Two Hawaiian National Parks

Apapane, native Hawaiian bird, Big Island

Apapane, native Hawaiian bird, Big Island

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park became parks on this day in 1916, signed in by President Wilson.

It was a great day when the land surrounding these volcano areas became protected.

The State of Hawaii is an archipelago of eight major islands, islets and atolls spanning approximately 1,500 miles (2,400 km) across the Pacific Ocean.  More about Hawaiian Islands here.

Lava beach, Honaunau Bay, Big Island

Lava beach, Honaunau Bay, Big Island

The 11th national park in the United States has an interesting history.

In 1790 Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii had a violent eruption that killed whole families.  Fifty years later it became a tourist attraction for western visitors, and a string of hotels began popping up on the volcano rim.

In 1907 the Territory of Hawaii (it was not yet a state) paid for 50 members of Congress to visit the island volcanoes.  Hoping to get national park status, leaders of the effort  hosted a dinner–cooked over lava steam vents.

Lava Tube, Big Island

Lava Tube, Big Island

In the next nine years there were bills drafted, congressional delegations, opposition, and a few failed attempts.  A leading force in the effort, Lorrin Thurston, secured endorsements from environmental enthusiasts including John Muir and former President Theodore Roosevelt.

The area eventually became a park on August 1, 1916; they called it Hawaii National Park.  The Park, being on two separate islands, was changed in 1960 to two parks in their present names.

Amakihi, native Hawaiian bird, Maui

Amakihi, native Hawaiian bird, Maui

Located on Hawaii (aka The Big Island), is Volcanoes National Park.  It has two active volcanoes:  Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

There are lava flows old and new, calderas, steaming vents, lava tubes, and lava tunnels throughout the island.

Much of the Big Island (my favorite) is a vast expanse of uninhabitable lava fields resembling a lifeless moonscape.  Lava has been spilling out over the island for centuries and continues to do so every year.

Eruptions here are so frequent that the National Park Service website offers frequent lava flow updates.  Volcano activity this week:  click here.

Haleakala Crater, Maui

Haleakala Crater, Maui

The other park is on the next biggest island in land area:  Maui.  Haleakala National Park features dormant Haleakala Volcano.  It last erupted between 1480 and 1600 AD.

Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian.

Map of Maui, Haleakala NP highlighted in lime green. Courtesy Wikipedia.

This park has Haleakala Crater at the summit; and surrounding natural pools, waterfalls, and rainforest leading down to the coast.

The crater is huge (seven miles [11.25 km] across; 2,600 feet [790 m] deep) with a landscape of cinder cones rich in earth colors.

Here’s a Haleakala post I wrote:  here.



Both National Park websites here:  Hawaii Volcanoes NP and Haleakala NP.

Native Hawaii is all about volcanoes, rainforests, lava fields, and mountain tops.  With native plants, birds, wildlife, and volcanic features, there is much to celebrate in these national parks.

Hosmer Grove, Haleakala, Maui

Hosmer Grove, Haleakala, Maui. Where I saw my first I’iwi (bird).


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander unless otherwise specified

Map of Hawaiian Islands, courtesy

48 thoughts on “Two Hawaiian National Parks

  1. Those birds! A colourful post, and what an interesting place to see! Very much appreciated from a rainy UK (hoping for the winds to die down and the rain to let up before hiking a section of the Cornish coastal path – Hawaii seems distant and tantalizing at the same time right now…)
    Thanks, Jet, and have a great week!

    • Yes, pc, the native birds in HI are gorgeous, you only see them in the high altitudes, and what a delight they are. I’m glad you recognized how special they are. I’m happy to have given you a shot of the tropics, and send you my best wishes for a grand Cornish coastal hike, which sounds lovely too. It must be strange to be visiting your homeland with the chaos of Brexit going on. I wish the best for you and Mrs. PC~~

  2. There’s no question that volcanic lands are some of the most beautiful on our Earth. Wherever I have travelled where there is an active volcano the surrounding soil is so rich that it produced such beautiful flora and fauna….and oh the wildlife. The birds in the post are exquisite….nothing quite like a flash of deep red. I have only been to Hawaii once….I spent some time there on my way to Sydney and the South Pacific Islands. What I saw, I loved, and have always known that it’s a place I would enjoy spending much more time. It’s nice to know that John Muir was key in getting National Park Status, and another of my heroes….Joseph Campbell also lived in Hawaii for a long time. Your posts always inspire. Have a lovely Monday and week ahead. Janet:)

    • We have to go into the highlands and mountain top forests to find these birds in Hawaii, and hike back to see them. And you’re right, Janet, the volcanic areas are so interesting and unique. In some places there is starkness, in other places there is lots of life — all depending on how long ago the volcano erupted. I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell too, and forgot that he lived there, thanks for that reminder. Thanks so much for stopping by and “joining” me in the Hawaiian Islands today. Always a pleasure to connect with you Janet. 🙂

  3. the Haleakala crater is a wonder, Jet. and the colorful birds! the l’iwi is just beautiful. this volcanic group of islands is truly a paradise! thanks as always for sharing. 🙂

    • I remember a lovely post you did about the people of Hawaii not that long ago, Jan. Maybe sometime you’ll get a chance to visit the Big Island. Some people don’t like it too much, because it’s rather stark in places, but others of us like your husband and I like it there. It’s not as touristy, and it’s so unique with all the lava flows. Mahalo!

    • Aloha Amy! We hiked into back country three Hawaiian visits in a row, and finally on the third time, we saw the I’iwi. It was rainy and foggy and the bird was only a silhouette and he was soaked. We saw him for ten seconds at the most, before he flew off. And of course we were positively thrilled. Mahalo my friend~~

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the Hawaiian post, Tiny. It’s always fascinating to me, and humbling, to know how much effort people in the past had to put into getting a wilderness area protected. It could have been all houses by now, and instead it’s wilderness. Glad you liked the I’iwi — they’re very special birds. Thanks for your input today and every day, Tiny~~

    • You would definitely like these parks, HJ. The lowlands are great for birds, too, but they’re not the exotic native birds. But they are still beautiful and a joy. I hope you’re having a great week~~

  4. Great post….you do both parks justice!! The big island is one of my personal favorites (right behind Kauai)….moonscape is the appropriate description of the drive between Hilo and Kona…

    • Aloha, Kirt, glad to know you’ve been on the Saddle Road and that you, too, like the Big Island. Isn’t that Saddle Road crazy? Years ago you couldn’t rent a car if you told them you were going on the Saddle Road (because the road was in bad condition). But now at least the road’s better…just very odd landscapes. Mahalo!

  5. Such a wonderful post! Beautiful photos! I would love to see Hawaii one day, but thanks to your post I feel as though I have. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. 🙂

    • Hello Linda in Montreal! Thanks so much for your kind remarks. The world is so incredibly large and there’s so much to see. I’m glad I could bring the Hawaiian paradise to you. 🙂

  6. Another beautiful, interesting and informative post. I also appreciated the reminder that Joseph Campbell lived there. It seems some truly wonderful folks come from that island paradise.

    • Hawaii is a wonderful island paradise. They move slower, more mellow, there — I love that culture as much as the surrounding beauties. Makes sense that Joseph Campbell would have resided there. Many thanks, Gunta — I appreciated your visits. 🙂

  7. Been to Hawaii twice…. Kauai and Oahu… but never to the Big Island or Maui… maybe I should remedy that situation! Enjoyed the info.

    • Aloha Roslyn! If you liked Kauai, you’ll like the Big Island. Maui is more touristy, but not as much as Oahu. They’re all lovely in their own way. Always a delight to have you drop by, thank you.

    • Thanks so much Sylvia. The native birds are tricky to find, you have to go up into the highlands to see those with the curved bills. I hope you do, it’s a great mountain adventure in Hawaii. Having been to HI already, you probably saw geckos there too. Not as big as your igaunas, but really cute and colorful.

  8. We have been to Maui to enjoy the beautiful plant life and saw a few of the birds which do not habitat the PNW. Many years in the past we visited Haleakala and did not bring out garments to keep us warm… surprise: it was very cold and windy at the top. Thanks for bringing back memories of a beautiful exotic island

    • Oh RH, we worked our tails off to see the I’iwi. Went to a meadow in waist-high grass in pouring rain! One year we went on the trail with the man who took that I’iwi photo, Jack Jeffries. It’s his signature bird. He waits 8 hrs. with his camera and tripod to capture a photo sometimes…a very patient and skilled man. And what a bird. The red is like no other shade I have ever seen on a creature. And the bill is designed for long tubular flowers that exist only in the native HI forest. Glad you enjoyed it. Many thanks.

  9. Oh, what a wealth of information! And timely. I am just planning a visit to Hawaii and am delighted to have your information and resources! Mahalo!

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