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12 Big Island Waterfalls That Are Open in 2024 + Map

12 Big Island Waterfalls That Are Open in 2024 + Map

Discover the enchanting waterfalls of Hawaii’s Big Island. Each waterfall on this diverse island offers a unique slice of paradise, from hidden gems deep in lush rainforests to majestic cascades just a short hike away.

The Big Island, known for its dramatic landscapes ranging from volcanic deserts to tropical valleys, is a haven for some of the most stunning waterfalls in Hawaii. This article takes you through the essentials: the heights, the greenery that surrounds them, how to get there, and where you can swim.

For each waterfall, we include a handy “How to get there?” section. This part gives you practical info like the closest town, how long the drive is, and details about parking and any fees. With this guide, you’re all set for an unforgettable adventure to the heart-stirring waterfalls of the Big Island.

Waterfalls on Hawaii Big Island with map

Map of Big Island with pins for each waterfall listed.
Visuals: Emese Maczko, Eco Lodges Anywhere.

Hi’ilawe Falls, in the secluded Waipio Valley, stands as the island’s tallest waterfall at 1,450 feet. This towering cascade, often hidden from view, is a marvel for those who glimpse it. Its grandeur and the challenging hike to its base make it a symbol of Hawaii’s untamed beauty.

Umauma is enchanting with their series of cascades. Umauma Falls, a three-tiered beauty totaling 300 feet, is known for its zipline adventure.

Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls are perfect for families. Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot wonder, is known for its morning rainbows. Akaka Falls, a 442-foot marvel, is accessible via a short, scenic loop trail. Both offer easy walks and spectacular views, ideal for visitors of all ages.

Kolekole and Kulaniapia Falls invite visitors to swim in their waters.

Wai’ilikahi and Nanue Falls are one of the hidden gems since they are secluded and located at the end of a challenging hike.

Hi’ilawe Falls – the highest waterfall in Big Island

Huge waterfall dropping from the top of the mountain surrounded by huge cliffs.
Photo credit: William H.C. via Canva Pro.

Hi’ilawe Falls, in the secluded Waipio Valley, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii, plunging 1,450 feet. The falls are often hidden but can be glimpsed from certain viewpoints in the valley. The hike to the falls is challenging and crosses private property, so access is limited. The surrounding area is rich in native Hawaiian history and culture.

How to get there? – The trail is going through Waipio Valley, its starting point is about an hour’s drive from Hilo. However, it is part of a private property and you require a permission to hike there.

Akaka Falls

Tall and thin waterfall cascading down a large cliff covered with moss and green plants.
Photo credit: Sarah Etinas, Borders and Bucket Lists.

Akaka Falls, a majestic 442-foot waterfall, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the rainy region of Hilo. Nestled in a lush rainforest, the falls are accessible via a short loop trail that offers stunning views of the cascade and its vibrant surroundings. The trail, part of Akaka Falls State Park, is well-maintained and suitable for all ages. Swimming is not permitted, but the sight of the falls, surrounded by wild orchids and bamboo groves, is a spectacle in itself.

How to get there? – Located near Honomu, it’s about a 15-minute drive from Hilo. The Akaka Falls Loop Trail, a 0.4-mile loop, leads to the waterfall. Parking is available at Akaka Falls State Park with a small fee for non-residents. No entrance fee.

Kahuna Falls

A high waterfall is dropping to a pond surrounded by high liffs and forest
Photo credit: Swiss Media Vision via Canva Pro.

Kahuna Falls, often overshadowed by its neighbor Akaka Falls, stands beautifully at about 100 feet. This waterfall is part of the same loop trail that leads to Akaka Falls. The surrounding area is rich in tropical flora, and the falls offer a serene atmosphere. While swimming isn’t possible, the view of the falls amidst the lush greenery is a treat for nature lovers.

How to get there? – Access is through the Akaka Falls State Park, about a 15-minute drive from Hilo.

Rainbow Falls

Smaller cascade dropping to a turquoise pond surrounded by jungle.
Photo credit: Catherine Xu, Nomadicated.

Rainbow Falls, a renowned 80-foot waterfall, is known for its morning rainbows created by mist. Located in Wailuku River State Park, the falls are easily accessible and offer a stunning view of the cascade over a natural lava cave. The surrounding area is lush and offers a quick escape into nature. Swimming is not allowed, but the view is spectacular.

How to get there? – In Hilo, it’s just a few minutes’ drive from the city center. It is viewable from a lookout in Wailuku River State Park. No specific hiking trail required. No parking or entrance fee.

Pe’epe’e Falls

Pe’epe’e Falls, also known as Peepee Falls, is a charming 80-foot waterfall located near the famous Rainbow Falls. The falls are part of the Wailuku River State Park and are known for their picturesque setting. A short hike through a tropical forest leads to this hidden gem. The pool at the base is not recommended for swimming due to currents, but the view is spectacular, especially during the rainy season.

How to get there? – Just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Hilo. It is easily accessible by car since the waterfall is viewable from a lookout point in Wailuku River State Park. No parking or entrance fee.

Kamaeʻe Falls

A medium high waterfall dropping to dark rocks surrounded by trees.
Photo credit: Terry Babineaux via Canva Pro.

Kamaeʻe Falls, a stunning 100-foot waterfall, is a lesser-known treasure on the Big Island. Located within the World Botanical Gardens, this fall offers a unique view as it emerges from a lava tube. The surrounding botanical garden enhances the beauty of the falls, making it a peaceful retreat. Swimming is not allowed, but the view is worth the visit.

How to get there? – Situated near Hakalau, it’s about a 20-minute drive north of Hilo. There is an entrance fee for the gardens, and parking is included.

Nanaue Falls

Nanaue Falls, a hidden gem, is a 30-foot waterfall located along the Hamakua Coast. This series of waterfalls is less visited due to its remote location and the challenging hike to reach it. The trail is slippery and steep, making it suitable for experienced hikers. The surrounding area is lush and unspoiled, offering a true nature experience.

How to get there? – Located off Highway 19, it’s about a 30-minute drive north of Hilo. No established trail. The access can be challenging and is not well-marked. No parking or entrance fee.

Umauma Falls

Multiple tier waterfall with small cascades flowing in a valley surrounded by trees
Photo credit: Alexsey Kemnskiy via Canva Pro.

Umauma Falls, a series of three cascades totaling 300 feet, is part of the Umauma Experience. This waterfall is unique for its zipline adventure that offers an aerial view of the falls. The surrounding garden and river make it a picturesque spot. Swimming is not allowed, but the zipline and garden tours provide a unique way to experience the falls.

How to get there? – Near Hakalau, it’s approximately a 20-minute drive north of Hilo. It is part of a zip-line tour.

Wai’ilikahi Falls

Wai’ilikahi Falls, located in the remote Waimanu Valley, is a stunning 1,080-foot waterfall. The hike to the falls is challenging, requiring a trek through the Muliwai Trail. The trail is for experienced hikers and offers breathtaking views of the valley and the falls. The area is pristine and offers a true wilderness experience.

How to get there? – Accessible via the Muliwai Trail, a challenging 9-mile hike one way in Waimanu Valley. No parking or entrance fee, but the hike is for experienced hikers.

Kulaniapia Falls

Kulaniapia Falls, a private 120-foot waterfall, is part of The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, which is one of the most sustainable eco-lodges in Hawaii. Located on a 22-acre property, the falls offer a serene and exclusive experience. The surrounding area includes bamboo gardens and walking trails. Swimming is allowed in the large pool at the base of the falls, making it a unique spot for relaxation.

How to get there? – Near Hilo, it’s about a 15-minute drive to the property. Located on private property so you need to purchase a day pass if you want to enter.

Onomea Falls

Small cascades on dark moss-covered rocks in jungle.
Photo credit: Rosby Murga, Rose Bee and Reya Adventures.

Onomea Falls, nestled in the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, is a small but picturesque waterfall. The garden trail offers a scenic walk through lush vegetation, leading to the falls. The area is rich in tropical plants and birdlife, making it a nature lover’s paradise. Swimming is not permitted, but the beauty of the falls and the garden is captivating.

How to get there? – Located off the Old Mamalahoa Highway, it’s about a 20-minute drive north of Hilo. Entrance fee to the garden includes access to the falls and parking.

Waiale Falls

Waiale Falls, a series of cascading waterfalls, is located near the town of Waimea. The falls are not as well-known, making them a peaceful retreat. The hike to the falls is moderate and takes you through lush greenery. The area around the falls is picturesque, perfect for photography enthusiasts.

How to get there? – Near Waimea, it’s about a 30-minute drive from Kamuela. No established trail or specific access point. No parking or entrance fee.

Kolekole Falls, a small yet charming waterfall, is located in Kolekole Beach Park. The falls are easily accessible and offer a picturesque setting for picnics and relaxation. The pool at the base is suitable for swimming when conditions are safe. The park’s proximity to the ocean and the scenic bridge overhead add to its allure. Sadly, due to lead contamination the park is closed since 2022.

Waiulili Falls, a secluded 35-foot waterfall, is located along the Hamakua Coast. The falls are accessible via a challenging hike through private property, requiring permission. The area is serene and offers a true off-the-beaten-path experience but it is closed as of 2022.

Kapoloa Falls, a stunning 500-foot cascade, is located in the lush Pololu Valley. The hike to the falls is challenging and takes you through steep terrain but sadly closed since 2006 following an earthquake. The falls are surrounded by dense rainforest, offering a serene and isolated experience.

FAQs

What is the biggest waterfall in the Big Island of Hawaii

The highest waterfall is Hi’ilawe Falls with a 1,450-foot drop.

How many waterfalls are in the Big Island of Hawaii?

The island has plenty of waterfalls, but there are 12 waterfalls which you open to public and is possible to visit. Some are easily accessible, other require a more challenging hike, even from some you need a permit to visit. Others may been closed or unnamed.

Can you swim in any of the waterfalls?

Yes. Despite Kulinapia Falls is on a private property, it is possible to swim there if you buy a day pass.

Is Rainbow Falls free to visit?

Rainbow Falls is located in Wailuku River State Park near Hilo and there is not entrance fee.

A woman sitting on a mountain. Behind her is a lake.
Travel Writer | Website

Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.