Hawaii, the biggest of the Hawaiian islands, boasts many waterfalls. Many of these are clustered near Hilo. Here is a sampling of the waterfalls I was able to visit while near Hilo today.
You don’t actually need to go very far from your car to enjoy a great view of the falls. Just be careful not to step on the rotting mangoes as you make your way to the viewing platform.
Most guidebooks advise going to this waterfall in the early morning to see the rainbows created by the sun’s rays. Unfortunately I did not make it there early enough to see the rainbow, but I still enjoyed the scene of the dual waterfalls merging into one big, beautiful blue pool.
The area around Rainbow Falls is actually just as interesting as the falls themselves. To get to the trail that leads down to the rock formations near the top of the falls, you have to go through a small mango grove. If you time your visit right, you might be lucky enough to find a fresh mango to pick and eat. Just past these mango trees is a shady area dominated by awe-inspiring banyan trees. These are some of the biggest trees on the island of Hawaii, comparable to the redwoods in California. Even the smallest vines on the banyan tree can support the weight of a grown man.
The trail to the top of Rainbow Falls is very narrow and not maintained at all, but it is definitely worth taking a few minutes to climb down. Be careful on the rocks, as there are many little pools to slip into. Climb out as far as you feel comfortable and get a better view of Rainbow Falls from the side.
Pe’epe’e Falls is less than three miles away from Rainbow Falls, so it is definitely worth going to see it if you are already in the area. While the falls are pretty, they are somewhat far away from the vantage point on the side of the road. There is a very narrow and unmaintained trail to the right of the main viewing area. It will take you to a couple of tiny outlooks for some better views of the falls. This trail might not be for everyone, as it goes through a cluster of vines that form a small tunnel. You have to hunch down for a few feet to get through.
Akaka Falls State Park is not hard at all to find. The signage is excellent. There is a distant view of the falls from the parking area, but since the trail is very easy and paved, it is silly not to take it if you are able. Once you follow the trail for a few minutes, you’ll come to a sign that marks the “Circle Loop.” Go to the right to follow the loop. In just a few minutes you’ll see a semi-distant view of Kahuna Falls. This part of the path goes through the more interesting section of the park and is like a rain forest. You’ll see many interesting tropical plants and flowers.
Continuing to see Akaka falls takes about 20 more minutes, though you should allow for more time if you like to stop and take pictures of all the trees and flowers. The full trail is probably less than two miles (The sign did not specify the length of the trail.) I highly recommend this hike.