Waterfalls of the Big Island of Hawai'i
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The Big Island of Hawai'i as the name suggests is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. This island is so big that you could take all the other islands together and they'd all still fit into this island! Believe it or not, this island is still expanding as lava flows from the active Kilauea crater and its vents, thus adding to its landmass when the lava cools against the Pacific Ocean. The interior of the island is dominated by the twin volcanoes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (both of which are well over 10,000ft). On clear days, Julie and I were able to see their impressive summits looming large on the horizon towards the mauka (inland) side. We even managed to see snow on their summits after clearing storms!
In addition to its size, Julie and I have to believe that the island was one of the most unique places in the world. In addition to seeing snow on the two shield volcanoes dominating this island, we also managed to experience the quickly varying climates of a lush, humid tropical rainforest just a few miles from the snow on the island's windward side near Hilo. This was where we saw the majority of the waterfalls in the Big Island. Then, there were drier and more desert-like lava fields on the leeward side near Kona and Waikoloa.
As you can see from the map above, the Big Island Waterfalls were pretty much clustered into the a few groups on the northeastern (or windward) shores of the island. We'll refer to these groups as the Kohala Mountains
to the far north of the island, the Hamakua Coast
further to the south, and Hilo
, which is the main city or town on this side of the island further south of the Hamakua Coast.
The Kohala Mountains pretty much refer to the small mountain group on the far northern end of the Big Island. This was where there were some rugged valleys steeped in legend such as the Waipio Valley (said to be where King Kamehameha was raised in seclusion). Also amongst the Kohala Coast were the Pololu Valley (where the once accessible Waikoloa Falls was located) as well as the rugged and remote Waimanu Valley plus a few smaller and more remote valleys. The waterfalls that we managed to see in this area were primarily in Waipi'o Valley such as Hiilawe Falls
The Hamakua Coast stretched along a very long chunk of the windward slopes of Mauna Kea's northeastern slopes from the north of Hilo to Honokaa. This was where Julie and I saw most of the waterfalls on the Big Island. It was also in this section that Julie and I visited perhaps our favorite waterfall on this island in Akaka Falls
, which also managed to make our Top 10 Hawaii Waterfalls List
. There were also a couple of botanical gardens (each housing at least one natural waterfall) in this stretch of the windward slopes of Mauna Kea.
Finally, Hilo was the main town of the windward side of the Big Island. This was where we would typically stay when we felt like going waterfalling or heading further south to explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the chance at seeing flowing lava. Within the city limits or its outskirts, there were a handful of attractive waterfalls. In fact, it seemed like every time we'd go to the Big Island, we always seemed to make a visit to Rainbow Falls
since it was one of the most convenient as well as picturesque waterfalls on the island.
Given the sheer size of this island, I'm sure there are more Big Island Waterfalls to discover than our humble sampling, which you can see below. In the mean time, have a look and click on the links to read more about our experiences with them.
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To get a glimpse of what each waterfall looks like, check out the table below. Click on the waterfalls to read more about them.
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