Whenever you find yourself near the Hilo Coast, don’t miss out on the chance to see two breathtakingly gorgeous waterfalls in one visit by going to Akaka Falls State Park. At an incredible 442 feet tall, Akaka Falls easily overshadows Kahuna Falls, but they’re both worth admiring in person. All you have to do to get a glimpse of their beauty is hike along a moderately challenging 0.4-mile trail.
To get to the park, you’ll first need to travel to Honomu and then travel 3.6 miles west down Highway 220. Also known as Akaka Falls Road, this highway will take you right past Mana’s Aloha Fruit Stand, where you should definitely stop to buy a few snacks for your visit. Then, travel north the rest of the way until you reach the parking lot for the state park.
The paved parking lot often has plenty of open spots available. Keep in mind that you must pay for parking plus an entrance fee for each person in your group. While you can pay the entrance and parking fees using an app, it’s best to do so before arriving since cell reception is spotty in the park. If you have cash, simply pay the attendant near the trailhead.
Make sure to put your personal items in the trunk and lock up your car before heading out. You might also want to visit the bathrooms on the parking lot’s north side. After that, go to the west side of the parking lot to find signs telling you about the park and a picnic table where you can stop to enjoy your lunch.
The trailhead is nearby, starting with a rather steep stairway. Take your time walking down the stairs, but don’t stop and smell the tropical flowers just yet. You don’t want to block the stairway, which will usually have a lot of people coming and going from the looped trail. There’s a handrail to hang on to if you feel unsteady on your feet.
Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, you’ll find a pathway leading left and right. You’re welcome to go in either direction. If you want to go straight to the waterfalls, go left. For the scenic route, go right instead. If you take the scenic route, you’ll get to walk through a lush rainforest peppered with small waterfalls here and there. Ferns, bamboo trees, and wild orchids add to the magic of walking through paradise.
The first large waterfall you’ll see on that route is Kahuna Falls. This waterfall is just 100 feet tall and is relatively hard to see through the thick vegetation. Even just a glimpse is worth the trip, though, especially since you get to continue on and see what most consider the main attraction, Akaka Falls.
Since it’s 300 feet taller and in a more open area, Akaka Falls begs to have its picture taken. For the best photograph, hold your camera high to capture how the water rapidly cascades over the rocks and into the gorge below. After that, meander along the trail a bit before returning to your car. Even if you take your time, you’ll only spend about an hour walking the looped path and enjoying all the sights along the way.
If you want to see Kahuna Falls in all its glory, sign up for a helicopter tour after leaving the park. Local tour companies take their guests on a whirlwind trip across the island, often traveling over Akaka Falls State Park. When viewed from above, Kahuna Falls looks bigger than ever, allowing you to truly see how the water cascades through the tropical vegetation.
-The stairway is the only way to get down to the trail. So, if you use a wheelchair or other mobility aids, skip this park in favor of more accessible attractions.
-No mountain bikes are allowed on the trail, so plan to hoof it throughout your visit.
-Residents do not have to pay the entrance fee.