Akaka Falls State Park: The Complete Guide

Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island, Hawaii

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Akaka Falls State Park

Address
875 Akaka Falls Rd, Honomu, HI 96728, USA
Phone +1 808-961-9540

The stunning Akaka Falls State Park is located on the rugged Big Island of Hawaii along the Hamakua Coast. Widely considered as one of the most beautiful regions of the island, the Hamakua Coast gets over 84 inches of rainfall each year, helping to give it an incredibly lush and tropical ambiance. The park itself features one of the Big Island’s most magnificent waterfalls, the 442-foot Akaka Falls, as well as the smaller 100-foot Kahuna Falls inside. At twice the height of Niagara Falls, the impressive Akaka Falls is also one of the easiest to reach thanks to a short trail that separates the waterfall from the visitor parking lot.

The vibrant green rainforest surrounding Akaka Falls provides a nice break from the barren volcanic landscape that characterizes most of Hawaii Island. Here, visitors can enjoy a self-guided walk through the dense jungle to the scenic lookouts providing majestic views of Akaka and Kahuna Falls.

Things to Do

The clear highlight of Akaka Falls State Park is the 442-foot waterfall that centers the park. The pleasant, paved looped hike to the falls is only about 0.4 miles, but is slightly uphill and contains several steps. Along the way, you’ll not only have the opportunity to view both Akaka Falls and the 100-foot Kahuna Falls, but also an abundance of wild orchids, bamboo, and different species of ferns.

From the beginning of the footpath heading to the right, Kahuna Falls will be visible from several different areas first, though it is not as accessible as Akaka Falls due to the tree cover. While Akaka is always flowing, Kahuna is much more visible after rainfall. Shortly after, the cascading Akaka Falls becomes visible flowing from a small cliff into Kolekole Stream. The entire hike can be completed within less than an hour and is easily accessed from Hilo. If you need something refreshing at the end of your hike, grab some fresh coconut or pineapple from Mana's Aloha Fruit Stand at the park's exit.

One unique aspect of Akaka Falls State Park is the o'opu ‘alamo'o fish that call it home. The peculiar species of goby fish lays its eggs on top of the falls and once hatched, the larva floats down the waterfall and starts the long journey into the ocean below. After spending a few months maturing in the sea, the young fish swim miles back up Kolekole Stream and use its suction cup-like mouths and pelvic fins to vertically climb up 442 feet from the base of Akaka Falls to the top, starting the whole process over again.

Where to Stay Nearby

Hilo is the main city on the Island of Hawaii and is just 20 minutes away from Akaka Falls, so you'll find plenty of hotels and lodging options in Hilo as well as in the nearby coastal towns. There is no camping allowed inside Akaka Falls State Park and the nearest campground, Laupahoehoe, is 30 minutes away by car.

  • Hamakua Guesthouse: This rustic accommodation is one of the closest options to the state park, located in the town of Honomu and just 10 minutes away from the park entrance. It's also off-the-grid, literally, since all electricity is powered by solar panels and water is collected from rainfall, making it a top choice for eco-friendly travelers.
  • Grand Naniloa Hotel: This modern, oceanside resort has all the amenities you'd want on your trip, like a pool with a view of the ocean and a golf course. Plus, its convenient location in the city of Hilo means it's close to everything and just 20 minutes away from Akaka Falls.
  • Kulaniapia Falls: The highly-rated Inn at Kulaniapia Falls is slightly inland from Hilo and 30 minutes from the state park, but this lodging stretches out through the forest and focuses on farm-to-table cuisine, ecological adventures, and preserving the natural environment.

For more ideas of where to spend the night, check out the best hotels on the Big Island.

How to Get There

Find Akaka Falls State Park on northeastern Hawaii Island's Hilo Coast at the end of Akaka Falls Road (also known as Highway 220), about 3.6 miles southwest of Honomu. It is located less than 20 miles from the Hilo International Airport and about 85 miles from Kona International Airport.

Accessibility

The trail to reach the falls is paved and short, but it's also steep and involves a lot of steps, so visitors in wheelchairs or who have difficulty with stairs should reconsider visiting Akaka Falls. If you want to see a waterfall on the Island of Hawaii, the 80-foot falls at Wailuku River State Park are easily accessible from the parking lot. For even more outdoor exploration, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is also on the Big Island and includes miles of paved trails.

There is a restroom that is available to use in the Akaka Falls parking lot but none along the trail, so take a bathroom break before you start trekking.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Visitors who aren't Hawaii residents must pay an entrance fee and a parking fee. The fees must be paid by credit card, but you can pre-purchase them online.
  • Akaka Falls State Park is a perfect addition to the popular 45-mile Hamakua Coast road trip from Hilo to historic Honokaa. Try pairing a trip to the park with a visit to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, as well.
  • Though the main waterfall is the park’s biggest highlight, try not to rush through without taking in the beautiful natural scenery and enjoying the journey along the way. Know that the falls can be viewed from a couple of different spots along the footpath.
  • Remember that this part of the island is known for getting a lot of rain, so a rain jacket or umbrella is always a good idea (don't forget to bring some mosquito repellent, too).
  • This state park is one of the most popular spots on the Hilo side of the Big Island of Hawaii, so don’t be surprised if it is crowded when you arrive. One way to avoid this is by getting there before 11 a.m. on the weekdays to beat the crowds—and you’ll have the added perk of seeing the falls in the early morning sun. During the busy summer months, the parking lot can fill up quickly.
  • Get updates about Akaka Falls and loop trail closures on the state park website before you go.
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Visit Akaka Falls State Park on Hawaii Island