Opened to the public only in late 2009, Kamae’e Falls is one of Hawaii’s most beautiful and pristine waterfalls. Kamaee Stream is a source for all the native Hawaiian endemic fish species.
As you drive up the private access road from the Botanical World Adventures and World Botanical Gardens main entrance, you can see the dormant Mauna Kea volcano over the green pastures of the paniola cattle ranch. Arriving at the Kamae’e Falls overlook, you can view the stream as it tumbles over small waterfalls and winds its way through sunlit pools before cascading nearly 100 feet down a sheer rock cliff covered with ferns and other native vegetation to a crystal clear pool below. Look for blooming gingers and hibiscus clinging to the steep slopes above the waterfall.
Most waterfalls on the Big Island are fueled by runoff from the area’s heavy rainfall. But the stream which feeds Kamae’e Falls descends from a lava tube which drains water that has percolated for years through the volcanic soils of Mauna Kea. As a result, Kamae’e Falls always has a steady stream of water, even in dry months. Although its flow increases substantially after heavy rains, the water remains amongst the cleanest in the area.
Kamaee Stream is home to the seven native fish species in Hawaii. They are the flagtail Kuhlia xenura, the mullet Mugil cephalus, the gobies Awaous guamensis, Lentipes concolor, Sicyopterus stimpsoni and Stenogobius hawaiiensis, and the sleeper goby Eleotris sandwicensis. Three of the gobies, A. guamensis, L. concolor and S. stimpsoni, are famous for their ability to climb waterfalls to reach higher sections of freshwater streams and can be seen climbing Kamaee Falls. These fish are harvested by the state to seed other streams that are not as pristine as Kamaee Falls.