Are you looking for the best Hilo waterfalls (and a map to go with it)? This article from a Hawaii local has everything that you need to know!
If you’re looking for things to do in Hilo, checking out all of the waterfalls should be at the top of your list. Hilo is one of the rainiest parts of the Hawaiian Islands, and that means that there are a ton of spectacular waterfalls in the area. Here are eight unreal Hilo waterfalls for you to explore.
Common Questions About Hilo Waterfalls
What Is the Tallest Waterfall in Hilo?
The tallest waterfall in Hilo is Waihilau Falls, which is 2,600 feet tall! It is the third tallest waterfall in Hawaii.
Can You Swim in the Waterfalls in Hilo?
Yes and no. That depends on the waterfall. For some waterfalls, like Akaka Falls and Rainbow Falls, you’re not allowed to swim there. But you can swim in the pools of some of the other waterfalls!
That said, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have any open cuts and that you don’t drink any of the water. Many of Hawaii’s waterfalls are home to a type of bacteria known as leptospirosis. While some cases of leptospirosis may have bad flu-like symptoms, others have no symptoms at all. If you would like to read a bit more on the bacteria, here’s a page from the CDC.
8 Best Hilo Waterfalls
From easily accessible cascades to waterfalls that require a bit of a hike, there’s a little bit of everything.
Waihilau Falls is the thirteenth tallest waterfall in the world and the third tallest waterfall in Hawaii! At 2,600 feet, it’s not far behind Venezuela’s famous Angel Falls or Norway’s Vinnufossen.
Waihilau Falls is still kept in pristine condition, because it is MUCH more difficult to access in comparison to the rest of the waterfalls on this list of waterfalls in Hilo. Located in the greenery-filled, cliff-ridden Waimanu Valley, Hilo locals are pretty much the only people with the knowledge to access this breathtaking Hilo waterfall. So if you’re a skilled hiker with a local friend, consider adding Waihilau Falls to your Hilo bucket list.
Officially located in Wailuku River State Park, Rainbow Falls, also known as Waianuenue Falls, is just a few minutes away from the city center of Hilo. The best time to visit Rainbow Falls is in the morning, as the sun may shine on the falls and make it look like it is wrapped in a rainbow! But, honestly, this 80-foot waterfall is breathtaking at any time of day.
There are two viewpoints of Rainbow Falls. One has a beautiful clear view of the falls just a few steps from the parking lot, and one has a view of Rainbow Falls from above. Personally, I prefer the view near the parking lot, because it is quite difficult to see the falls from the upper viewpoint. There isn’t really much to see from the above lookout point.
Just upstream from Rainbow Falls on the Wailuku River is Pe’epe’e Falls. Pe’epe’e Falls (pronounced peh-eh peh-eh) is one of the local favorite Hilo waterfalls. Many days, you’ll find a group of teenagers hanging out by the falls, enjoying the water. However, visitors tend to just view Pe’epe’e Falls from the viewpoint.
Venturing closer to Pe’epe’e Falls can be quite the dangerous encounter. While the locals know what to look for, visitors tend to be ignorant of the natural patterns in the area, which can put them in danger. Waikulu River can rise quite quickly, and, therefore, can cause flash floods. These can prove to be extremely dangerous to visitors who do not see these flash floods coming. Therefore, I would not recommend venturing closer to Pe’epe’e Falls without a local.
*Note: If you are using Google Maps, plug in “Boiling Pots” instead of “Pe’epe’e Falls”. Even though the two sites are right next to each other, if you plug in “Pe’epe’e Falls,” Google Maps takes you to a place with no access and no view of the falls. Boiling Pots refers to a small section of the Wailuku River just downstream from Pe’epe’e Falls that appears to be boiling.
Everyone knows, where there’s a river, there might be more waterfalls. The Wailuku River not only hosts Rainbow Falls, Boiling Pots, and Pe’epe’e Falls, but it is also home to Waiale Falls!
If you’re looking for a Hilo waterfall with a short hike, Waiale Falls is for you! This 0.6-mile hike takes you to the two-tiered Waiale Falls. While this hike is rather short, it can get quite muddy due to Hilo’s frequent rain, so make sure you are prepared with the proper clothing and footwear before heading out! (Check out my Hawaii packing list for a little more guidance.)
Also, just like Pe’epe’e Falls, a flash flood can strike at any time, so be aware of the weather and your surroundings!
Akaka Falls isn’t just one of the best Hilo waterfalls, it’s one of the best Hawaii waterfalls in general. Because of that, the state of Hawaii has created the Akaka Falls State Park. That means there are tons of paved paths for you to wander around, making it the most kid-friendly waterfall on this list!
Kahuna Falls is also in the park, but, if I’m being honest, it doesn’t stand a chance in comparison to the 442-foot Akaka Falls. If you want to make the most of your time at the falls, try to get there before 5 p.m., as the parking lot closes at 6 p.m.
Because it is a state park, it has a $5 parking fee per car (if you have a Hawaii State ID, just show it to the parking attendant.) They also offer umbrellas (for an optional donation), so don’t let a little rain cancel this adventure!
If you visited Hilo more than a decade ago, there’s a good chance you had no idea about Kama’e’e Falls. Located within the World Botanical Gardens, this beautiful piece of scenery only opened in 2009. This 100-foot waterfall is unique, because its water actually comes from a lava tube, rather than from rainwater.
Admission to the World Botanical Gardens (and Kama’e’e Falls) is $15 per adult, $7 per teen, and $3 per child.
Umauma Falls has capitalized on Hilo visitors’ love of waterfalls. This three-tiered waterfall has been coupled with zipline, rappel, and ATV experiences! During their popular 90-minute zipline tour, guests have the chance to tackle two miles of zipline, zip over 14 different waterfalls, and experience stunning views! Tickets for this experience are $191 per person.
If you would simply like to check out the waterfall, the entrance fee is $10. The falls close at 5 p.m., so be sure to get there by 4:30 p.m. to have enough time to enjoy Umauma Falls.
The only way to see Kulaniapia Falls is to visit The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls. This particular waterfall is the largest privately accessible waterfall in Hawaii. In other words, to see it you need to spend the night at the inn to see this stunning 120-foot waterfall.
If you’re looking to stay the night at The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls — one of the best Airbnbs in Hawaii, by the way — room rates start at $199 per night, depending on season and availability. There is also the farm cabin accommodation option, which starts at $79 per night.
Map of the Best Hilo Waterfalls
Since some of these waterfalls are quite hard to find, this map of waterfalls near Hilo may be helpful. That said, this map only provides the location of the Hilo waterfalls, not necessarily how to get to them (if there is a hike). Before hiking to any of these waterfalls, be sure to do some research on the hiking trails in advance.
Are you a waterfall lover? Here are my favorite Oahu waterfall hikes!
Have you visited any of these Hilo waterfalls? Tell me about it in the comments! (I promise I’ll respond!)
Thinking about visiting Hilo on your next Hawaii vacation? Pin this post for later!