The Big Island is truly vast and remote. Some of the best attractions are a drive (though well worth it). If you find yourself on the East Side with time for only a short excursion, we know just the place. On the northeastern coast, just a short drive north outside of the quiet town of Hilo, you’ll find one of the most beautiful places on island: the charming Akaka Falls State Park. Accessible by a short hike (0.4 miles, one-way), here you get two waterfalls for the price of one!
Akaka Falls Road, located between mile markers 13 and 14 on Highway 19 outside of Hilo, leads to a small parking lot ($5/car). Here you will find the trailhead for this majestic attraction. The lot can fill quickly, so plan accordingly (it is also home to local craft vendors, depending on the season, well worth a look).
You will quickly leave the world behind as you walk the paved path through the upcountry forest, surrounded by wild orchids, towering groves of bamboo, and lush copses of ferns. The first stop on your journey will be the smaller Kahuna Falls, a 100-foot cascade of water that whets the appetite for what is to come. Continue slightly uphill and you will soon come to the viewing area for Akaka Falls State Park. Witness the sheer power as the water freefalls 442 feet into the cool waters of the Kolekole Stream. The views from the lookout are panoramic and truly breathtaking, making this one of our favorite waterfall hikes.
This section of the island – as the waterfall might suggest – gets a lot of rainfall, so it is wise to have a rain jacket handy. Mosquito repellant is also a good idea, as the walk through the forest is shaded and can be buggy at times. This photogenic spot is popular, so it is best to visit during the week, between 9am and 11am. This allows you to get a head start on the tour buses, with the benefit of having the sun overhead reflecting on the falling water, perfect for photographs. This hike is easily accessible and is great for all ages and abilities, and it should only take approximately one hour (with ample time spent at the viewing platforms).