One of the most popular things to do in HIlo and definitely one of the most popular things to do on Big Island. While it’s not located in Hilo town proper it’s a great stopover if you’re headed in or out of Hilo via the Hamakua coast or you’re willing to make the short drive out of Hilo to visit. Watch the video to see the trail and the falls themselves. We discover a number of interesting plants in the gardens along the trail. For more things to do on Big Island check out our tours.
Why go to Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls state park is one of those spots that almost anyone circling the Big Island stops at. It’s one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States and it’s a nice walk to get there. Keep in mind it is not wheelchair accessible and requires a bit of a walk down steep stairs and up long paths. The gardens along the path are beautiful with bridges and water features. The lookout to see the falls is a good one. To get there it’s just a short 10 minute drive from the highway. If you’re looking for things to do in Hilo this is close by and great for just about anyone.
There is a public parking lot with restrooms at the start.
- $5 per vehicle
- $1 Per Person if you park outside the gate
- Locals free with valid ID
Akaka Falls is 422 ft (135 m) tall. The trail to get to the falls makes a 0.4 mile (0.64km) loop so you won’t have to back-track along the same path to get back to the parking lot. As far as things to do on Big Island Akaka falls is one of the quicker easier mini sights that offers a big payoff for very little energy/time investment. The trial is a pleasant stroll with so much to see along the way and is worth the price of admission itself. When combined with the falls view it makes for a unique experience that is worth the trip. The trail has a railing the entire way making it easy to rest and have something to steady yourself if need be. Because it’s so rainy there may be a few slippery spots along the trail so wear good shoes and be careful not to run.
One of the great things about Akaka Falls state park is it’s accessibility. While not wheelchair accessible it is frequented by many tour buses throughout the day so you know it’s good for most people. This is a great stopover with the kids to help burn off that extra energy. Of the things to do on Big Island this is easily on of the most popular. It’s probably one of the top stops for tours that circle the island. Many locals will take friends and family here. If you’re looking for things to do in Hilo this is a great option for just about any group.
We began our walk down the path and immediately were greeted by a gorgeous panoramic view of a tropical bamboo forest valley. The bamboo sways in the wind. The walls are covered in moss and plants abound. A small footbridge makes it easy to cross over a stream that features a little tiny waterfall. This isn’t Akaka Falls is it? No! We walk down the path and flowers are visible along the trail. The boys pick some and we continue down the path. There are wild banana trees along the way. One variety of banana’s is red which is very unique and we have never seen before. Who knew there were red bananas? As we continue we noticed some large fungus or mushrooms growing off of an old tree stump. There are mossy rocks to lean up against and rest. Continue along the path and eventually you will be rewarded with the main attraction. The lookout is bordered by a chain link fence and drops off very quickly to the valley below. This makes for an impressive site as the waterfall is easily seen from this vantage point. There’s even a covered rest area with bench seating for anyone that wants to just hang out and wait for their slow group or wants a break from walking and standing. If you continue along the path you will walk through a banyan tree forest path that is shrouded in draping roots and mystery. It’s a bit darker and quieter here. The path has a lookout but at the time of this writing the view was obscured by overgrowth. Continuing along the path you’ll walk down some steps to a stream with a mini footbridge. The stream is an interesting little water feature. Continue up the path and soon you’ll be back where you started and can head back up to the parking lot. There is a food truck up at the parking lot entrance that may, or may not be in service for those looking for a snack. Afterwards if your looking for more things to do in Hilo check out our page about it.
Photographing the falls
If you wish to take some snapshots of the falls because it is so high and tall it’s best to turn your camera on it’s side. The water can be quite white reflecting lots of light back at your camera so it’s usually best to underexpose the image. On a smartphone you can tap the screen and drag down to lower the exposure. This will keep from ‘blowing out’ the whites and you can more easily correct the image after it’s taken. For video you can shoot in normal or slow motion. If you’re shooting in traditional horizontal aspect start at the top and follow the water as it falls down to the bottom. Then focus on the water hitting the rocks on the bottom. Of course for social media you can shoot sideways or vertical because that what we do right? 🤷♂️
For more adventures
For more things to do in Hilo or things to do in Kona check out our tours page or give us a call. We’d be happy to talk story about all of the possibilities. Just down the road from here is the Umauma zipline Big Island experience which we highly recommend for the whole family and is easily one of the top things to do in Hilo. If you’re looking for another similar hike nearby check out the Onomea bay trail.