Are you hoping to add some Big Island waterfall hiking and photography to your Hawaiian vacation? Our island home has some incredible natural features that are both on and off the beaten path. Whether you are looking for a Big Island waterfall hike to stretch your legs, or a viewing opportunity that is closer to the road, there are several options that include beautiful waterfalls. We hope this post is helpful in planning things to do and see during your Big Island vacation!
Top 5 Big Island Waterfalls
Best Big Island Waterfalls
1. Rainbow Falls
The Rainbow Falls are the easiest waterfalls to see on the Big Island. This broad waterfall is conveniently located within Hilo town. The Rainbow Falls cascade 80 ft over a lava cave that, according to legends, is home to the ancient Hawaiian goddess Hina, the goddess of the moon. Compared to its significantly higher neighbor, the ʻAkaka falls, the Rainbow Falls win out for accessibility and for from where and how close you get to see the waterfall – either directly from the parking lot or from the top of the falls after a several minute hike.
2. Pe’epe’e Falls
The Pe’epe’e Falls are located about 1.5 miles upstream the rainbow falls, at the Wailuku river on the end of Wailuku drive. These falls are smaller than the rainbow falls but also far less crowded. If you are visiting the rainbow falls and have the time and interest to see another set of waterfalls you should check out these falls. If you are short on time, we recommend that you limit yourself to the more spectacular ʻAkaka and Rainbow waterfalls.
3. ʻAkaka Falls
The 422 ft tall ‘Akaka falls are part of the ‘Akaka falls state park, located just north of Hilo. The admission fee to the park is $5.00 per car or $1 per person for pedestrians. To get to the waterfalls you need to make a pleasant and short 0.4-mile hike through the lush rainforest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves and draping ferns. The hike is suitable for the whole family and takes half an hour if you take your time. The trailhead is easy to find – just off the parking lot. It is paved the whole way.
4. Hiilawe Falls (Waipi’o Valley)
The Hiʻilawe waterfall is one of the tallest waterfalls of Hawaʻi. The total height of the falls is about 1,450 feet (442m), with a highest direct drop of 1,201 feet (366m)!
Hiking to the waterfall is not possible as the trail crosses private property, but you can see the Hiʻilawe falls from many places within Waipiʻo valley. Drive down yourself (only with 4-wheel drive). Unless you are in optimal condition we don’t recommend walking down.
5. Umauma Falls
The Umauma Falls are three waterfalls in close proximity to the Umauma River, 16 miles north of Hilo on the Hamakua Coast. Access to the overview for the waterfalls lies on private land which is being managed by the Umauma Experience. Access costs $12 per person (2021), which also buys you access to their garden.
Want more adventure after visiting the best waterfalls on the Big Island?
For more advice about how to get the most out of your trip to the Big Island, we also have resources to help you plan your Kona vacation, see the Big Island with kids, and execute the best Big Island Hawaii road trip itinerary.