Nature’s Splendor Unveiled: 7 Must-Visit Big Island Waterfalls Await Your Exploration

Big Island waterfalls are nature’s breathtaking masterpieces, cascading down lush mountainsides and creating a mesmerizing display of beauty and power. With its diverse landscapes and abundant rainfall, the Big Island of Hawaii is home to a multitude of awe-inspiring waterfalls that captivate visitors with their sheer magnificence. From towering plunges to gentle cascades, these natural wonders invite you to immerse yourself in their serene ambiance and witness the raw beauty of the island’s tropical paradise. Prepare to be enchanted as we embark on a journey to explore the enchanting world of Big Island waterfalls, where nature’s captivating artistry takes center stage.

Big Island waterfalls are abundant and easy to view but not really safe for swimming except for just a few that mostly locals know how to get to. You can easily drive to a few for look outs, walk around some botanical gardens, or do an easy hike to get to a few of these must visit Big Island waterfalls for you to experience and enjoy.

Must visit Big Island Waterfalls
Big Island Waterfalls: Nature’s Cascading Masterpieces

7 Must visit Big Island Waterfalls – here’s our favorites to visit

Whether you have time for just an easy drive and viewing or want to take a more active adventure visit to see a spectacular waterfall, you’ll love visiting any of these waterfalls of the Big Island below. Most of these waterfalls can be viewed from an observation area or a short hike to view – swimming is not recommended due to changing conditions to many of these waterfalls unless you are with an expert local guide.

Weather and best time to visit 7 of the Big Islands waterfalls

The weather on the Big Island of Hawaii can vary greatly depending on the region and elevation. When it comes to visiting the island’s waterfalls, it’s essential to consider the weather and choose the best time for your trip. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

  1. Rainfall: Big Island waterfalls thrive on rainfall, which contributes to their beauty and flow. The island’s eastern side, including Hilo and the Hamakua Coast, tends to receive more rainfall compared to the western side. If you prefer to see the waterfalls in their full glory, consider visiting during the wetter months, typically from November to March.
  2. Crowd levels: The popularity of Big Island waterfalls can vary throughout the year. During peak tourist seasons, such as summer (June to August) and major holidays, the waterfalls may attract larger crowds. If you prefer a more tranquil experience, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) or fall (September to October) when visitor numbers are typically lower.
  3. Safety considerations: It’s important to keep safety in mind when visiting waterfalls. After heavy rainfall, water levels can rise rapidly, making conditions potentially dangerous. Always follow any posted signs or warnings and use caution when approaching or swimming near waterfalls. Check with local authorities or visitor centers for the most up-to-date information on trail conditions and safety guidelines.
  4. Personal preferences: The best time to visit Big Island waterfalls ultimately depends on your preferences. Some visitors enjoy seeing waterfalls during periods of heavy rainfall when they are at their most dramatic. Others prefer visiting during drier months to enjoy clearer skies and easier hiking conditions. Consider what kind of experience you are seeking and plan your visit accordingly.

Check out these 7 Big Island waterfalls around the island

Easy visit to Rainbow Falls in Hilo and Must visit Big Island Waterfalls
Hilo waterfalls at Rainbow falls

Visit to Rainbow Falls at Hilo

One of the most popular and easy to visit waterfalls is located just above Hilo’s historic district at Rainbow Falls. Named for the abundant rainbows that always display on the water spray below the falls into the pools below, the scenic overlook is easy to get to with ample parking. There are some fun staircases you can climb on the left side to get to the top of the waterfalls for more views and even further down the trail into a forested area with huge banyan trees that feel like a magical forest lived in with Menehune or the ancient dwarf little people of the Hawaii.

Tip – parking always fills quickly but changes fast and there are bathroom facilities and a gift shop close by.

Check out this view and tour of Rainbow falls in Hilo some of the history of this falls

Pe'e Pe'e falls and Boiling pots in Hilo a must visit Big Island Waterfalls

Pe’e Pe’e falls and Boiling pots in Hilo

Just above Rainbow falls is Boiling Pots with a view of Pe’e Pe’e falls in a distance. This historic area is easy to drive to with a parking lot and viewing area but not safe for walking around or swimming. You can just view and take pictures from the overlook and enjoy the lush and quiet setting. Pe’e Pe’e means hidden or concealed waterfalls which are only partially shown in the viewpoint area. In the immediate viewing area to the right are the Boiling pots or cascade of smaller pools that are carved out of the fast moving waters which circulates and fills with bubbles filling the pools and giving the name to the area.

Tip – do not attempt to walk past the viewing area into the falls and Boiling Pots – it is illegal and extremely dangerous

Check out Pe’e Pe’e Falls and Boiling pots in this video tour below

Pi'ihonua or Wai'iale falls above Hilo

Off the Beaten Wai’ale Falls

Another waterfall from the Wailuku river that you can view from the bridge lookout is Wai’ale also known as Pi’ihonua. From Boiling Pots on Wainuenue avenue, travel about another mile up river until you pass a bridge which is the lookout point to the waterfalls. This is basically a spilway with the waterfalls in the background that falls into a larger pool of water.

Tip – there is a small amount of parking off the bridge side and you can walk safely on the bridge viewing for taking photos.

Check out this video of Wai’ale Falls below

Narnia Spilway and falls an off beaten Big Island Waterfalls secret
Hawaii big island waterfalls, Narnia Falls

Narnia Spilway and falls

Mostly a popular water swimming spot for locals in the know above Hilo, this waterfall area known locally as Narnia in Hawaiian is Ho’okelekele stream. There are five waterfalls that converge and cascade to various pools and a spillway that some swim in when the water is low and safe. It is a popular hiking spot but not easy to get to if you are not familiar with the area. You can check out my Narnia post here for more details on what it looks like and the main hike through a fire road to get to the viewing area and surroundings.

Tip – Dangerous in rainy season and when the water level is high and running. Only go to visit with someone that can give you easy directions on how to get there.

Akaka Falls in Honomu

Akaka Falls in Honomu

A spectacular waterfall set in a botanical garden Akaka Falls is also a state park. Probably one of the most scenic spots with a beautiful lush garden to explore, Akaka Falls delivers with a majestic 442 foot drop into a deep pool and lined with tropical plants for fantastic viewing and picture taking. The .4mile loop around the two waterfalls is scenic and fun to explore, but you do need to walk down a series of stairs to get to the trail and this is not handicapped safe.

Tip – parking is easy with parking lot, restroom and a self check ticket booth for entry. Also stop at the sweet little town of Honomu for snacks, shopping and finding some cool treasures from the area.

The loop trail around Akaka falls below

Uma Uma Waterfalls along the Hamakua coast
Hawaii waterfalls

Uma Uma Waterfalls

Best viewed from the Uma Uma adventure Zipline viewing area or even off the main highway bridge look out point, Uma Uma waterfalls is beautiful with a series of waterfalls plunging into various pools below with lush surroundings. Better viewed on the zipline experience offered by the Uma Adventure experience along with some other atv and waterfall plunge experiences. You can also do a self walk through their gardens and waterfall viewing area for a nominal fee.

If you want to see Uma Uma falls you can see it from the visitors center of this adventure tour outfitter

Zipline waterfall experience

Or sign up for a zipline tour here and you can actually glide past the falls as the highlight of this tour experience.

CHeck out Uma Uma falls highlights here

Hi'ilawe Waterfalls at Waipio Valley
waterfall on big island

Hi’ilawe Waterfalls at Waipio Valley

One of the tallest waterfalls in all of Hawaii, Hi’ilawe located in Waipio Valley falls about 1450 feet to the valley floor below. You can only view Hi’ilawe from above in a Helicopter, taking an ATV tour on private lands or from the valley floor with a short hike to a viewing spot to the spectacular waterfalls at the end of the valley. To get to the valley floor, you have to hike down a steep road that descends 900 feet for almost a mile and is a work out to climb back uphill.

Check out the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii at Hi’ilawe falls below

More inside tips to visiting the waterfalls of the Big Island

When visiting the waterfalls of the Big Island, here are some inside tips to enhance your experience:

  1. Plan your timing: Waterfall conditions can vary throughout the day, with sunlight often illuminating the cascades in the morning or late afternoon. Consider planning your visit during these times to capture the best lighting for photography and to enjoy the waterfalls in their most captivating beauty.
  2. Wear appropriate footwear: Many waterfall hikes involve uneven and slippery terrain. To ensure your safety and comfort, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes with good traction. It’s also a good idea to bring a waterproof jacket or poncho, as mist from the waterfalls can make the surrounding area damp.
  3. Stay hydrated and bring snacks: Exploring waterfalls often involves hiking and walking, so it’s essential to stay hydrated. Carry a reusable water bottle and pack some snacks to keep your energy levels up. Fresh fruits or trail mix are excellent options for quick and nourishing bites.
  4. Respect the environment: As you enjoy the waterfalls, be mindful of the fragile ecosystem and practice responsible tourism. Stay on designated trails, follow any posted guidelines, and refrain from littering. It’s important to leave the natural surroundings as you found them, ensuring these beautiful places remain pristine for future visitors to enjoy.
  5. Take caution with swimming: While swimming in waterfall pools can be enticing, it’s crucial to exercise caution. Always assess the current and depth of the water before entering, as conditions can change rapidly. Follow any safety signage or warnings, and be aware that submerged rocks or other hazards may be present. Prioritize your safety at all times.
  6. Seek local knowledge: Consider seeking advice from locals or visitor centers for the most up-to-date information on specific waterfalls. They can provide valuable insights into trail conditions, parking availability, and any recent changes that may impact your visit.
  7. Bring sunscreen if you plan on hiking or being outdoors to visit these waterfalls and covering yourself.

By following these inside tips, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy the mesmerizing waterfalls of the Big Island, ensuring a memorable and safe experience in the midst of nature’s splendor.

Check these other places to visit around the Big Island

There’s so many other wonderful places and attractions to visit around Hawaii, consider some of these other places to explore below.

A Wapio Valley hike in Hawaii

Big Island Hike to Narnia

Free or cheap things to do on the Big Island

Family Friendly Visit to the Big Island

Top things to do in Kona

Top things to do in Hilo Now

Disclosure/warning to visiting the waterfalls on the Big Island

Visiting waterfalls is safe from a distance or observation area, conditions change quickly with rain, clouds or changing weather that can easily bring down flash floods. Hiking and witnessing the magestic falls of the Big Island is fun but any swimming, walking the shoreline or climbing on rocks is not recommended for visitors or even locals that are not familiar with each waterfalls current condtions. Please respect the aina and the power of our waterfalls in Hawaii, they are dangerous to swim or witness close up.

Pin this to your Hawaii board

Pin this to your Hawaii board on Big Island waterfalls

Did we miss anything?

Any of these you want to visit soon or we missed on the list? Please share on the comments below.

Conclusion to visiting the Big Island’s waterfalls

Exploring the waterfalls of the Big Island is a captivating journey that immerses you in the island’s natural beauty and serene ambiance. From the powerful cascades that plummet from towering heights to the gentle streams that meander through lush forests, each waterfall tells its own unique story, inviting you to witness the wonders of nature firsthand.

As you navigate the island’s trails and embark on your waterfall adventures, remember to prioritize safety, respect the environment, and embrace the tranquility that surrounds you. Whether you choose to capture breathtaking photographs, cool off in refreshing pools, or simply bask in the awe-inspiring presence of these natural marvels, the Big Island’s waterfalls offer an experience that connects you to the raw power and serenity of the island’s landscapes.

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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.