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Hawaiʻi Island is so big and diverse, it’s got 21 different types of climate zones, as well as a distinct division between “dry” and “wet” sides. That said, you’ll quickly see that the Kona side has no waterfalls on offer except during very large rainstorms, which are infrequent. Your best bets for Big Island waterfalls are on the east and north parts of the island.
The Wailuku river offers several great drive-up waterfall views, both accessed via Waiānuenue Drive. Rainbow Falls offers a rainbow when the sun hits it right, hence the name. Boiling Pots and Peʻepeʻe Falls are a popular local spot, though the river can be dangerous at times. Swimming is not recommended.
Most of the Big Island waterfalls lie along this 40-mile stretch of steep cliffs; however, the vast majority of them cannot be seen except from the sea or air. There are fortunately a good handful which are easily viewed, and they are indeed spectacular. Onomea Falls is accessed only through paid admission to a private botanical garden, making it somewhat less crowded than it probably would be otherwise. Take the scenic route towards Onomea as you head north from Hilo, and enjoy beautiful coastline views.
ʻAkaka Falls is the most popular waterfall on the Big Island Hāmākua coast, and for good reason. Its spectacular 442-foot drop, its easy accessibility (less than a half-mile round trip loop walk), and the picturesque green surroundings make it truly one of the best to visit. $5.00 per car parking fee, as it is a state park area.
Dependent on recent rainfall, there may be many other waterfalls on Big Island, Hawai’i visible from the highway as you head north. Tell your passengers to keep their eyes peeled!
Though its hidden depths conceal many waterfalls, none are particularly easy to access. Your best bet for a great view of the famous Hiʻilawe Falls in Waipiʻo is a guided tour of the valley. Several local companies are situated between Honokaʻa and Kukuihaele to assist you with ATV or horse tours. Intrepid hikers may wish to explore the trail over the ridge to Waimanu Valley; backcountry permits are required for camping.
Unfortunately, nearly all of Kohala Mountain’s spectacular waterfalls are either inaccessible or located on private land. Fortunately for you, there are companies who can solve this problem! Hawaiʻi Forest and Trail offers a Kohala Country Falls Adventure for the whole family. It’s an easy 1.5-mile loop trail, with access to views and information you’d never be privy to otherwise, including seven waterfalls and the Kohala Ditch. Enjoy a swim with the family, with lunch and transportation included from Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa resort.
If you absolutely NEED to see all those hidden Hāmākua Coast waterfalls on Big Island, Hawai’i, then your best bet is a helicopter tour. Many tours offered include seeing the volcano from the air, so you’ll be assured a spectacular flight in more ways than one! Buckle up!
Get your cameras out; it’s waterfall time!