15 Best Lakes in Hawaii

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Hawaii is known for its stunning beaches, fantastic climate, Polynesian culture and unique customs. It is a popular destination for lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and surfers, having something to offer everyone. Hawaii is also known for its topography, flora and fauna, and is home to a number of protected areas, including the Haleakalā National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

All in all, Hawaii is a fantastic holiday destination, and over 8 million people would agree. That is the massive amount of tourists that visit the islands each year, seven of which are inhabited and one that is not. And although most come for the beaches, the ocean and the mountainous interior, some tourists also come to see other scenery, like lakes. There are not many lakes in Hawaii, and many are scarcely visited, but if you do visit the islands, it is worthwhile to go and see a few. These are the 15 best lakes in Hawaii.

1. Lake Waiau; Hawaii

Lake Waiau, HawaiiSource: mhgstan / shutterstock
Lake Waiau

Lake Waiau is located on the dormant volcano of Mauna Kea at an elevation of 3,970 metres above sea level. It is the highest lake in all of Hawaii and one of the highest in the entire country!

The heart-shaped lake sits right inside the cinder cone of the volcano. It is said to be very sacred amongst the locals because it has never touched the ground.

The lake is accessible by walking along a trail off of Saddle Road. It is not a long walk, but it can be difficult for some due to the oxygen levels as you get higher up the volcano.

2. Halulu Lake; Niʻihau

Halulu Lake; NiʻihauSource: USGS / Wikimedia
Halulu Lake; Niʻihau

This is the largest natural lake in all of Hawaii, having a total area of 74 hectare. Still, Halulu Lake is known to shrink in the dry season and can get as large as 150 hectare in the rainy season.

Halulu Lake is a beautiful natural freshwater lake that is surrounded by sand and trees. It is home to numerous Hawaiian bird species, including the Hawaiian stilt, the Hawaiian coot and the Hawaiian duck.

The lake is named after an important Hawaiian high chief. There is also a myth that it is named after the mythological man-eating halulu bird.

3. Hālaliʻi Lake; Niʻihau

Hālaliʻi Lake, NiʻihauSource: USGS / Wikimedia
Hālaliʻi Lake, Niʻihau

Hālaliʻi Lake sits right next to Halulu Lake in the south central region of the island of Ni’ihau. The 340 hectare lake is the largest lake in Hawaii.

Natives say that the lake was either named after an important Hawaiian high chief or the trickster god Hālaliʻi from O’ahu Island. Makaloa sedge grows around the shoreline of the lake, which is used to weave traditional Makaloa mats.

Numerous wetland bird species inhabit the lake, including Hawaiian duck, Hawaiian coot and Hawaiian stilt. They lake is not used for recreation, but rather for fish farming, with the fish being sold in markets on the islands of Kauaʻi and Oʻahu.

4. Violet Lake; Maui

Violet Lake, MauiSource: Starr Environmental / Flickr
Violet Lake, Maui

Violet Lake sits in the West Maui Mountains at an elevation of 1,530 metres above sea level. The lake is surrounded by montane rainforest, making it exceptionally beautiful.

The lake’s ecosystem means that it is home to some rare wildlife, some of which are endemic species. The flora is also quite unique, being home to rare species like the dwarfed ʻōhiʻa lehua tree, Hawaiian lobelioids and the Maui violet.

Violet Lake has some significance is Hawaii’s religion and ancient past. It is said the lake and its surroundings are holy and were the meeting place of heaven and earth, as well as being home of the Hawaiian goddess Kihawahine.

5. Ka Loko Reservoir; Kauai

This beautiful reservoir was created by an earthen dam. Water flows from the lake to the Waiakalua Reservoir, the Waiakalua Stream and to the Pacific Ocean.

The reservoir is best known because its dam burst in 2006, which created a flood that destroyed many homes. It also caused a few deaths of locals in the town of Kilauea.

Despite its unfortunate history, Ka Loko Reservoir is quite stunning thanks to having the Moloaa Forest Reserve as its backdrop.

6. Kahaluʻu Fishpond; Oʻahu

Kahaluʻu Fishpond; OʻahuSource: Joel Bradshaw / Wikimedia
Kahaluʻu Fishpond; Oʻahu

This historic fishpond is located at Kāneʻohe Bay on the island of O’ahu. It is one of only four surviving fishponds in Hawaii and is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

The area surrounding Kahalu’u Fishpond is private property and used as a wedding destination. There is a wedding chapel, a pavilion and a garden along its shoreline, each of which can be leased.

The 70 hectare pond features a 370 metre long semi-circular seawall that boasts a beautiful mangrove forest. If you are looking for a spot for a destination wedding, Kahalu’u Fishpond is a great choice.

7. Nu’uanu Reservoir; O’ahu

This hidden reservoir was built in 1910, though it has been out of use for decades. The reservoir is inaccessible, although it can be seen while hiking up to the Lulumahu Falls.

The reservoir sits in the lush Nu’uanu Valley and is surrounded by bamboo forest and jungle. There is a dilapidated tower and a rusted bridge, but not a soul in sight.

Besides seeing it from a lookout point on the hike to the Lulumahu Falls, it can also be seen from the Pali Highway, which skirts the north edge of the lake.

8. Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Lake; O’ahu

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Lake, O’ahuSource: Shane Myers Photography / shutterstock
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Lake, O’ahu

This lake actually has no official name, but it is a beautiful freshwater lake that is located in the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden.

The rainforest garden was established in 1982 for flood protection, but it is open to the public every day except for Christmas Day and New Years Day. And the best part about it is that it is free to enter!

The garden is filled with flora from all over the world, including parts of Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Melanesia, the Philippines, Polynesia, and of course Hawaii. The 13 hectare lake sits at the north end of the botanical gardens and is accessible by walking along the Lake Trail.

9. Wahiawa Reservoir; O’ahu

This is one of the few lakes in Hawaii where fishing is allowed, though it is only catch and release. Still, if you enjoy fishing, Wahiawa Reservoir is one of the best spots in the state.

The reservoir is stocked with bass, tilapia and catfish, as well as many other species. There is no boating allowed on the lake other than for the purpose of fishing.

Also known as Wilson Lake, Wahiawa Reservoir is located in the town of Wahiawa, which sits along three sides of the lake. There are spots in the town where there is shore fishing, with a boat ramp being found in the Wahiawa State Freshwater Fishing Park.

10. Waiākea Pond; Hawaii

Waiākea Pond; HawaiiSource: Eric Tessmer / Wikimedia
Waiākea Pond; Hawaii

Waiākea Pond is located in the Hilo Bay settlement along the east coast of the island of Hawaii. The pond is surrounded by the Wailoa River State Park, which features pavilions, picnic tables and lovely paths.

Spinning, fly fishing and bait casting are all allowed in the pond. Note that you will need to first get a fishing licence from Hawaii Fish & Wildlife.

On the east side of the pond is the Wailoa Center, which features two art galleries. All in all, a day at the Wailoa River State Park is sure to be memorable.

11. Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary; Maui

Kanaha Pond State Wildlife SanctuarySource: Forest & Kim Starr / Wikimedia
Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary

Although it is not really a lake, the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary is a magnificent wetland area that is famous for its waterfowl. The sanctuary is home to numerous bird species, including the endangered Hawaiian coot and Hawaiian stilt.

This is a protected area that is designated as a U.S. National Natural Landmark. The entire 50 hectare sanctuary is a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers.

In addition to native Hawaiian birds, the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to the belted kingfisher, grey-tailed tattler and black-tailed godwit, amongst others.

12. Huilua Fishpond; O’ahu

Huilua FishpondSource: Robert Linsdell from St. Andrews, Canada / Wikimedia
Huilua Fishpond

This is one of the few remaining ancient fishponds in Hawaii. Not only is it declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark, but it was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Huilua Fishpond was built between 400 and 600 years ago. It sits in Kahana Bay and is accessible by walking down the beach.

The fishpond featured a 150 metre high seawall that helped keep the larger fish from escaping. Much of the seawall has since been destroyed due to a few tsunamis, but restoration plans are in place.

13. Waita Reservoir; Kauai

Waita Reservoir, KauaiSource: Kwong Yee Cheng / Flickr
Waita Reservoir, Kauai

Although Waita Reservoir is located on private property, is it possible to visit the lake on a private fishing trip. In fact, it is a popular spot for bass fishing.

The lake has a pier where boats can dock and enter, many of which are run by charter fishing companies. Coming here is somewhat like having a private fishing party, as very few boats enter the lake at the same time.

The reservoir is located just east of the city of Kōloa. It often hosts special events like fishing tournaments, boat races and company events.

14. Kualapu‘u Reservoir; Molokai

This small reservoir is located in the town of Kualapu‘u on the island of Molokai. Kualapu‘u means ‘hill overturned’, with the reservoir sitting at the foot of the cinder cone Kualapuʻu.

The area surrounding the lake is home to Coffees of Hawaii who produce Molokai coffee. The freshwater reservoir is a nice place to go while visiting or passing through the area.

The reservoir does not offer recreational activities. It just provides some nice scenery.

15. Keehi Lagoon; O’ahu

Keehi LagoonSource: Phillip B. Espinasse / shutterstock
Keehi Lagoon

A lagoon rather than an actual lake, Keehi Lagoon is located in the city of Honolulu at the south end of the island of O’ahu. It features an urban beach and park that offers canoeing and boating.

Although there is a beach, there is no swimming here. Still, it is a great place to spend an afternoon with the family, enjoying baseball, football, cricket or tennis.

The lagoon sits right next to the airport, so you can watch the planes taking off and landing while enjoying a picnic lunch.

15 Best Lakes in Hawaii:

  • Lake Waiau; Hawaii
  • Halulu Lake; Niʻihau
  • Hālaliʻi Lake; Niʻihau
  • Violet Lake; Maui
  • Ka Loko Reservoir; Kauai
  • Kahaluʻu Fishpond; Oʻahu
  • Nu'uanu Reservoir; O’ahu
  • Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Lake; O’ahu
  • Wahiawa Reservoir; O’ahu
  • Waiākea Pond; Hawaii
  • Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary; Maui
  • Huilua Fishpond; O’ahu
  • Waita Reservoir; Kauai
  • Kualapu‘u Reservoir; Molokai
  • Keehi Lagoon; O’ahu