Waterfalls, Hawaii (Big Island)
During our short stay on the Big Island we decided that waterfalls and volcanos would be the only things we would be able to see with our limited time.
We did the waterfalls all morning long, chasing them up the coast before heading to Volcanoes National Park.
Akaka Falls is a beautiful 420+ ft. fall. As you arrive to the parking area, take the winding stair case down a winding path. You can take the short cut and head directly to Akaka Falls or you can walk around to the other lesser known fall (will search for the name of this one).
I would highly recommend that you get here early as soon as soon as the park is open, You can easily see the falls and the area in less than 1 hour.
The views are spectacular.
Rainbow Falls - Nice little stop, but can be missed if you don't have much time. Ample parking. Close to the boiling pots, which in my opinion could also be missed.
Akaka Falls State Park - There are multiple waterfalls here. Akaka falls has a 442 foot drop. The walk is well maintained and the whole circle walk took about 45 minutes and wasn't too strenuous for our group - ages 4, 28, 58, and 70. Many beautiful spots to take photos. There are picnic tables here and good bathrooms. It costs $5 to park there or you can park free on the roadside right before there. IF you park free, you pay $1 per person to get in. So, if you have 5 or more people you might as well park close and get in free.
The first thing you think of when you hear the Big Island is usually; Volcano National Park...but I think waterfalls. The waterfalls here on the Big Island are just as big of a draw for me as the VNP. There are some beautiful waterfalls dotting the island and many you stumble upon while just driving around.
I think that waterfall pictures are hard. Considering that waterfalls are among the most exhilarating features of earth's bounty, a lot of waterfall photography falls flats, IMHO. You just gotta be there, I guess. (Maybe it's because waterfalls are as much an aural phenomenon as a visual one.) Anyway, I prefer to include humans in my waterfall shots, because a lot of times you lose all sense of proportion.
Akaka Falls are remarkably "convenient" in that access is quite easy, via a paved trail that is only a mile round trip from the parking area trailhead. "Akaka" (by the way) is a shortened form of the name of one of the legendary local chieftain. According to one traditional story, Akaka was visiting the falls one day when he was "possessed" of a spirit that inspired him to jump into the water right above the falls. But before his body crashed into the pool below, he was turned into stone.
My first visit to Akaka Falls was many years ago and I had rented a car. After the drive outside of Hilo on 19 we made the left turn onto 220. Only 3.4 miles to go and we’d be at the first intentional destination of the day. This was honestly the late addition to the list that I was insisting on and it was the highlight of my entire day. And so we drove up to the stop sign about ¾ mile in. Made the left turn down the “main street” and then the right. This we followed up the hill until it ended in the parking lot of the park.
Parked and packed we set off. Down the stairs to the Y where we discussed which to do. We decided to do the circle loop and see both falls since we were already here. So to the right we went further down the hill. As we followed the path it took us across a bridge and back up a bit we came to the end of the path. And there wasn’t much of a view from there. Kahuna Falls were across the valley but not a great view. After some pics here we move on up the path towards Akaka Falls.
After about five minutes we crested the hill along the forested path and there was our first glimpse. The mighty 420+ foot drop of the Akaka Falls. Wow. I was so amazed. We stayed here for a good ten minutes taking pics and movies of the falls.
The basin that these falls tumble into reminds me a bit of the area the helicopter on Jurassic Park comes down into. There is a small covered rest area here and a good 10 to 15 feet of fencing you can take pics from.
From here it was a short 750 foot walk back to the Y and up the stairs to the parking lot. It was here where we finally ran into another person. They had just arrived and we were happy we had had the park to our selves.
The park is open 24 hours a day but I highly recommend you come and see it as we did pre 9 am. The sun is shining onto the falls in the morning and this also gives the best light angle for pics.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting these waterfalls with my wife in February 2013. These waterfalls were part of a tour we were taking that day. We were fortunate that it had rained for several days prior to our visit and the falls were amazing full and gushing water...it was so much more than my first visit.
Pe'epe'e Falls is about a mile up the road from Rainbow Falls. Most people visit Rainbow Falls so it is a no brainer to continue on to see these falls. I fist visited these falls many years ago and recently returned with my wife in 2013.
Pe'epe'e Falls is not as impressive as Akaka or Rainbow Falls but if you appreciate waterfalls it is worth a look. The falls are surrounded by black lava rock and lush green vegetation. The falls themselves are around 80 feet high and plunge into some smaller pools of water below. The smaller pools of water are called Boiling Pots because of the appearance of bubbles on the surface due to the lava tubes.
There is a trail that leads to the Boiling Pots but our guide discouraged us from walking it due to the recent heavy rain making the area unstable for walking.
I had previously visited Rainbow Falls during a trip to the Big Island many years ago. In 2013, my wife and I visited Hilo and took a local tour which brought us to Rainbow Falls.
Rainbow Falls is a large waterfall; about 80 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. The name Rainbow Falls comes from the Hawaiian word for the falls which is Waiânuenue ; translated as Rainbow Water(rainbows often appear here in the mist). When we visited the Falls; the water was in full gush due to so many days of rain the days prior to our visit. The Wailuku River feeds the water off the edge down into a pool below. Above the pool of water is a lava cave where the Hawaiian Goddess Hina lives.
We viewed the Falls from a number of platforms; each giving a different view. I was glad to re-visit the falls and bring my wife to see such a beautiful natural wonder.
Akaka Falls state park has numerous waterfalls to view, the 2 main ones are kahuna and Akaka Falls. Kahuna is dramatic cliffside falls but you can only get a distant view. Akaka Falls is the most dramatic and most visited waterfall on the island and is well worth a visit.
If you are encircling the island, going north from the Kona Coast on the main road, you will come upon a sign for Akaka Falls (760 ft.)and Kahuna Falls (899 ft). You will have to drive quite a few more miles and follow the signs to reach them, but you will come upon a circle trail where both falls can be seen and there is no admission. Though not a sunny time of day when we were there, I believe it is worth the walk around to see them, though I'm not sure that I would consider this a well-kept park area.
While at this "park" we also spotted a mongoose and several feral cats. Apparently Hawaii has a problem with these poor animals who now must fend for themselves all over the island.
When walking the circle trail to Akaka and Kahuna Falls, you can't help but notice the contrast of landscape here. The northwestern part of the Big Island hosts its own lush, verdant rainforest versus the southwestern coast where seemingly endless lava flows of past eruptions cover miles of ground. Of course roads have been cut into both areas making these geographical landscape wonders available for all of us to see.
Notice in the accompanying picture the stand of bamboo and the enormous size of the bamboo trunks that cradle a waterfall. As beautiful as both large falls were, the vegetation and many small, rocky waterfalls were amazing sights too.
At Rainbow Falls you can hear the sound of the 80-foot waterfall into a large pool below, almost 100 feet in width. The waterfall is sunrounded by tropical foliage. . Swimming used to be permitted but is now prohibited for safety reasons.
This place is great. Pure, untouched beauty and tranquility interrupted only by the sound of water. It’s a very short, 20-minute, walk on a paved path that runs through the green foliage and views on the cliffs “painted” by flowers and shrubs. I could search for special words to describe the beauty of the place, but I doubt they exist at all.
On your way to the waterfall you will spot a giant banyan tree, its trunk is so huge that even a wide-angle camera won’t be able to capture it all in one picture. The path, although slippery at times, is very short and the walk is very comfy and pleasant.
The waterfall itself is really stunning, running down the cliff of the abundant jungle and makes you wonder what it would be like hiking on the other side of the gorge.
The parking lot is an attraction two, because it offers some of most beautiful views in the area, I actually made some very good pictures from there.
Make this 30-minutes stop, you’ll enjoy it tremendously.
This was another one of our last minute of the day trips when we were on the Hilo side. We ended up getting there just as the sunset so it was a little dark. We got lost on our way and missed the exit. One thing should bring is a portable navigation seriousley. You wasted so much time getting lost, then the other people in the car start griping when you lost like I did to my husband lol.
So anyways that park was really nice, the waterfall was one of the best I saw in Hawaii and goes down 420 feet. It had a nice breeze to it from the water. There were many mosquitos here though so I would bring repellent. Three was also a smaller waterfall for viewing. There are quite a few steps so you may huff and puff a little bit so beware but it is fairly easy.
If you are going to go do it when the sun is still out and do not wait till the end of the day like we did.
Cost is free. The park has restrooms & picnic areas.
Rainbow Falls, just outside of Hilo on the road towards Mauna Kea, is not just an beatuful waterfall -- though it certainly is that. It also marks the point on the island where land created by Mauna Kea meets land created by Mauna Loa. That's why they call it rainbow falls, right?
Okay, since we went in the afternoon, the falls themselves were in the shade, which precluded any chance for us to see any rainbows that might exist. For a better photo opportunity and the possible rainbow view, try to drop by the Falls in the morning.
North of Hilo is a tall waterfall known as Akaka Falls that is definitely worth seeing if you're in the area and have the time. Located in a beautiful, florid preserve, the Akaka Falls State Park actually has two major chutes -- one far in the distance that is less spectacular (so I can't remember its name) and the very impressive, power epynomous falls themselves. The foliage in the area is tropical rainforest, allowing for a beautiful if humid stroll among banyan trees, vines and flowers. It's definitely worth the 30-50 minute diversion.