A Snakeless Jungle with Waterfalls
M and I experienced the beauty of Akaka Falls State Park in Honomu on the Big Island of Hawai’i with our exquisite guide: M’s Kama’aina friend G. We got to explore the lush rainforest trail, and marvel at the stunning waterfalls, and the abundant tropical flora. Normally, I’m not actually a fan of jungle. Jungles have snakes. And plans that hide snake marvelously well. Not this one. Here is a trail guide and all the info you need to know to visit!
Welcome, You, to Akaka Falls State Park, located in the Honomu community on the wet side of the Big Island of Hawai’i! This state park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, casual hikers, and waterfall enthusiasts. What makes Akaka Falls State Park such a special place to visit? Glad you asked!
Getting There and Admission
To get to Akaka Falls State Park, you’ll want to head north from Hilo along the Hamakua Coast. The park is located at the end of Akaka Falls Road, just a short drive from Honomu. When you arrive, you’ll need to pay a small admission fee of $5 per person for non-residents and $10.00 per car for parking, also for non-residents. Resident access and parking ids of course, free.
Ku’ula’ulu, the Hawaiian goddess of parking, might bless you. Or maybe she won’t. Akaka Falls State Park offers a large parking lot for visitors, so finding a spot should be relatively easy. The operative word being should. As with any popular destination, earlier is better. The lot is located near the park entrance, so you won’t have to walk far to walk to the trail. When we go there there was a guy, taking money and handing out informative brochures.
Yeah, I totally made the goddess of parking up. Don’t start a religion please. But I do accept donations in her name if you are so inclined. Okay. You are parked. The trail.
The One-Way Trail
While the main attraction of Akaka Falls State Park is is of course, the two waterfalls, Kahuna and Akaka, the scenic, paved trail that winds through the lush rainforest and leads to the two stunning waterfalls is also grand. The trail is well-maintained and accessible to most visitors, but it does involve some moderate uphill climbs and lots of stairs. The loop distance is about 0.4 miles, and it should take most visitors around 30-45 minutes to complete. This is a popular spot so expect a walk with a lot of people. Don’t despair though, the trail is wide, the viewpoints were large enough to allow everyone a look-see. And the trail encourages one-way traffic to help manage flow.
Flora and The Sounds of Flighted Fauna. No Snakes!
As you hike, okay, stroll. Hiking is what you do up a volcano on the the other side of the island. This is a stroll. So, as you stroll along the trail to the falls, you’ll be surrounded by an incredible variety of tropical plants and trees. Some native, some not I personally have questions about defining what is native, exotic or invasive on a ~1 million year old island upon which everything came from elsewhere. Is there some magic date defining native and not when it comes to species? No idea.
Anyway, the park is home to numerous species of ferns, orchids, and other flowering plants, as well as towering trees like bamboo, banyan, and eucalyptus. Keep an eye out for the colorful birds and butterflies that make their homes in this amazing rainforest as well. But there are no venomous creepy crawlies to pop out of nowhere and wreck your whole day.
A Tale of Two Falls
The first waterfall you’ll encounter on the trail is Kahuna Falls, which drops 100 feet into a large pool below. This is an impressive waterfall in its own right, but it’s just a preview of what’s to come. Continuing along the trail, you’ll soon come to the main attraction: Akaka Falls. This waterfall is a breathtaking 442 feet tall, and the sight of the water plunging into the gorge below is pretty awe-inspiring.