Akaka Falls: 442-foot Waterfall Just North of Hilo

‘Akaka (pronounced ah-kah-kah) Falls is a publicly accessible State Park about 11 miles north of Hilo (about a 20-25 minute drive) that features a scenic half-mile hiking trail through lush tropical vegetation and one of the Big Island’s most popular waterfalls.

This photo was taken at the park’s trailhead, where you’ll take a right to start the hike. The trail is paved the whole way, so it’s an easy walk, however there are stairs in some spots – mostly going down – and tiny portions of the walk are uphill, so it is not wheelchair accessible. Although the trail is a short loop, there are so many photo ops along the way. You’ll pass little streams and luscious greenery, like you’re in a rainforest. There’s also two waterfalls to stop and view along the way.

The first is Kahuna Falls, about a third of the way into the trail. Here’s me, posing with my starbucks coffee (these photos were taken in 2019 — which was the last time I’ve been home, sadly).

Kahuna Falls is about 100-feet tall. You can see the sliver of water above the corner of the fence in this picture. There isn’t the clearest view of this waterfall, but it is worth the time to stop and check out because of the beautiful nature that it overlooks. Trust me when I say that it’s a way better sight in person — this just isn’t the best photo angle.

The second waterfall is ‘Akaka Falls. This is the infamous waterfall that visitors come to this park to see. This gorgeous waterfall is about three-fourths of the way into the trail. There’s some downwards steps leading to the lookout, and this is the view as you’re coming down those stairs:

Some people like to skip the whole trail and head straight to this waterfall, so if that’s the case with you, you’ll just make a left at the trailhead instead of a right, but who would want to miss all the scenery and views!? This image below is not mine, but I feel like it perfectly captures the beauty of this 442-foot waterfall, with a better camera than my iPhone.

S. Tunli. (2015). “Hawaii The big Island Akaka Falls.” Commons.wikimedia.org

If you’re visiting the Big Island, ‘Akaka Falls is a must-see attraction. The vegetation is a classic representation of the north-east area of the Island. It’s unique, compared to the rest of the island and it definitely beats a city view — in my opinion. Under Division of State Parks on the Hawai’i.gov website, there is more information on this park like available facilities, directions, and current updates on it’s accessibility. There’s a $10 parking fee if you park in the parking lot, however there’s a street leading up to the lot that you can park on the side of if you want to spare the fee. It’s obviously popular with tourists, so there’s hardly ever a low-traffic day, but I’d recommend going earlier in the day rather than later. There’s also a $5 entrance fee at the trailhead for non-residents, but it’s worth it, and hey — maybe you’ll find a local along the way who can take your pictures!

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