The Best Big Island Waterfalls
Hawaii’s waterfalls feel like truly magical places, and the Big Island is home to some of the State’s most enchanting examples. Most of the island offers beautiful waterfalls, however, the Hilo side’s falls tend to be larger since it receives more rainfall.
The Big Island is also great, as many of the most massive waterfalls are easily accessible and free to the public. That being said, if you’re looking for more remote waterfalls, there are plenty of those, as well. In fact, one of the most remote waterfalls in all of Hawaii is in the Waimanu Valley on the western coast of the Big Island.
Check out Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls | Photo by Eric Marshall
Hilo waterfalls are among the world’s most beautiful. The rainforest jungle and lava rock cliffs make for a colorful, dramatic backdrop to these natural wonders. Here are a few of our favorite falls in the Hilo area.
Boiling Pots and Pe’epe’e Falls
The flowing pools and falls known as the Boiling Pots are a spectacle in themselves, but the adjacent Pe’epe’e Falls feels straight from a fairytale. The pots aren’t literally boiling, but the rushing waterfalls along the pools do give it a bubbling appearance after a rain. You can see the several smaller waterfalls along the boiling pots as well as the much larger Pe’epe’e Falls from a lookout accessible from the corner of Pe’epe’e Falls Road and Wailuku Drive. To get there, take Waianuenue Street out of Hilo and keep right at the fork to stay on Waianuenue. Take a right on either Waiau or Piikea Street and then a left onto Wailuku Drive.
Visit Rainbow Falls in Big Island | Photo by Tet Millare
Rainbow Falls is an absolutely massive 7,415-foot waterfall near downtown Hilo, which is named for the rainbows that form around the waterfall’s mist. This waterfall can receive a huge crowd of visitors, but it is certainly worth a viewing, especially since it is one of the most easily accessed falls in Hawaii. The overlook is located right next to the parking lot, where there is always plenty of parking.
If you’re hoping to escape the crowds, Wai’ale Falls is a very short and relatively easy hike to another beautiful waterfall in Hilo. The trail is less than a mile long with little elevation change, however, you will need to wade through the river to get to the falls. So, dress accordingly!
Waterfalls on the Kona side of the Big Island aren’t quite as accessible as those on the Hilo side, located at least an hour out of town. They also aren’t visible some parts of the year and you might have to bushwack your way there. The few waterfalls that there are also don’t generally feature the luscious foliage or impressive volume of Hilo side falls, but they have their own sort of charm and are certainly worth the visit if you’re looking for a project.
If you’re determined to see falls on the Kona side, you might check out Kemole or Waiokanapolopa Falls. However, you’d probably do better to continue around the Islands northern tip into Waipio Valley about an hour and a half away from Kona.
Name a better duo than hikes and waterfalls (besides yourself and Hawaii). These waterfalls are perfect if you’re looking to get the most out of your day. You’ll see some of Hawaii’s beautiful, green landscape along these hikes and have lovely waterfalls to experience once you reach them.
Majestic view at Akaka Falls | Photo by Brewbooks
Akaka Falls is one of the few Big Island waterfalls you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to access, but the Falls and the accompanying hike are well worth the $5 fee per vehicle. Located north of Hilo as the end of Highway 220, the hike is extremely well maintained and rated as easy. The trail is a loop and only about half-a-mile long. Akaka Falls itself if a magnificent sight to see, stretching over 422 feet tall. The dense jungle surrounding the huge waterfall creates a surreal landscape that you won’t soon forget.
This attraction does receive quite a few visitors, but park officials do a good job of letting people through in manageable numbers. With that in mind, you may need to wait outside the trailhead for your turn.
Rainbow Falls Hike
Although you’re able to see Rainbow Falls quite well from the scenic overlook, there is also a lovely hike around the area that offers totally different views of the fall. The hike is super short, but there are a few big steps that bring this hike up to moderate difficulty. You can start this hike just outside of Hilo. To the left of Rainbow falls you should see an opening in the jungle.
Narnia is aptly named for its fantasy novel vibe. The falls are a bit hidden, but the adventure is well worth the reward you’ll find at the end. You can start this 3.4-mile (6.8 out-and-back) trek right about where Waianuenue Ave becomes Piihonua Road between the intersections for Makana Place and Manaolana Place.
After you park, follow the road to the left just passed Hilo Hale. When the road takes a sharp left turn, you should see a trail to the right that takes you to Narnia. You’ll find several pools, but the main pool has several waterfalls that flow into this beautiful, hidden swimming spot.
Waimanu Valley and Hiilawe Falls
If you take the backpacking journey into the Waimanu Valley on the North Shore of the island, you’ll cross a ton of beautiful waterfalls along your adventure. The biggest and best, however, comes at the end. Once you arrive at the campsite after your 9-mile hike, you can head further back into the jungle to find the massive waterfall you probably eyed from across the valley for the last few miles of the hike.
To find the trail, you’ll walk to the far end of the campsites until you get to the Mango forest. Continue through the forest keeping a lookout for plastic cairns that will guide you to the 1,450-foot waterfall known as Hiilawe Falls. There’s an awesome swimming hole to cool of in after your trek.