Akaka Falls: A 422 Foot Waterfall Along The Northeastern Hamakua Coast

Ah the Big Island, the home of Madame Pele, spewing volcanoes, and larger-than-life waterfalls. Michelle and I recently set off on an inter-island adventure, escaping the hustle and bustle of Oahu and flying the forty minutes to Hawaii’s Big Island. Upon landing at Kona Airport, our plan was to drive an hour to Kohala to see the birthplace of King Kamehameha The Great. Persistent thoughts of red velvet brownies, however, quickly changed our plans and as soon as our luggage had been thrown into the trunk of our newly rented Ford Mustang, we headed straight to the Big Island Candies factory in, errr, Hilo. This was spontaneity at its best.

With the change of plans, my okole was already dreading the long drive ahead of us. It would take us approximately 2 hours to get from resort filled Kona to the more authentic Hilo town. The first 30 minutes of our drive was smooth sailing, with beautiful weather in our rear view mirror. However, the rain and wind really started show its wrath by the time we hit Waimea. The elements were very unforgiving, with rain following us all the way into Hilo town.

Look closely to the left, that’s the parking lady sneaking into my shot! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Akaka Falls State Park. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Once in Hilo, we made three stops, each one having to do with food. First stop was at Cafe 100 to fill our tummies. I had a Super Loco Moco, or as I called it, The Heart Attack on a Plate. Michelle had the classic Loco Moco plate because … she’s smaller than I am. Next we hit up Two Ladies Kitchen for their amazing Strawberry Mochi. Finally, we set our eyes on the prize: Big Island Candies. If I remember correctly, when we finally pulled into the Big Island Candies parking lot, both Michelle’s and my eyes doubled in size, while our mouths gasped in disbelief as we saw how large this local candy factory was. Michelle quickly stockpiled boxes of chocolates as if we were hoarding sweets for the pending December 21, 2012 apocalypse.

Before heading back to Kona, we decided to make a stop at a not-to-be-missed attraction along the Hamakua coastline, Akaka Falls. I’m happy that we decided to take this little detour, since it was definitely grander than any waterfall that we have on Oahu.

Michelle making the short trek to Akaka Falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Michelle making the short trek to Akaka Falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Circle Route. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Circle Route. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

You'll pass by interesting landscape as you make your way to Akaka Falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

You’ll pass by interesting landscape as you make your way to Akaka Falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Paved. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Paved. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

From Mamalahoa Highway [1] and driving toward Kona, you will make a left on to Honomu Road. Signage will eventually lead you on to Old Mamalahoa Highway, where you will make a right on Stable Camp Road. Continue going straight until you hit Akaka Falls Road. Follow the road to the end and you will reach Akaka Falls State Park. It will take you about 20 minutes or so to reach the falls from Mamalahoa Highway. At the end of the road will be a parking lot where you will need to dish out $5 for a stall. From the parking lot you will get your first glimpse of the falls. Yes, it’s that big. In fact, it’s a 422 foot tall waterfall.

You can tackle this trail two ways, either clockwise or counterclockwise. We decide to go counterclockwise, which brought us to Alaka Falls in less than 5 minutes. Once at the falls, we were nearly engulfed by the mist created by the thunderous flow of the waterfall. For a few moments, the rain stopped and I was able to snap off a few shots. I really wish the rain could have stopped a bit longer so that I could switch lenses on my camera, but that’s nature for you. Unpredictable.

Quickly, get the shot before the rain comes! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Quickly, get the shot before the rain comes! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Graffiti on the signage. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Graffiti on the signage. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

It was very misty on the day we visited, with low hanging clouds to boot. The rain didin't help either. Still, gorgeous falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

It was very misty on the day we visited, with low hanging clouds to boot. The rain didin’t help either. Still, gorgeous falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

We then continued along the trail passing by very lush green terrain, which is weird because your feet never touches soil since the entire trail is paved. Within ten minutes or so after leaving Akaka Falls, we hit the second waterfall, Kahuna Falls. This waterfall is not as popular or well known as Akaka Falls, probably because the distance from the lookout point does not give it due justice. This is a shame, considering that Kahuna Falls shares a similar 400 foot drop to that of Akaka Falls.

Legend surrounds both Akaka and Kahuna Falls. The ancient Hawaiians believed that there used to live a chief in the area, named Akaka. Chief Akaka was said to be having an affair with a woman down the stream. When Chief Akaka’s wife found the two of them together, Akaka fell to his death off a nearby cliff, forming what is now known as Akaka Falls. Because of this, it is said that Akaka Falls holds masculine energy, while Kahuna Falls holds feminine energy.

Kahuna Falls is where the rain really started to pour down on us. We hurried to the car and within a few moments jumped into our inviting silver Mustang. I quickly took off my soaked T-Shirt and then turned on the heat. A quick and memorable waterfall hike indeed. On an island with many spectacular waterfalls, I only got to see two. This only means that I need to come back and visit soon. Really soon.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Michelle Sagucio.

Akaka Falls Tips:

  • Don’t forget to have some cash ready to pay the parking attendant. $1 for walk-ins, $5 for cars.
  • I noticed some people parking outside of the parking lot and then walking in, presumably to avoid paying the $5 parking charge.
  • Unlike us, be sure to have a raincoat or poncho on hand.

Total Distance: 0.6 miles

Total Time: ~20-30 minutes

Directions to Akaka Falls: From Mamalahoa Highway and driving toward Kona, you will make a left on to Honomu Road. Signage will eventually lead you on to Old Mamalahoa Highway, where you will make a right on Stable Camp Road. Continue going straight until you hit Akaka Falls Road. Follow the road to the end and you will reach Akaka Falls State Park. It will take you about 20 minutes or so to reach the falls from Mamalahoa Highway.

These stairs will lead you to Kahuna Falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

These stairs will lead you to Kahuna Falls. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Akaka Falls from the top of the stairs shown in the previous photo. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Akaka Falls from the top of the stairs shown in the previous photo. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Kahuna Falls in the distance. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Kahuna Falls in the distance. Photo by Coty Gonzales.


1. The Hawaii Belt Road is a modern name for the Mamalahoa Highway and consists of Hawaii state Routes 11, 19, and 190 that encircle the Island of Hawaii. The southern section, between Hilo and Kailua-Kona is numbered as Route 11.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.