a beach park set in ruggedly picturesque surroundings. The sandy beach is large (and uncrowded!), with a backdrop of dunes.

Polihale Beach in Polihale State Park, Kauai, HI
Making footsteps in the sand at Polihale Beach

Stroll or sunbathe on the beach, or cast a line from the beach.

Swimming is possible in the summer when conditions are calm (but note that the currents can be strong). Queen’s Pond, a natural pool that forms on Polihale Beach a little ways inland, is a safer swimming spot for non-experts and kids.

Enjoy lovely views of the Na Pali Coast. Bring a picnic meal to enjoy. Stay to take in a colorful Hawaiian sunset.

The road to Polihale State Park is unpaved and can be very bumpy, with ruts and places with deep sand. The road may flood when it rains. A four wheel drive is ideal.

If you rent a car in Kauai, your rental agreement may not permit using the rental to drive to Polihale State Park, so be sure to read the fine print before you set out.

Polihale Beach Kauai Hawaii
Polihale Beach on Kauai’s west coast

Polihale State Park offers picnic facilities, restrooms, showers, drinking water fountains, and trash cans.

There are tent camping facilities, should you wish to overnight. Reserve sites in advance.

The park is open daily from 5.30 a.m. to 6.45 p.m. and entry is free.

Pets are not permitted at Polihale State Park.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

7. Ahukini State Recreational Pier

Located on the east coast of the island just north of Lihue, the Ahukini State Recreational Pier is a convenient state park in Kauai to visit on your way to the island’s north shore or on the way back.

It’s also a great place to watch the ocean for a bit if you are early for your flight out from Lihue Airport.

Sunrise at Ahukini Pier Kauai HI
A colorful sunrise at the Ahukini Pier

The cement pier is set at the mouth of the Hanamaulu Stream. You’ll find a wooden walkway where the stream meets the ocean.

While the pier is mainly used for netting crabs and doing pole fishing, it’s also a great place for a quick stop to enjoy the scenery and snap photos. The lava shoreline is beautiful!

Shoreline at the Ahukini Pier in Kauai, Hawaii
The shoreline at Ahukini Pier

Watch the waves crash against the rocks, and look for fish and other marine life in the water below the pier. Sunrise here can be stunning when it’s colorful.

There is parking, but no drinking water or other amenities at the pier.

The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7.45 p.m. There is no entrance fee.

Pets are not allowed in the park.

8. Waimea State Recreational Pier

The pier at Waimea, in southwest Kauai, was originally built in the mid 1860s, and was used for the town’s bustling trading activities until harbors were completed at Port Allen ad Nawiliwili.

No longer used for trade, Waimea Pier is now a place for recreation and enjoying the views.

Waimea Pier Kauai HI
Waimea Pier

Waimea State Recreation Pier, as the Kauai state park is officially called, offers pole fishing and crab netting. You can also bring a picnic meal to enjoy on the pier.

The views of the island of Niihau from the pier are striking. Sunset is a particularly beautiful time to be here!

Waimea Beach, on which the pier stands, features gray or dark brown sand. From the pier, you can enjoy views up and down the beach.

Waimea Pier Sunset Kauai, HI
Sunset at Waimea State Recreation Pier

You can also stroll the beach, which is usually less crowded than other beaches on the south shore. You’ll mainly see locals here.

The park offers restrooms, drinking water fountains, trash disposal, and picnic tables.

Waimea State Recreation Pier is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7.45 p.m. and there is no fee to enter.

Pets are not allowed at the park.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

9. Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park (Pā’ula’ula)

Located in Waimea, in southwest Kauai, Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park is a National Historic Landmark and a must-visit if you enjoy local history.

The fort was built in 1817 in order to help prop up Russian presence in Hawaii. The fort was designed by Dr. Georg Schäffer, a German working for the Russian American Company, and built by Hawaiian workers using local materials.

Landscape at Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historic Park in Kauai, HI
Landscape at the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park

Dr. Schäffer had to make a precipitous departure from Kauai when the Russian government failed to uphold his agreement with High Clief Kaumualiʻi, a rival of King Kamehameha.

After his departure, the fort was used by Hawaiian soldiers for many years until it was dismantled in the 1860s.

Today the remains of the stacked-stone outer walls of the fort can still be seen, as well as some remnants of the buildings. There’s also a statue of High Clief Kaumualiʻi.

Rubble from the stone walls of Fort Elizabeth on Kauai, HI
The rubble from the stone walls of the fort

Take a walking tour of the fort site and enjoy ocean views from the park!

The park has restrooms (reportedly not maintained at the time of writing), and parking.

Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park is always open, and is free to enter.

Good to know: Recent visitors report that the park is not maintained, with overgrown vegetation.

But if you are a history buff, it’s worth a quick stop to read the interpretive signage and take in the view of the site.

Map of Kauai State Parks

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any national parks in Kauai?

No. Given Kauai’s stunning natural beauty, surprisingly, there are currently no national parks in Kauai.

The state of Hawaii currently only has two national parks: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big island, and Haleakala National Park on Maui.

But Kauai’s state parks protect its many natural wonders.

Which state parks in Kauai require reservations?

Currently, only one of the Kauai state parks requires a reservation: Haena State Park. It’s a super popular Kauai park, being home to the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail and beautiful Ke’e Beach.

Reservation slots get snatched up pretty quickly too, so you’ll want to get yours as soon as your date(s) become available online.

A view from Kokee State Park in Kauai Hawaii
A view from Koke’e State Park in Kauai

The Best Kauai Tours

Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?

Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)

Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)

Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)

Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)

Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour (super popular, less expensive than a heli tour, large bubble windows for flightseeing!)

Renting a Car in Kauai

The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.

Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Kauai car rentals now!

Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle

Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!

This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Kauai now!

Where to Stay in Kauai

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Kauai vacation rental on VRBO now!

Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!

Nualalo Valley and the Na Pali coast from the Nualolo Trail & Awa'awapuhi Trail loop, one of the best Kauai hikes in Koke'e State Park, Kauai
Nualalo Valley and the Na Pali coast from the Nualolo Trail & Awa’awapuhi Trail Loop in Kokee State Park

More Kauai Travel Inspiration

Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!

If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.

Planning to split a week between Kauai and another island? We have a 3 days in Kauai itinerary article you must read to help flesh out what you would like to see and do!

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei and Kauai’s scenic north shore, the best things to do in Poipu and Kauai’s south shore, and the most exciting things to do on Kauai’s Coconut Side or east side.

Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.

Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.

We also have visitor’s guides to popular parks like Waimea Canyon State Park, which protects the namesake canyon, nearby Kokee State Park, and the remote but beautiful Polihale State Park.

Also check out the ultimate guide to visiting Haena State Park on Kauai’s north shore, and a full guide to hiking the epic Kalalau Trail.

Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight. We also have an article on everything you need to know to visit Secret Falls Kauai on an exciting kayaking and hiking tour.

Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.

And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!

Hiking enthusiasts will want to read our article on the best hikes in Koke’e State Park: the trails here are some of the best hikes in Kauai!

We have detailed trail guides for the most popular Koke’e hikes, from the scenic Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls, to the epic Awa’awapuhi Trail, challenging but very rewarding!

Also discover the best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park, and the best hikes on Kauai’s north shore.

We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.

Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.

Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore!

We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches, and an article on the best Kauai south shore beaches!

And if you love watching the sun go down in a burst of color, be sure to read our article on where to go for the best sunsets on Kauai!

Did you find this article informative? Pin it for later!

Discover the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, Hawaii. Jaw-dropping natural landscapes plus lots of outdoor recreational opportunities!

Disclaimer

All information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is subject to our terms and conditions of use. It is not a substitute for information or advice from official agencies or qualified professionals.

SV Travel Media LLC makes no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information provided here, and readers should use their own discretion and judgement, and seek advice from professionals where needed.

Your use of the information described in, and your participation in activities presented on our website may carry the risk of illness, bodily injury, disability, death, or property damage. You freely assume all risks and dangers that may occur as a result of your access, use, purchase, or participation in any information, activity, product, or service listed on our website.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *