Akaka Falls State Park

Fifteen miles northwest of Hilo, tucked away in the heart of Hamakua is the most accessible large waterfall found on the island: Akaka Falls.

Far from being the largest in the state, (that title goes to the 2,953ft Olo’upena Falls on Molokai) Akaka falls is still a massively grandiose sight with a plunge of 442 feet to the pool below.

Akaka falls state park is large, but only a small portion is accessible. This contains a half-mile long paved footpath with handrailings from which both Kahuna falls and Akaka falls can be seen. The park is extremely lush with massive specimens of bamboo, banyans, and albesia trees all around. There are hundreds of plant species and indeed the area resembles what most people think of when they hear the words “Tropical Rain Forest”, however it should be noted that the majority of these plants were planted in the park by humans and are non-native.

As you descend down the concrete steps from the parking lot to the path you can go two directions. To the right is the 300ft Kahuna falls lookout, and to the left is Akaka falls. The path loops and most people elect to turn right, saving Akaka falls for last.

The path takes you along the side of the steep valley wall, along a bridge and out to the Kahuna falls lookout point. After the lookout you double back through more lush rain forest toward the main attraction.

Akaka falls itself can be seen from several hundred feet away as you approach down the footpath. The first thing you notice is the low roar of the water. Standing at this lookout point one cannot help but take in the enormity of the place. Kolekole stream leaps from the edge at the top and cascades 442 feet before raining down into the nearly perfectly circular pool below. This is most people’s idea of what a Hawaiian waterfall looks like, and unlike others in the area Akaka falls flows year round.

(Note: While many of the waterfalls in hamakua contain accessible swimming areas, this is not one of them.)

The drive up from Hilo is incredibly scenic, showcasing the Big Island’s Hamakua district in all its glory. This is what Hamakua is known for: tremendous views, lush landscapes teeming with plants, and spectacular waterfalls. It’s about a 20-30 minute drive from Hilo town. Once you turn off the coastline and head up the mountain you’ll pass through the quaint little town of Honomu, once a bustling sugar cane plantation town, it hosts several specialty shops, art galleries, and a couple of restaurants. It’s a great place to stop for ice cream or a snack on the
way back down after an afternoon visit to the falls.

For those looking for a challenge to go along with the scenery, this is not the place. There is an admission fee ($1.00 per person) and over 200,000 people visit the park every year, making it one of the most heavily trafficked natural areas on the island. There are always people here, but if you go on a day when a cruise ship is in Hilo be prepared for the park to get crowded.

Akaka falls is not rugged or rustic in any way and the public areas were designed to serve as many people as possible. Many guidebooks designate this park as a “hike”, but it’s really more of a light stroll. Everything is paved and there are handrails along the entire way, making it doable for anyone who doesn’t have trouble walking down a sidewalk.

Allow 30 minutes to an hour for this walk.

Why Go to Akaka Falls

For a spectacular view of two of the state’s larger waterfalls that can be easily accessed by the whole family.

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