Are you planning on checking out some of the best Big Island waterfalls on your trip? This guide contains the prettiest waterfalls on the Big Island to add to your itinerary!
No trip to Hawaii is complete without taking in all of the beautiful nature. The Big Island is no exception. Hawaii is especially known for its gorgeous cascading waterfalls, complete with pristine waters and deep pools.
Compared to the other islands, the Big Island does not feature many waterfalls, especially not ones that you can swim in or that are not located on private property.
However, in this article, we did our best to compile a list of Hawaiʻi waterfalls that are either easy to access, easy to tour near, or that you can request permission to visit. For some of these waterfalls, it is also possible to swim in the pools!
You should still make it a point to check out these waterfall hikes on the Big Island because most offer views that you will not be able to find elsewhere!
Did we miss any amazing Big Island waterfalls? Let us know in the comments which ones should be on every Big Island itinerary!
Best Waterfalls on the Big Island Map
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Beautiful Big Island Waterfalls
If you’re traveling to the Big Island’s Hilo side, you should definitely make it a point to visit Rainbow Falls. It truly is one of the best things to do in Hilo.
Considered to be one of the most popular waterfalls in all of Hawaii, even in person, Rainbow Falls looks like something that you would find on a postcard.
In fact, for that reason, Rainbow Falls is especially popular among photographers. According to Hawaiian legends, Rainbow Falls was home to the Hawaiian goddess of the moon, Hina.
The waterfall gets its name because if you stand with your back to the source of the sun, you will be able to see “rainbows” formed from how the light reflects on the water droplets.
The best views will be in the morning. There is a short hike that requires some effort, but it only takes a few minutes to get to the waterfall.
Located in the Akaka Falls State Park, Kahuna Falls is easy to find. The trail leading to the waterfall starts at the parking lot, and it is mostly paved. Along the 0.4-mile trail, you will be able to see signs directing you to the waterfall and hand railings.
The trail is family-friendly, so you can even visit Kahuna Falls with the kids, and it takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to hike.
Kahuna Falls cascades into various pools of water and is also located near Akaka Falls, so you should definitely make it a point to visit both.
When you’re done with your nature adventure, be sure to check out Mana’s Aloha Fruit Stand, where you will be able to grab fresh pineapples and coconuts for the full Hawaiian experience.
The entrance fee is $5 for non-residents and $10 to park your car. If you are a resident of Hawaii, entrance is free with an ID.
What sets Pe’epe’e Falls (also known as Peepee Falls) aside from the other waterfalls on this list is the fact that it is one of the few waterfalls that you can swim at legally on the Big Island. In order to reach the waterfall, you will need to cross the Wailuku River.
The waterfall is rather secluded and is located close to a few other hidden waterfalls. At 50 feet tall, the waterfall also has a swimming hole known as Boiling Pots downstream, where many people enjoy swimming.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the weather if you choose to visit Peepee Falls, though, and don’t try to swim if there are any flash flood risks.
This is one of the newer tourist attractions on Hawaii’s Big Island, and perhaps one that visitors might not have heard of before. Having opened to the public in 2009, Kamaee Falls stands at 100 feet and features pristine waters.
The water, unlike other waterfalls on the Big Island, comes from a lava tube, which means that you will almost always see a steady flow of water even in the drier months.
The water at Kamaeʻe Falls is also clean in comparison to some of the other waterfalls. Since it is located on private property, you can see it from the overlook at the World Botanical Gardens.
Those who are more daring can also check out the nearby zipline and nature activities. Another fun fact is that the waterfall is home to fish species such as the flagtail Kuhlia xenura and the mullet Mugil cephalus.
Hiʻilawe Falls is often considered to be the tallest waterfall in Hawaii.
It is alleged to have a height of 1,450 feet. However, it is not totally uncommon to see that the waterfall is dry, which is a result of the Hamakua Ditch that diverts the flow of water.
Some even say that it is not worth the visit, but it would certainly be cool to say that you have seen Hawaii’s tallest waterfall. The best way to visit is via a horseback riding tour in Waipio Valley (which is currently closed – please note!).
It is located on private property, but you will be able to catch a glimpse of the waterfall on horseback- provided that the waterfall is not dry.
The horses are well-trained, so if you want to go on this adventure, the experience is certainly worth it!
Not too popular among tourists, Nanue Falls is one of the waterfalls that are more difficult to visit on our list.
You will need to hike across a slippery stream in order to reach it, so be sure to have your best shoes and maybe a change of clothes with you.
In addition, you will not be met with any signs indicating where the waterfall is, so you might have even more difficulty finding it.
However, if you are an experienced hiker and up to the challenge, this will prove to be a worthy adventure.
When you reach Nanue Falls, you will meet a swimming hole that you will likely be able to take a refreshing dip in all by yourself, which makes it the perfect spot for those who are more experienced hikers.
Fun for the whole family, Umauma Falls is one of the most beautiful in all of the Big Island.
Located on the Big Island’s northeast side, the waterfall is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM and can be accessed via a paved road. You can choose to take a self-guided tour, or for an even better adventure, it’s recommended that you check out the zipline tours.
You can also check out the other tours, including the ATV Tour and a horseback riding tour.
If you don’t want to do any special tours, you can check out the tropical garden and Umauma Falls for $12 per person. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays and parking here is free.
Wai’ilikahi Falls is not for the faint of heart or for the inexperienced hiker. However, if you still want to visit without putting in the labor, you can go on a helicopter tour of the Kohala Coast, where you will be able to catch a glimpse of the waterfall.
Located in Waimanu Valley, you will need to take the Z-Trail, also known as the Muliwai Trail. You will have to hike along 8 miles of gorges and hills, as well as 13 streams, making it dangerous if you go on a rainy day.
You should not attempt to tackle this in one day, so you will need a permit for the Waimanu Valley, where you can spend much more time here- and likely be completely alone.
Kolekole Falls is located in Kolekole State Park along the Ka’ahakini Stream. It is also located very close to the ocean near the rocky beach.
The waterfall is smaller than many of the others on this list, and it is more popular as a spot to settle down to have a nice picnic underneath the Highway 19 road bridge.
If the stream is not flooding, you can use the swimming hole to swim in, which is also unusual for a waterfall on the Big Island.
Just be sure to keep an eye on the weather conditions for the day you want to visit because the ocean nearby can be very turbulent, making it difficult to swim.
A private waterfall, Kulaniapia Falls is the perfect place to visit if you want to experience a true Hawaiian escape and revel in nature.
It is located near Hilo a quieter part of Hawaii’s Big Island. Keep in mind that Kulaniapia Falls is a private waterfall, so you will need to request permission if you wish to visit. If you do not have a reservation, you will not be allowed entry.
You can book a waterfall adventure or reserve a room if you wish to visit. According to the waterfall’s current owner, the waterfall was featured in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”
When you reach Kulaniapia Falls, you will be able to enjoy a dip in the swimming holes, and as it can only be visited with a reservation, chances are that you’ll have the swimming hole all to yourself!
Located in the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Onomea Falls is another adventure that you should consider.
Set along with a gorgeous backdrop of palms, ferns, rocks, and trees, you will have plenty of opportunities for beautiful photos, especially when standing along the small bridge near the falls.
As the waterfall belongs to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, you will need to request permission to visit. The waterfall cascades into multiple small tiers.
The area is not only known for Onomea Falls, but you can also check out the exotic birds that call this place home, as well as the flora, rocks, Alakahi Stream, and Boulder Creek Falls, a small, 10-foot waterfall.
Akaka Falls is another must-visit that is located near Hilo. A 422-foot-tall wonder, you should absolutely make it a point to visit if you will be traveling along the Hamakua Coast.
From the parking lot, you will need to hike along a 0.4-mile trail, which is easy and perfect for the whole family. It generally takes around 30 minutes.
You will be surrounded by gorgeous views of the rainforest. There are several places along the trail where you will be able to see the waterfall.
Be sure to take in all the beautiful nature around you on the way, too. Akaka Falls is also located near Kahuna Falls in Akaka Falls State Park (one of the best on the Big Island), so be sure to make it a point to visit both!
More Big Island Travel Guides
- Things to do on the Big Island
- Things to do in Hilo
- Things to do in Kona
- Things to do in Waikoloa
- Big Island black sand beaches
- Beaches near Kona
- 7 day Big Island itinerary
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she has been traveling frequently to Hawaii for the last 15 years and loves exploring every corner of each Hawaiian island, while trying to promote sustainable travel and small, local businesses along the way. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She has co-authored a guidebook with Fodor’s Travel and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.