Stop By Akaka Falls And Rainbow Falls
With its towering mountains and abundant rainfall, the Big Island of Hawaii is home to a multitude of dazzling waterfalls. Some can only be seen after long, arduous hikes, while others are easily accessible. Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls are two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state, and both are only a short walk away from where you park your car.
Surrounded by thick rainforest, Akaka Falls is everything you’d imagine a Hawaiian waterfall to be. The falls drop 422 feet into a stream-carved gorge covered with greenery. If you're lucky, you may see long-tailed tropic birds soaring in the gorge. ‘Akaka means a rent, split, or separation, and as you gaze into the gorge it’s easy to see how the waterfall got its name.
Akaka Falls is located in the Akaka Falls State Park. A short 0.4 mile hike along the gentle Akaka Loop Trail leads you to the falls themselves. Don’t rush to the waterfall however--the hike takes you through a lush rainforest filled with orchids, ferns and gently-swaying bamboo groves. Take a moment to listen to the gentle creaking of the bamboo in the breeze--it’s a magical sound.
Along the trail you’ll find a small overlook that offers a glimpse of a second waterfall. Kahuna Falls isn't as easy to see as Akaka Falls as the cliff vegetation obscures the view. If there’s been a period of heavy rain, however, the amount of water flow increases and improves the view of the falls.
If you’re staying in Hilo, Rainbow Falls is even easier to access than Akaka--the falls are on the Wailuku River that runs through town.
The Hawaiian name for Rainbow Falls is Waianuenue, which translates as “rainbow seen in water.” If you face the falls with the sun behind you, you may seen rainbows playing in the spray. The best time to do so is in the morning.
The falls themselves fall 80 feet over a lava cave. The cave is said to be the home of Hina, the goddess of the moon. Depending on recent rainfall, Rainbow Falls may be roaring with flood water or reduced to a mere trickle.
After watching for rainbows at the viewing point, you can take a short hike to the top of Rainbow falls. The trail runs along the left shoulder of the falls through groves of enormous banyan trees.
To Get to Akaka Falls
Take the Akaka Falls Road (Hwy 220) north out of Hilo. After eleven miles the road ends at Akaka State Park. Admission to the park is $5.00* for non-residents (free for Hawaii residents with a vaid ID). The area is open between 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but visitors should purchase entry and parking fees prior to arriving at the park as cell recepiton is limited in the area.
*Subject to change and parking may fees apply.
Location of Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls is part of Wailuku River State Park. The park is also home to Peepee Falls. Below Peepee is a spot called Boiling Pots, where underground passages connect a series of large pools. While it may be tempting to take a dip in Boiling Pots, the roiling waters are dangerous, and should be avoided.
The viewing areas for both Rainbow Falls and Peepee are accessible from Waianuenue Avenue by turning on Rainbow Drive and Peepee Falls Drive, respectively.