Fifteen miles northwest of Hilo, tucked away in the heart of Hamakua is the most accessible large waterfall found on the island: Akaka Falls.
Far from being the largest in the state, (that title goes to the 2,953ft Olo’upena Falls on Molokai) Akaka falls is still a massively grandiose sight with a plunge of 442 feet to the pool below.
Akaka falls state park is large, but only a small portion is accessible. This contains a half-mile long paved footpath with handrailings from which both Kahuna falls and Akaka falls can be seen. The park is extremely lush with massive specimens of bamboo, banyans, and albesia trees all around. There are hundreds of plant species and indeed the area resembles what most people think of when they hear the words “Tropical Rain Forest”, however it should be noted that the majority of these plants were planted in the park by humans and are non-native.
As you descend down the concrete steps from the parking lot to the path you can go two directions. To the right is the 300ft Kahuna falls lookout, and to the left is Akaka falls. The path loops and most people elect to turn right, saving Akaka falls for last.
The path takes you along the side of the steep valley wall, along a bridge and out to the Kahuna falls lookout point. After the lookout you double back through more lush rain forest toward the main attraction.
Akaka falls itself can be seen from several hundred feet away as you approach down the footpath. The first thing you notice is the low roar of the water. Standing at this lookout point one cannot help but take in the enormity of the place. Kolekole stream leaps from the edge at the top and cascades 442 feet before raining down into the nearly perfectly circular pool below. This is most people’s idea of what a Hawaiian waterfall looks like, and unlike others in the area Akaka falls flows year round.