Kulaniapia Falls

Hilo (The Big Island), Hawaii, USA

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 1
Kulaniapia Falls
Kulaniapia Falls is a private waterfall on the Waiau Stream situated on the lower slopes of Mauna Kea not far from Hilo.

According to the owner Lenny, this 80-100ft waterfall (the height is just a guess) the film crew for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" actually came over to his property to film the waterfall. After seeing a made-for-TV re-run of the movie, I didn't recall seeing this waterfall, but then again, it could've also only been on the full screen version (it was supposed to be the very first waterfall that the main characters tumbled over before going over the Devil's Throat of Iguazu Falls).

Anyways, this was definitely one of the more attractive waterfalls we've seen on the Big Island, and the Asian-themed Inn nearby was definitely a nice place to relax and sleep to the sound of the falls (that is if the mozzies wouldn't be too bothersome).

Julie and I actually visited Kulaniapia Falls twice. The reason was that the first time happened to be on a real soggy and unusually drenching Super Bowl XLII weekend storm in February 2008. On that eventful day, the falls was swollen and looked menacing. So we came back three weeks later to see the falls in a more normal state.

From the Inn, we had to walk around the property on grass (on the car park side) before finding the descending trail to the base (starting beneath the balcony of the Inn). We were told that Lenny worked real hard (along with hired assistance) to clear that path as it was completely jungle prior to him opening this place up for guests. Apparently, the falls also provided localized hydro power for some of the electricity on site. Plus, there was a bamboo garden heading in the other direction from the trail to the falls.

On both occasions we were here, we didn't actually get a chance to see the bamboo garden nor the rest of the property for that matter. I guess one of these days, we'll make a return visit and see the rest of Lenny's work.

Directions: Finding the Inn at Kulaniapia Falls isn't easy without directions, which are supplied once bookings are confirmed. In any case, we'll try to provide directions here in case you lose them.

From the Hwy 19/Waianuenue Ave junction in downtown Hilo, drive west (mauka) on Waianuenue Ave for a block to the one-way Keawe St. Turn right onto Keawe St and look for Ohai St just past the bridge over the Wailuku River. Turn left onto the narrow Ohai St then go straight past Wainaku St as Ohai St narrows even more and becomes Amau'ulu Rd.

Signs pointing the way As you continue going west on Amau'ulu Rd for about a mile, you'll start to see Kulaniapia Falls signs indicating you're indeed headed the right way. The first sign is at Maikalani St, where you turn left.

Follow Maikalani St for a little over 2 miles to a three-way junction with Pu'ueo Mauka Dr (and another sign for the falls). Turn left at this junction and follow the curving road south for a little over a half-mile before turning left again at another three-way intersection and sign. About a third of a mile east of the intersection, you'll be at the Inn.

There is a car park for guests just beyond the main building's canopy.

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Closeup of Kulaniapia Falls
View of Kulaniapia Falls from the balcony of the inn as Julie approached its base
Inn at Kulaniapia FallsPulling up to the Inn

Inside the InnInside the Inn

Closeup of Kulaniapia Falls from the balconyCloseup of the falls from the balcony

What the falls looks like under warm morning lightWhat the falls looks like under warm morning light

The walkway began on the other side of the InnThe walkway began on the other side of the Inn

On the path to the base of the fallsOn the path to the base of the falls

Approaching the final descent to the baseApproaching the final descent to the base

Julie at the base of the fallsJulie at the base of the falls

More direct view from across the plunge poolMore direct view from across the plunge pool

On our first visit to the Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, it was pouring rainOn our first visit to the Inn, it was pouring rain

Kulaniapia Falls in an angry moodThe falls in an angry mood

It was amazing to see just how violent the falls could be under such stormy conditionsIt was amazing to see just how violent the falls could be under such stormy conditions

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Right to left sweep of the falls from a lower lookout platform

Right to left sweep of the swollen falls from the patio of the Inn

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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.

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Kulaniapia Falls 
Private, Serene, and Magical. Our pick for the most beautiful waterfall on the Big Island .

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