A Short Guide to Waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii

Thanks to the ceaseless rain and high elevation on the north and eastern sides of the Big Island, the lush tropical rainforests often bestow hidden and magnificent waterfalls. Waterfall hikes are among the most popular activities on the Big Island and once you set your eyes on the sheer size of these falls you’ll quickly be amazed. Due to the incredible landscape of the Big Island, you’ll be lucky if you trek your way through half of them! We’ve narrowed down our favorites so you can make the most of your hikes.

Rainbow Falls (Hilo)

One of the easier hikes on our list. Rainbow Falls is located near the town of Hilo on the east side of the Big Island. Located along the Wailuku river, this waterfall is easily accessible and remarkable for the rainbows that appear early on sunny mornings. The waterfalls cascade over a huge lava cave, creating a remarkable rainbow formed from the morning mist.

rainbow falls hilo big island

The falls are an easy hike just off Rainbow Drive and there is a scenic viewpoint with a ramp located just to the right of the parking lot. Even on hot days you can take a rest under the canopies of the ancient Hawaiian Banyan trees that border the falls. These trees are a sight in and of themselves.

‘Akaka Falls (Hilo, Hamakua Coast)

Located in the Akaka Falls State Park. This immensely popular destination is known for the 422-foot waterfall that greets you after a hike through dense rainforest and bamboo shoots. From the trail you will see the huge gorge that surrounds the falls. All in all, this hike should take about an hour. Akaka Falls State Park offers an entire paved path that winds through the park and offers various scenic vistas.

akaka falls hamakua coast hawaii island

As a bonus it even offers a bonus view of Kahuna Falls. The circle tour of Akaka Falls State Park will take you to a small overlook where you can see this less traveled path and waterfall.

kahuna falls in akaka state park

Kulaniapia Falls (Hilo)

One of the most fun locations to visit because of the option to swim in the falls when the conditions permit is Kulaniapia Falls. It is a 120 ft waterfall located on the Waiau Stream in Mauna Kea. In order to access these falls you will need a $49 day pass, but it is well worth it. The day pass gives you access to the 42 acres of trails, waterfalls, and the option to swim, kayak, or paddleboard under the falls. It makes for an incredible day spent enjoying a dip in the cool and scenic waters.

Kulaniapia Falls waterfalls on big island hawaii

Umauma Falls (North Hamakua)

Another favorite waterfall for its unique three tiers of waterfalls is Umauma Falls. You can access these falls through the Umauma experience which costs $6. The Umauma Experience offers ziplining, swimming, and kayaking on the 90-acre grounds. But you can also just enjoy the waterfall lookout and garden hike that takes you through lush rainforest and colorful, tropical plants.

Umauma Falls on hawaii island

Let’s Chat

Give me a call at 808.938.3910 or email me if you are interested in learning more about waterfalls in Hawaii or anything in general about life on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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