MacKenzie State Park

MacKenzie State Park, Big Island

This sprawling state park has one of the most dramatic oceanfronts, but people don't come here for the swimming. MacKenzie State Park is mostly popular among sunbathers, picnickers and fishing enthusiasts. Strong currents make it unsafe for swimmers and snorkelers, and many drownings and near-drownings have happened in this area. Most of them were fishermen who were swept off the rocky ledges. Nevertheless, the views at this 13-acre (52,609 sq. m) paradise certainly merit a full day of exploring.

The park is located on the east rift zone of Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes. Because of this, the park's landscape consists mostly of rocks and dried lava, with some lush greenery on the far sides. Low sea cliffs are located along the water's edge. Here, you'll find caves, sea arches and lava tube openings, most of them a result of decades of volcanic activity.

The park is surrounded by many ironwood trees, so there is plenty of shade. Picnic tables and pavilions are available. If you want to stay overnight, you can get a camping permit from the park office.

Be sure to check out King's Highway, an ancient Hawaiian trail that takes you through the park on a winding path. It was built back in the days when King Kamehameha the Great ruled the Hawaiian Islands. Along the way, there are several lookout points where you can enjoy great views of the ocean and surrounding landscape. The peak offers a bird's eye view of the coast, clearly defined against the water, making for a truly magnificent picture.

MacKenzie State Park was named in 1939 after Albert J. W. MacKenzie, a forest ranger on the Big Island who passed away a year before. He was a dedicated forest ranger, replanting many burned areas in the Puna and Ka'u districts. He also planted the ironwood trees in this park.

Another interesting fact is that MacKenzie State Park is known as a spooky place, especially at night. It is the nightmarchers' territory and eerie sounds and sights have been witnessed (Nightmarchers are the spirits of deceased ancient Hawaiians. Their processions, which include torches and drumming, have been witnessed by quite a few people, especially on full moon nights).

MacKenzie State Park Overview

  • Beautiful landscape and ocean views
  • Part of King's Highway, an ancient Hawaiian trail, is located here
  • Avoid the temptation of going too close to the edge of the cliffs; people have been swept away in the past and drowned
  • Swimming is not safe in this area due to very strong currents
  • Good shoreline fishing

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Reviews and Comments:
camping has not been allowed here since 2014
Chris, Sat Nov 19, 2016
We have lived on the West side of the Big Island for 8 years and had never discovered MacKenzie State Park on the other side till yesterday. I went looking for a disc golf course that is apparently no longer there. But I was in no way disappointed with the grandeur of this park. It was so quiet and peaceful and watching the aqua blue waves crash up to 50 feet high against the cliffs was magnificent!
Facilities are poor. Only pit toilets, no showers, drinking fountains, etc.
I'm looking forward to an overnight there to listen for the Night Marchers!!
Beth, Wed May 23, 2012