The 5 must-see waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii

Akaka Falls
Photo credit: nextishawaii.com

If you’re a fan of waterfalls then look no further than our list of the 5 must-see waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Big Island has some breathtaking waterfalls. Most of these are located near Hilo and along the Hāmākua Coast, and most are easily accessible. Enjoy the awesome power of these amazing natural wonders!

1. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

Rainbow Falls Park, 40 Rainbow Drive, Hilo

The Rainbow Falls are located on the Wailuku River, the longest river in the state. The park is located within the town of Hilo, so this makes it the most accessible of all the waterfalls on our list. If you only have time for one waterfall on your Big Island adventure, then this is it!

The falls drop 80 feet over a lava cave into the river below. It’s easily seen from the parking lot viewing area (see photo below), or if you’d like to see it up close you can hike to the top of the falls. The hike is less than a mile long.

The best viewing time is early on a sunny morning – this is the best time to see a rainbow!

Rainbow Falls
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

2. Onomea Falls

Onomea Falls
Photo credit: world-of-waterfalls.com

Hawaiʻi Tropical Botanical Garden, 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway, Pāpa’ikou

Located within the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden, Onomea Falls drops gracefully down a number of different levels before eventually finding its way to Onomea Bay, north of Hilo.

Surrounded by an abundance of tropical vegetation, the best viewing spot for this waterfall is a small wooden bridge on the path to the waterfall.

Note: there is a small fee for entering the Botanical Garden in which the falls are located.

3. Umauma Falls

Umauma Falls
Photo credit: umaumaexperience.com

31-313 Old Mamalahoa Highway, Hakalou

The Umauma Falls are three waterfalls located closely together on the Umauma River. The falls are found 16 miles north of Hilo on the Hāmākua Coast.

To view the falls, which are on private land and part of a botanical garden, you will need to pay an access fee. This is currently $12 per person. Access to the waterfall is managed by a company called Umauma Experience. They also offer a zipline tour and ATV tours of the gardens.

Alternatively, there are a number of helicopter tours that fly over the falls. This is also a great way to see the waterfalls. See our blog on helicopter tours.

UmaumaFalls
Photo credit: umaumaexperience.com

4. 'Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls
Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com

‘Akaka Falls State Park, 975 ‘Akaka Falls Road, Honomū

One of the most famous of all waterfalls in Hawai’i, ‘Akaka Falls are located just north of Hilo. They drop an incredible 422 feet into the gorge below, draining into Kolekole Stream. 

Access to the falls is via an easy half mile hike through some beautiful lush rainforest on an easy path. Great views of the falls can be had at the midway point on the hike (see photo below). This hike is suitable for all levels of fitness and takes about half an hour at a slow pace.

Admission to the park is $5 per car, or $1 per person for pedestrians.

Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

5. Hi'ilawe Falls

Hiilawe Falls
Photo credit: Hawaii-guide.com

Waipi’o Valley Lookout, 48-5546 Waipi’o Valley Road, Waimea

The Hi’ilawe Falls are one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. The height of the falls is 1,450 feet. It is not possible to hike directly to the waterfall but you can view the falls from a number of places within the valley itself. Due to access now being closed to non-residents, it is only possible to access the valley as part of a tour, like those offered by Waipio Valley Shuttle.

Hiilawe Falls
Photo credit: hawaii-zip.com
Waipio Valley Coast
Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

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