waterfall hikes big island

Top Waterfall Hikes Big Island – Must-See Trails!

Are you ready to embark on an adventure through nature’s wonders on the Big Island of Hawaii? Prepare to be captivated by the awe-inspiring beauty of the island’s top waterfall hikes. From towering cascades to hidden gems, these trails offer a glimpse into the mystical world of waterfalls. So, grab your hiking boots and get ready to explore the best waterfall hikes the Big Island has to offer!

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover the top waterfall hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
  • Immerse yourself in the stunning beauty of ʻAkaka Falls
  • Experience the magic of Rainbow Falls in Hilo
  • Uncover the triple delight of Umauma Falls
  • Explore the hidden gem of Kulaniapia Falls
  • Indulge in the serene oasis of Peʻepeʻe Falls
  • Admire the majestic beauty of Hiʻilawe Falls from afar

ʻAkaka Falls – A Majestic Display of Nature’s Power

Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of ʻAkaka Falls, one of the most majestic waterfalls on the Big Island of Hawaii. Located inside the state park, this towering waterfall stands at 422 feet, offering a mesmerizing sight that will leave you speechless.

To reach the falls, embark on a short and scenic 0.4-mile hike through the lush rainforest. The trail is suitable for all fitness levels and provides a tranquil escape into nature. Along the way, you’ll be greeted by the vibrant colors of wild orchids, towering bamboo groves, and lush ferns.

Visiting ʻAkaka Falls requires a small entrance fee, which grants you access to the state park and the opportunity to witness the raw power and beauty of this natural wonder. Be prepared to be captivated by the thunderous rush of water as it cascades down the sheer cliff face, creating a spectacle that will leave a lasting impression.

Rainbow Falls – A Natural Wonder in Hilo

Rainbow Falls, also known as Waiānuenue, is a popular attraction located in Hilo on the Big Island. This beautiful waterfall gets its name from the rainbows that often form in the mist created by the cascading water. Visitors can easily access the falls, as they are located within the city limits of Hilo.

The best time to visit is in the early morning when the sunlight creates vibrant rainbows in the spray. Rainbow Falls is free to visit, making it a must-see destination for any visitor to the Big Island.

Scenic Waterfall Trails on the Big Island

If you’re a fan of scenic waterfall trails, the Big Island has plenty to offer. Alongside Rainbow Falls, there are several other captivating hikes that showcase the natural beauty of the island’s waterfalls. These must-visit waterfall hikes in Hawaii promise stunning views and unforgettable experiences:

  1. Akaka Falls State Park – Hike through lush rainforest and witness the 422-foot Akaka Falls.
  2. Umauma Falls – Explore a triple delight as you discover three beautiful waterfalls along the Umauma River.
  3. Kulaniapia Falls – Discover a hidden gem on private grounds where you can immerse yourself in nature’s tranquility.
  4. Pe’epe’e Falls – Find serenity at these serene falls located just upstream from Rainbow Falls.
  5. Hi’ilawe Falls – Admire the majesty of one of Hawaii’s tallest waterfalls from the scenic Waipio Valley.

Must-Visit Waterfall Hikes in Hawaii

When planning your trip to the Big Island, be sure to include these must-visit waterfall hikes. Experience the awe-inspiring beauty of Rainbow Falls, venture through lush rainforests, and witness the power of cascading waterfalls. These scenic trails will leave you captivated by the natural wonders of Hawaii.

Umauma Falls – A Triple Delight

Umauma falls

Umauma Falls is a set of three stunning waterfalls located along the Umauma River on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island. These cascading falls are a true hidden gem, offering visitors a chance to witness the beauty of nature in its purest form. Surrounded by lush greenery and framed by volcanic rock formations, Umauma Falls is a feast for the eyes.

Access to these hidden waterfall gems is available through the Umauma Experience, which offers guided tours of the private grounds. This not only allows visitors to explore the falls up close but also provides an opportunity to discover the surrounding gardens and indulge in exciting activities such as kayaking and swimming in the picturesque river. It’s the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure-seekers looking for an unforgettable experience in nature.

If you’re in search of stunning waterfall hikes in Hawaii, Umauma Falls should be at the top of your list. Immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of these hidden treasures and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Umauma Falls – Highlights

Location:Hamakua coast of the Big Island
Number of Falls:3
Main Features:Lush greenery, volcanic rock formations
Access:Umauma Experience guided tours
Activities:Kayaking, swimming

Kulaniapia Falls – A Hidden Gem on Private Grounds

Kulaniapia Falls

Kulaniapia Falls is a hidden gem located on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea near Hilo. This 120-foot waterfall is situated on the private grounds of the Inn at Kulaniapia and offers a secluded and tranquil experience for visitors. Access to the falls is restricted to a limited number of guests each day, ensuring a peaceful and intimate setting.

A day pass can be purchased to explore the 42-acre property, which includes miles of trails, breathtaking views of multiple waterfalls, and the opportunity to swim and kayak under Kulaniapia Falls.

Experience the enchantment of Kulaniapia Falls, a must-visit destination for waterfall enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in nature’s beauty and serenity as you discover this stunning waterfall hike amidst private grounds.

Peʻepeʻe Falls – A Serene Oasis

Peʻepeʻe Falls

Located on the Wailuku River, Peʻepeʻe Falls offers a serene and lesser-known waterfall experience on the Big Island. These falls, about 1.5 miles upstream from Rainbow Falls, may not be as prominent as some of the larger waterfalls on the island, but they are equally beautiful and captivating.

To reach Peʻepeʻe Falls, visitors can take a short walk from the end of Wailuku Drive. The trail leading to the falls is relatively easy, making it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by the lush tropical vegetation, creating a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.

As you approach Peʻepeʻe Falls, the cascading waters create a mesmerizing sight. The sound of the rushing water combined with the lush greenery provides a rejuvenating and peaceful experience. It’s the perfect place to connect with nature and find solace in the beauty of the surroundings.

While Peʻepeʻe Falls may not be as well-known as some of the other waterfall hikes on the Big Island, it is a hidden gem worth exploring. The tranquil oasis it offers is a welcome retreat for those seeking a break from the bustling tourist attractions.

It is important to note that swimming in the area can be dangerous, and visitors should exercise caution near the river. However, simply taking in the beauty of Peʻepeʻe Falls from a safe distance can be a truly captivating experience.

Experience the serene oasis of Peʻepeʻe Falls and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the Big Island.

Hiʻilawe Falls – A Majestic Beauty from Afar

Hiʻilawe falls

Hiʻilawe Falls, located in Waipiʻo Valley, is one of the tallest waterfalls in all of Hawaii. With a total height of about 1,450 feet, it is a majestic sight to behold. While hiking to the waterfall is not possible due to private property restrictions, visitors can still admire the beauty of Hiʻilawe Falls from various viewpoints within Waipiʻo Valley. A visit to the valley, either by driving or joining a guided horseback riding tour, offers an opportunity to witness the grandeur of this iconic waterfall.

“Hiʻilawe Falls is a true wonder of nature. The immense height of the waterfall and the surrounding lush valley create a breathtaking scene that will leave you in awe. It’s a must-see destination for anyone exploring the Big Island’s scenic waterfall trails.”

While the hike to Hiʻilawe Falls may be off-limits, the viewpoints in Waipiʻo Valley offer a unique perspective of this natural marvel. The valley itself is a picturesque paradise, with towering cliffs, vibrant vegetation, and the sound of rushing water permeating the air. Whether you choose to drive or take a guided horseback riding tour, the journey to the valley provides a glimpse into the raw beauty of the Big Island.

As you arrive at the viewpoints, be prepared to be swept away by the sheer grandeur of Hiʻilawe Falls. Its cascading waters create a breathtaking spectacle, cascading down the rugged cliffs into a pool below. The mist generated by the falls creates a refreshing atmosphere, immersing you in the natural wonder of the surroundings.

During your visit to Waipiʻo Valley, take the time to explore the panoramic vistas and lush landscapes. The valley is home to numerous other waterfalls, verdant forests, and scenic trails that further showcase the island’s astonishing beauty. Capture the moment with your camera or simply bask in the tranquility of this hidden gem.

Although the physical hike to Hiʻilawe Falls may not be possible, the experience of witnessing its majesty from the viewpoints of Waipiʻo Valley is a memorable adventure in itself. Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of Hiʻilawe Falls and let its grandeur leave an indelible mark on your heart.


The Big Island of Hawaii is a true haven for waterfall enthusiasts. With its diverse landscapes and abundant rainfall, it boasts an array of breathtaking waterfalls just waiting to be explored. From the majestic ʻAkaka Falls to the hidden gem of Kulaniapia Falls, every waterfall hike on the Big Island offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience.

Whether you are an experienced hiker seeking adventure or a nature lover yearning for tranquility, the must-see trails of the Big Island will leave you captivated by the sheer beauty of its waterfalls. Lace up your hiking boots, and set off on an unforgettable journey to discover the best waterfall hikes the island has to offer.

Immerse yourself in the lush rainforests, witness the power and elegance of cascading waters, and embrace the serenity of these natural wonders. The Big Island’s waterfall hikes are truly a feast for the senses, providing an opportunity to connect with nature in a profound and unforgettable way. So, don’t miss out on the chance to experience the stunning waterfall hikes of the Big Island – a journey that will leave you with lifelong memories.


What is the best time to visit ʻAkaka Falls?

The best time to visit ʻAkaka Falls is early in the morning when the sunlight creates a magical display of light and rainbows in the mist.

Can I swim in Rainbow Falls?

Swimming in Rainbow Falls is not allowed due to safety concerns. It is important to exercise caution near the falls and avoid entering the water.

Are guided tours available for Umauma Falls?

Yes, guided tours of Umauma Falls and the surrounding private grounds are available through the Umauma Experience. The entrance fee includes access to the falls, gardens, and activities like kayaking and swimming in the Umauma River.

Can I visit Kulaniapia Falls without staying at the Inn?

Yes, visitors can purchase a day pass to explore the 42-acre property of the Inn at Kulaniapia, which includes access to the waterfalls, trails, and recreational activities.

Is swimming allowed at Peʻepeʻe Falls?

Swimming in the area near Peʻepeʻe Falls can be dangerous, and visitors should exercise caution. It is recommended to admire the falls from a safe distance and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.

Can I hike to Hiʻilawe Falls?

Hiking to Hiʻilawe Falls is not permitted due to private property restrictions. However, visitors can still enjoy the beauty of the falls from various viewpoints within Waipiʻo Valley.

Are there any fees to access the waterfalls?

There is a small entrance fee required to access ʻAkaka Falls State Park, which grants visitors access to the trail leading to ʻAkaka Falls. For Umauma Falls and Kulaniapia Falls, the entrance fees include access to additional amenities and activities.

Are the waterfall hikes suitable for all fitness levels?

Yes, most of the waterfall hikes on the Big Island are suitable for all fitness levels. However, it is important to consider individual fitness capabilities and take necessary precautions while hiking.

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