The town of Hilo, located on the northeastern side of the Big Island, is often the island's second most travelled to destination (the first being Kona). And while it serves as a great jumping off point for the popular Volcanoes National Park, this historic area is home to much natural beauty just outside the boundaries of the town. Most notable of these natural landmarks, are its waterfalls. You have the ability to see 4 different waterfalls (even more if you're willing to pay), all located within a 30 minute drive of Hilo. The best part--you won't even have to get muddy!
I was awoken on my second morning on the Big Island by a sound many travelers fear-- rain. And by the volume of the pattering on the roof, I realized this was not just a drizzle. I had some good hikes planned for the day that probably weren't feasible in this heavy downpour. Then I remembered what my friend Luke Bryan once told me "Where I come from, rain is a good thing." I took those words to heart. In Hawaii, rain doesn't necessarily bring corn which brings whiskey, but what it does bring is waterfalls!
After a quick Google search, I realized there were several waterfalls in the Hilo area that I could get to with relative ease. I made a pit-stop at Target to buy a poncho and I was off to my first falls-- Rainbow Falls.
And there is Rainbow Falls. The day I went, the falls looked brownish in color, but the color did not detract from these impressive 80 foot falls. Apparently, the name comes from the fact that some days the way the water flows into the pool below produces a visible rainbow. I was not quite so fortunate the day I went. In fact, I was the only person here--surprising given that this a popular tourist spot. I snapped a few shots and made my way back to the car for my next waterfall (and to get out of the rain). Next on the list-- The Boiling Pots and Pe'epe'e Falls.
Here is a picture of the Boiling Pots. The name comes from the way the water flows over the rocks and makes it look like a pot of water about to boil over. I didn't quite see that, but it was still a good view.
In the distance here, you can see the 80 foot Pe'epe'e Falls. This whole area is part of Wailuku River State Park named after, you guessed it, the Wailuku River. The river begins deep within the Hilo Watershed Forest Reserve and flows all the way to the ocean, feeding numerous waterfalls, including Pe'epe'e Falls and Rainbow Falls. Supposedly, it is possible to get a closer look at Pe'epe'e Falls with a short and muddy hike. I decided, however, to save that for a different day. It was time for stop number 3-- Akaka Falls State Park, home to not one but 2 waterfalls.
Akaka Falls State Park is located north of Hilo, about a 30 minute drive from the Boiling Pots lookout. This place was a bit more official than the other two lookouts and actually had a parking fee of $5. However, it makes sense since there is considerable more infrastructure. There is a scenic, roughly 0.5 mile path that takes you through beautiful green vegetation, small streams, and unique and colorful plants that ultimately lead you to 2 waterfalls-- Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls.
I first stopped at the smaller and less visible of the two falls, Kahuna falls. You could still see the flow fairly well and can tell that these falls are quite large (about 100 feet). The surrounding green vegetation around the flow was really quite incredible. I still hadn't seen anything this big over on Oahu.
And then I made my way to the big kahuna (see what I did there), Akaka Falls. This 400 foot waterfall is the largest easily accessible waterfall on the island. The tallest is the Waihilau Waterfall in Waimanu Valley towering at approximately 2600 feet, but it is very challenging to get to. Today, Akaka falls was more than enough to satisfy my nature fix. The way the mist rose from the base was mesmerizing. If I wasn't getting poured on, I could have stood there for hours. But soon, the rain was starting to give me the chills, so I decided to make way back to my car. I was proud of myself for not letting a bit of rain get in the way of exploring this beautiful area. For that, I think I earned myself a hot cup of coffee!
What's your favorite Big Island waterfall? Leave a comment below!
Also Check Out:
- Love Big Island's write-up of all the different waterfalls
- Hawaii-Guide's information about the Big Island's waterfalls