By far the most impressive and accessible waterfall in the immediate Hilo area is Rainbow falls. Just a short drive up Waianuenue avenue, this spot is a favorite among both locals and tourists.
The 80-foot waterfall sits on Wailuku stream, which forms the northern boundary of Hilo, and is entirely fed by runoff from the mountain above. It’s thusly named for the rainbows that one can see in the mist when visiting on a sunny day, but if it’s raining when you get there fear not, for this is when the falls are viewed in their full splendor. During or after a heavy rain the volume of water flowing over the edge can more than double, creating a thunderous roar heard throughout the park.
Most visitors to the falls view it from the lookout point and then leave, but this is only a small portion of what the park has to offer. After checking out the falls from the front, one can walk around to the left and climb the stone steps that lead to the area above. Here you’ll find one of the largest and most spectacular banyan trees in the Hilo area, as well as a trail leading to the boiling pots that precede the falls.
The banyan is truly massive and is far more impressive than anything you’ll see downtown. This area is usually quiet and is a great spot for photos, eating lunch, or to just sit and relax. If it’s rained recently the ground here will have plenty of mud, so come prepared with suitable footwear.
If you walk beneath the banyan and look to the right you’ll see a footpath that cuts between the root-covered boulders which leads to the upper portion of the falls. This area is often referred to as “Boiling Pots” after the bowl-like rock formations carved by moving water over hundreds of years. Small fish and prawns can occasionally be seen in these pools, as well as plenty of bird life in the trees above. Swimming is not encouraged here for common sense reasons (it’s a moving body of water above an 80 foot waterfall), but those who don’t mind muddy feet can explore the secluded pucturesque area for several hundred feet along the banks in both directions.
One of the best things about Hawaii is how quickly the surroundings change when one moves just a short distance, and Rainbow Falls is a great example of this. A 5-minute walk here will take you through three distinct settings and provide the spectacular views that have made this place famous for so many years. Known across the state for its beauty, Rainbow Falls is a must-see for any visitor to East Hawaii, both young and old.
Why go to Rainbow Falls?
For a great destination close to Hilo that can be as long or short as desired, there are few places better. One can easily spend a few minutes viewing the falls or an hour or two exploring the area and still come away satisfied.
Directions to Rainbow Falls
In Hilo take Waianuenue ave west up the hill until you reach the fork in the road. Follow the signs and stay to the right. The falls are less than a 10 minute drive from downtown. Parking is usually plentiful and there are restrooms and drinking fountains at the entrance.