Wai'anapanapa State Park near Hana is one of the top state parks in Maui.

8 Beautiful State Parks in Maui You Must Visit (+ Map!)

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State parks in Maui protect some of the island’s top natural and historical treasures, from unique beaches and forests studded with waterfalls to ancient sacred Hawaiian temples.

Maui is home to one of two national parks in Hawaii: Haleakala National Park, which includes the higher elevations of the Haleakala crater and the must-do Pipiwai Trail along the coast near Hana.

But also at the top of many visitors’ bucket list for the island are Maui’s incredible black sand beach and the breathtaking Big Beach, both of which are parts of state parks in Maui.

Big Beach in Makena State Park, Maui
Big Beach in Makena State Park is a must-visit in Maui!

Whether you are looking to hike, chase waterfalls, relax at a beautiful beach, learn about Hawaiian plants, birds, or fish, or visit historical and cultural sites, you’ll find a Maui state park to suit.

Many of Maui’s state parks are located along the Road to Hana, making it convenient to stop and visit as you do the drive. Iao Valley is a short drive west from Kahului, and Makena State Park is located on the island’s west side, where many visitors choose to base.

In this article, we’ve rounded up all the state parks in Maui. We describe the top reasons to visit each park, plus how to get there.

We recommend visiting at least the first three Maui state parks on our list. They are the very best state parks in Maui!

Planning a trip to Maui? Sunrise at the top of the Haleakala crater is a magical experience you will remember long after your visit!

Puaa Kaa Falls in Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park on The Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii
Upper waterfall in Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park in Maui

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Maui State Parks

1. Wai’anapanapa State Park: One of the Must-Visit State Parks in Maui!

Without a doubt one of the best state parks in Maui, Wai’anapanapa State Park is high on the wish-list for most first-time visitors to the island.

Wai’anapanapa State Park is home to the most famous black sand beach in Maui: Pa’iloa Beach (also known as Honokalani Beach).

The black sand beach in Wai'anapanapa State Park in Maui, Hawaii
The gorgeous black sand beach in Wai’anapanapa State Park!

The park is one of the most popular stops on the Road to Hana.

The black sand beach is small but very picturesque, backed by lava cliffs and lush tropical vegetation. The black sand is fine in a few places and pebbly in others where it is still being broken down.

You may see folks swimming here, but note that the currents can be very strong and the shorebreak dangerous.

While the black sand beach is the top attraction in Wai’anapanapa State Park, it also boasts a beautiful hiking trail that extends along both sides of the beach. It is one of Maui’s most scenic hikes.

Going south along the oceanfront trail, you will see black lava rock formations, natural arches, small black sand coves, a heiau, and even a blowhole, one of the best blowholes in Hawaii. If you catch it in action, it’s a spectacular sight!

Look for native Hawaiian plants like hala along the trail, and for Hawaiian birds. There is a seabird colony offshore, and you may see nesting seabirds.

Hiking trail in Wai'anapanapa State Park in Maui
Hala trees along the hiking trail at Wai’anapanapa State Park

If you walk across Pailoa Beach and pick up the trail at the far end, you will walk north over the lava cliffs. The views here are stunning as well. You can go up to Pukaulua Point and then turn back, or go as far as you wish.

The park offers showers, restrooms, and a drinking water fountain. Campsites and lodging are available if you are looking to stay overnight.

There is no food available in the park, but there are picnic tables if you bring a meal. Or you can eat in the town of Hana nearby.

Advance entry reservations for Wai’anapanapa State Park are required for non-residents of Hawaii, unless you will visit as part of a guided tour that includes the fee.

You also need a parking reservation if you plan to drive.

Wai’anapanapa State Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

While the park is free for Hawaii residents, there is an admission fee of $5.00 per person for non-residents. Kids 3 and under are free. Non-residents also pay $10.00 for parking for a standard vehicle.

Pets are not permitted at Wai’anapanapa State Park, but dogs on leash are permitted on the trail.

Check out our detailed guide to Wai’anapanapa State Park, with reservations info and more!

And if you do not want to drive, consider this popular guided tour that includes 45 minutes in Wai’anapanapa State Park, along with a multitude of other sights on the Road to Hana.

>>> Check pricing and availability on this Road to Hana tour now!

2. Makena State Park

Makena State Park is located on the southwest side of the island and is home to three gorgeous beaches. It is one of the best state parks in Maui to put on your itinerary.

The three beaches in Makena State Park are Big Beach, Little Beach, and Oneuli Beach.

Puu Olai cinder cone, Little and Big Beach of Makena State Park, Maui
Little Beach and Big Beach, Makena State Park, Maui

Oneuli Beach has black sand, so if you aren’t planning to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park but want to see one of the island’s black sand beaches, head to Oneuli Beach!

Visiting Big Beach, also known as Makena Beach or Oneloa Beach, is one of the best things to do in Maui. It is a spectacular beach, one of the top beaches in South Maui!

You won’t find resorts at the back of Big Beach. Set in an undeveloped part of the coast, the large expanse of golden sand is backed by vegetation-covered cliffs.

The lifeguarded beach is perfect for strolling, enjoying the scenery, or soaking up the rays. The shorebreak can be very dangerous though, so check with the lifeguard before venturing into the water, or look for a safer beach to swim.

Little Beach, also known as Puu Olai after the cinder cone at the back, is accessed by walking over from Big Beach. It is an (unofficial) clothing-optional beach.

Activities here include sunbathing, bodysurfing, and snorkeling and swimming when conditions are calm. Currents can be dangerous and there is no lifeguard at Little Beach.

Oneuli Beach, the black sand beach in the park, is a great place to watch sunset. The snorkeling here is very good, and you may see Hawaiian green sea turtles as well as colorful tropical fish!

Oneuli Beach in Makena State Park in Maui, Hawaii
Sunset at Oneuli Beach

Oneuli Beach is accessed via a dirt road that may be impassable after rain.

Makena State Park offers restrooms and picnic tables, and there’s a food truck on Makena Road if you get hungry (bring cash!). There is NO drinking water at the park, so be sure to bring your own.

Entry reservations are not required, but there is a fee to enter if you are not a resident of Hawaii: $5.00 per person. Kids 3 and under free. Non-residents also pay $10.00 for parking for a standard vehicle. You can pay for parking online.

Big Beach and Oneuli Beach are open daily from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. Little Beach is open 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.

Pets are not permitted at Makena State Park.

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

3. Iao Valley State Monument

One of our favorite state parks in Maui, ‘Iao Valley State Monument allows you to experience some of the island’s beautiful landscapes that are not beach-y.

Iao Valley Needle in Maui, Hawaii
The Iao Needle

Iao Valley is worth visiting not just for its lush landscapes but also for its history. It’s here that a major battle, the Battle of Kepaniwai, was fought in 1790 between the army of the king of Maui and the forces of King Kamehameha.

King Kamehameha prevailed, leading to the unification of Hawaii.

The ‘Iao Needle is a photo-worthy natural formation that rises 1,200 feet from the floor of the valley. A paved trail leads to a lookout area from where you can view the Iao Needle and surrounding cliffs.

The park is also home to the ‘Iao Stream, and to a botanical garden that features plants that were grown here by the Hawaiians that settled the valley long ago. A trail leads down to the garden and to the stream.

Taro plants at the Iao Valley State Monument in Maui, Hawaii
Taro at the ethnobotanical area in Iao Valley State Monument

Note that the stream is prone to flash flooding.

Iao Valley State Monument is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The park offers restrooms but no drinking water or food purchase.

Entry and parking reservations are required for visitors to Iao Valley State Monument that are not residents of Hawaii and can be made online.

While the park is free for Hawaii residents, there is an admission fee of $5.00 per person for non-residents. Kids 3 and under are free. Non-residents also pay $10.00 for parking for a standard vehicle.

Pets are not permitted in the park.

Check out our detailed guide to Iao Valley State Monument!

4. Pua’a Ka’a State Wayside Park

The Puaʻa Kaʻa State Wayside Park is one of a string of state parks in Maui located along the Road to Hana. The 5-acre park features lush tropical rainforest.

You will find the park about one half of a mile past mile marker 22 on the Hana Highway.

If you love waterfalls, you will definitely want to stop here. The park features several small falls that can be accessed via a short hike. You may see folks taking a dip in the plunge pools.

Pua'a Ka'a Falls, one of the best Maui waterfalls on the road to Hana for families with kids to swim in
Pua’a Ka’a Falls with its pretty plunge pool

Do not jump or dive into the water, as there may be hidden rocks beneath the surface of the water. Also watch for flash flooding.

More adventurous visitors can also follow a dirt trail upstream along the viaduct to the upper falls, but this trail can be treacherous, and very muddy after rains. We suggest skipping this trail, but exercise caution if you choose to go.

Lower Pua'a Ka'a Falls, one of the prettier Maui waterfalls in the Pua'a Ka'a Wayside State Park
Lower Pua’a Ka’a Falls, one of the prettier Maui waterfalls in the Pua’a Ka’a Wayside State Park

Keep your eyes peeled for mongoose, and also look for colorful junglefowl.

Puaa Kaa State Wayside Park offers parking and restrooms, as well as covered picnic tables with views. It’s a great park to stretch your legs on your drive!

The park is open daily during daylight hours.

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

5. Wailua Valley State Wayside Park

Wailua Valley State Wayside Park is a small state park in Maui, just 1.5 acres. It is located on the Road to Hana.

A view from the Wailua Valley State Wayside Park in Maui, Hawaii
A view over Wailua towards the Pacific Ocean

You will find Wailua Valley State Wayside Park a little over one half of a mile past mile marker 18. Keep watch or you may miss it!

This park offers a lookout area with a spectacular view over Wailua Village and its taro fields all the way to the Pacific Ocean, as well as over the Ke’anae Valley and the Ko’olau Gap.

The lookout area is accessed via a set of stairs that’s hidden from view: you have to park and get out of your car to get to the stairs.

Parking is limited, but folks do not tarry here too long.

The park is open daily during daylight hours.

6. Kaumahina State Wayside Park

Kaumahina State Wayside Park is also located long the Road to Hana, and encompasses 7.8 acres.

This park is located just past mile marker 12, and is a popular place to park and use restrooms on the drive to Hana.

But the park features lush rainforest landscapes that are a joy to explore if you have the time and enjoy plants. Look for paperbark trees with their peeling bark!

Kaumahina State Wayside Park also offers expansive views over the Ke’anae Peninsula and the Pacific Ocean, perfect for photos.

View from Kaumahina State Wayside Park in Maui, Hawaii
View from Kaumahina State Wayside Park

There is a loop trail you can walk to get up-close views of the exotic plants in the park. You’ll find native Hawaiian plants as well. Look, and listen, for birds as you walk.

Note that the trail may not be maintained or easy to access.

There are restrooms and picnic tables in the park but no drinking water. ‘

The park is open daily during daylight hours.

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

7. Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument

This is one of two Maui state parks we have not visited yet, the other being the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area.

Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument is located on a high ridge a little ways northwest of Kahului, not too far from the Iao Valley State Monument.

The park is spread over 10.2 acres and features the remains of two significant heiaus, places of worship for ancient Hawaiians. The temples were converted to war temples by Kahekili, the last ruler of Maui.

The complex is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The park also features a viewpoint over Central Maui.

Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument is open daily during daylight hours.

Pets are not permitted in the park.

8. Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area

Located in the Kula Forest Reserve, the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area is popular with adventurous hikers and hunters.

The forest reserve offers a trail network in a landscape of conifer forest that you are more likely to associate with the Pacific Northwest than the tropical island of Maui.

The Haleakala Ridge Trail, which starts at an elevation of 6,500′ above sea level, offers expansive views and connections to the Plum Trail and the Polipoli Trail.

The Plum Trail, so called because of the many fruit-bearing plum trees en route, climbs through planted forest to join the Haleakala Ridge Trail.

The Redwood Trail winds through redwood and other conifer forests.

The Polipoli Trail is the shortest trail in the loop, and also traverses forests of cedar, pine, and cypress.

Together, these four trails form a high-elevation 3.5-mile forested loop with great views.

The park is open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails.

Note: Hikers MUST wear bright clothing and be aware that hunters may be hunting off the trail in the state recreation area. Pig and seasonal bird hunting are allowed.

Camping, and one cabin, are offered for overnight stays and must be reserved in advance. To reserve the cabin, you have to call or visit in person.

A 4WD is required for easy access to trailheads and the camping area.

Map of State Parks in Maui

Hiking Gear Checklist

Many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding, make sure you are well equipped and well prepared. Here’s what we typically take with us:

Stairs to the viewing area for the Iao Needle in Maui
Paved walk at Iao valley State Monument to the viewing area for the Iao Needle

Frequently Asked Questions: State Parks in Maui

Does Maui have any national parks?

Yes, Maui is home to Haleakala National Park. The park’s Summit District protects the top of the Haleakala volcano, and the Kipahulu District protects some coastal areas near Hana.

But Maui is also home to several beautiful state parks that are worth including in your itinerary for the island.

Is Waianapanapa State park worth visiting?

Without a doubt, yes! Wai’anapanapa State Park contains Maui’s most gorgeous black sand beach, Pailoa Beach. Here you will find not just beautiful black sand but also a sea cave to explore.

The park is one of the most popular stops on the Road to Hana. Be sure to enjoy the views from the overlook above the beach and Pailoa Bay!

Pailoa Beach in Waianapanapa State Park in Maui
Pailoa Black Sand Beach in Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui

Which parks in Maui require reservations?

Wai’anapanapa State Park and ‘Iao Valley State Monument currently require entry and parking reservations for non-residents of Hawaii. Reservations can be made online.

Also, if you plan to drive up to the summit of the volcano for a Haleakala sunrise, you will need to make a parking reservation in advance.

Do I need a pass for the black sand beach in Maui?

Yes, if you are not a resident of Hawaii, you need an entry and parking reservation for Wai’anapanapa State park to be able to access the black sand beach.

How much does it cost to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui?

Visitors to Wai’anapanapa State Park that aren’t Hawaii residents must pay an entry fee of $5.00 per person. Children 3 and under are free. There is also a parking fee of $10.00 for a standard vehicle.

The Best Maui Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Maui guided adventures yet?

Small-group Road to Hana tour so everyone in your group can sit back and enjoy the views without worrying about negotiating hairpin bends or finding parking at popular stops!

A Haleakala sunrise tour so you can experience the bucket-list sunrise atop the volcano without the need to reserve a parking spot or drive up in the dark!

A Maui whale watching raft tour, which will let you see the massive humpback whales at eye level! (You can also opt for a more sedate boat whale watching tour.) A MUST winter Maui activity!

A Maui snorkeling excursion that combines the Molokini Crater with Turtle Town, the two most epic snorkeling destinations on the island!

A 7-line Maui zipline experience where you can glide over the forests on the north shore of Maui. Enjoy ocean views and navigate obstacle course challenges!

An oceanfront luau in Wailea where you can enjoy a sunset buffet and traditional Polynesian entertainment. You can also opt for a Kaanapali oceanfront luau.

Renting a Car in Maui

The best things to do in Maui are located all over the island.

Public transport options on Maui are minimal to non-existent, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Maui trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Maui 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 Maui car rentals now!

Where to Stay in Maui

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 Maui you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

By far the majority of visitors to Maui choose to base on the west side, where there is a large selection of accommodations available, from resorts and hotels to vacation rentals.

We suggest starting your search for Maui accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO. You can filter to choose a specific area, such as Kihei, Kapalua, or Wailea.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Kihei and Kapalua and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

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

An islet in Pailoa Bay, Maui, HI
Rock formations at Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui

More Maui Travel Inspiration

If you are considering a trip to Maui, read some of our other comprehensive guides to craft the ultimate Maui itinerary!

If you are a first-time visitor to Maui, start by reading our article on the best things to do in Maui. From beautiful beaches and lush rainforest to Maui’s volcanic crater, our round-up captures the most iconic Maui experiences and activities.

If you are dreaming of a winter getaway to a tropical paradise, read our guide on why you should visit Maui in winter!

If you are planning a brief first visit to Maui, here’s our 3-day Maui itinerary to help you flesh out your own trip! And if you are considering a couples getaway to Maui, read about the top romantic things to do in Maui!

Driving the Road to Hana is one of Maui’s bucket-list experiences. We have a comprehensive guide to the best stops on the Road to Hana, including waterfalls and short hikes on the way.

One of the top stops on the route is Wai’anapanapa State Park, which requires reservations. Read our full guide to Maui’s black sand beach in this popular state park!

Maui boasts one of only two national parks in Hawaii. Read our round-up of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park. We also have the ultimate guide to sunrise at Haleakala.

We also have a guide to the best hikes in Haleakala National Park, and in-depth hiking guides to the two most epic hikes in the park: the Sliding Sands Trail and the Pipiwai Trail.

Speaking of hiking, also be sure to check out our round-up of the best Maui hikes, from easy to challenging. Plus, peruse our complete guides to hiking the popular Kapalua Coastal Trail in northwest Maui, and the Waihee Ridge Trail for astounding views!

We also have a round-up of the best waterfalls in Maui, from the 400-foot Waimoku Falls to Upper Waikani Falls near Hana. Some Maui waterfalls can be seen from viewpoints whereas others require hiking.

Water activities are plentiful in Maui! Check out our epic guide to whale watching in Maui, and our guide to the best Molokini snorkeling tours and the best Turtle Town snorkeling.

If you’d rather snorkel from shore, read our round-up of the best snorkel spots in West Maui.

Every Maui itinerary should have plenty of beach time: there are so many beautiful beaches in Maui that you are spoiled for choice. We have a round-up of the best beaches in South Maui, plus a detailed guide to Wailea Beach in southwest Maui, and one for Maluaka Beach along the Turtle Town stretch of coast.

We also have articles on the much-visited Kaanapali Beach, the popular Napili Beach and local favorite Keawakapu Beach. Along the northwest side, Honolua Bay is a famous surfing spot, and Ho’okipa Beach, near Paia, is a windsurfing mecca.

If you are looking to experience a different side of Maui, plan a visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. The lush landscapes and serene ambience will wow you! Also read our guide to Maui’s state parks, which include popular Makena State Park, home to Big Beach and Little Beach.

Spend a day exploring Upcountry Maui. Some of the best things to do in Upcountry Maui include touring farms and gardens. Help milk goats, tour a tea farm, go wine tasting and much more.

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Discover the seven spectacular state parks in Maui, Hawaii. Learn about Wai'anapanapa State Park, home to Maui's black sand beach, Makena State Park, which contains Big and Little Beaches and the Oneuli Black Sand Beach, Iao Valley State Monument, and more! #mauitravel


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