Tucked away in the charming coastal town of Kailua is the Kawainui Marsh, an untouched treasure of Old Hawaii. The Kawainui State Park Reserve encompasses 12 acres and sits at an archaeological site with rich cultural significance and history. Now part of the Hawaiian Dryland Forest Restoration Project, the peaceful area offers a welcome retreat from the busy tourist scene.
Located along the Kapa’a Quarry Road on the western side of the marsh, the park has a beautifully-manicured 1-mile loop trail leading through an exquisite native lowland ecosystem. The trail passes through the forest down to the marsh and features benches, fragrant flowers, and gorgeous, sweeping views of the Kawainui Marsh and the Ko’olau Mountain Range. An outdoor amphitheater sits on a hillside and hosts community events.
The Kaiwainui Marsh was formed over many centuries from the Ko’olau volcano caldera that was active 2 million years ago. After years of erosion, a large portion of the volcano collapsed into the ocean leaving behind the Ko’olau Range and the marsh, which included a large lagoon 1000 years ago that ancient Hawaiians used as a fishpond.
Water runs into the Kawainui from the Maunawili, Kahanaiki, and Kapa’a Streams, and portions of the marsh reach a water depth of 40 feet.
Visit Kawainui Marsh
Hours: 7am – 6pm
Price: no fee to enter the park
Directions: From Waikiki, take the H1-W to the Pali Highway. Take the Pali Highway through the mountains toward Kailua. Before entering Kailua proper, turn left on Kapa’a Quarry Road. The Kawainui Marsh State Park Reserve will be on the right, with pull-off space on both sides of the road. You will see the brown sign at the entrance, and traditional Hawaiian carvings surrounding the start of the trail.