Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls

Hamakua Coast / Honomu, Hawaii, USA

About Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls

Hiking Distance: 1/2 mile round trip (both falls)
Suggested Time: 30 minutes (both falls)

Date first visited: 2007-03-09
Date last visited: 2008-02-22

Waterfall Latitude: 19.85302
Waterfall Longitude: -155.15668

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Akaka Falls is a spectacular 420ft (though I’ve also seen 442ft reported as its height) waterfall and is certainly one of the most attractive of the accessible waterfalls on the Big Island.

Not only that, but it also placed high on our Top 10 List of Hawaii’s Best Waterfalls.

Akaka_Falls_062_03112007 - Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

Usually, waterfalls this tall and gulches this steep remind me of the type of scenery we normally associate with inaccessible terrain seen on helicopter rides.

So it didn’t surprise me at all that it was popular, and I would certainly consider this waterfall a must-see attraction.

Given that it was that rare Hawaiian waterfall that welcomed visitors as it sat within its own state park, there really wasn’t an excuse not to see this wonder!

Experiencing Akaka Falls

Speaking of the Akaka Falls State Park, that meant that there was infrastructure in the form of a well-developed loop trail as well as a fair-sized car park.

The road to get here was also smooth and easy to drive with a possible view on clear sunny days of the peak of Mauna Kea (one of the twin shield volcanoes comprising the Big Island) and the Keck Observatory at its summit.

Akaka_Falls_005_jx_03092007 - On the well-developed paved walkway leading to the overlook of Akaka Falls
On the well-developed paved walkway leading to the overlook of Akaka Falls

Upon our visits to the falls, we did what the majority of visitors here would do.

That was to go left (clockwise direction) to head straight for this waterfall first.

This route that was signposted to be about 750ft long passed by some smaller cascades before getting to the viewing area overlooking a very large bowl-shaped amphitheater into which the falls tumbled.

There was also a little shelter as well where we noticed someone peddle their wares to tourists.

We noticed that most people didn’t bother doing the whole loop and turned back at this point.

Continuing to Kahuna Falls

Akaka_Falls_036_03092007 - Partial profile view of Kahuna Falls
Partial profile view of Kahuna Falls

However, we continued with the loop walk another 800ft towards the Kahuna Falls, which was another waterfall in the state park that seemed to be just as tall as Akaka Falls.

Once we got to its overlook, we could see why this waterfall was overshadowed by its famous counterpart.

While Kahuna Falls seemed to also be about 400ft tall or so, our view of it was limited to an angle that only showed the waterfall’s profile.

Thus, the watterflow had to be big enough to overshadow the trees growing on the cliffside in front of it to be satisfactorily seen.

I’m sure that if this waterfall had been given a more direct view, then perhaps it would’ve gotten just as much fanfare as Akaka.

Big_Island_Heli_Paradise_151_02222008 - Both Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls seen together from the air on a chopper ride
Both Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls seen together from the air on a chopper ride

On a separate occasion, Julie and I saw both these waterfalls by helicopter.

That further reinforced our hunch that these were almost like twin waterfalls.


Akaka Falls resides in Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) website.

Akaka_Falls_001_03092007 - The car park
Akaka_Falls_001_jx_03092007 - Starting the short loop walk
Akaka_Falls_003_03092007 - A small cascade on the way to the main falls
Akaka_Falls_005_03092007 - Another small cascade on the way to the main falls
Akaka_Falls_016_jx_03092007 - Akaka Falls just up ahead
Akaka_Falls_039_03092007 - Julie approaching the beautiful Akaka Falls
Akaka_Falls_013_03092007 - Sunny view of Akaka Falls
Akaka_Falls_049_03112007 - Akaka Falls under overcast skies so there was even lighting
Akaka_Falls_032_03092007 - Kahuna Falls
Akaka_Falls_065_03112007 - Last look at Akaka Falls after returning from Kahuna Falls
Big_Island_Heli_Paradise_144_02222008 - Kahuna Falls seen from the air
Big_Island_Heli_Paradise_154_02222008 - Akaka Falls seen from the air

From the Hwy 19 and Hwy 11 junction by the Hilo Airport in Hilo, take Hwy 19 north for about 20 minutes to the well-signed, mauka-side turnoff for Hwy 220 (west). The Hwy 220 turnoff is between the 13-mile and 14-mile posts. Follow the Hwy 220 signs through Honomu Town, after which the last three miles are wide open spaces (that were sugarcane plantations during the Hawaiian sugar trade heydays of the late 19th and early 20th centuries).

As mentioned earlier, one time when we drove the Hwy 220, it was a clear day, and we were able to see the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano on the drive up towards the falls. Anyways, continue on Hwy 220 all the way until the forested mountains close in and the road ends at the busy Akaka Falls car park. Overall, this 16-mile drive would take about 30 minutes.

To give you some geographical context, Hilo was 79 miles (under 2 hours drive) east of Kailua-Kona via the Saddle Road. Otherwise, taking the more conventional route along Hwy 19 through Waikoloa, Waikoloa Village, and Waimea, this drive would be 96 miles long taking over 2 hours.

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Tagged with: akaka, kahuna, hamakua, honomu, hilo, big island, hawaii, waterfall, state park

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Akaka Falls – Big Island Hawaii April 2009 July 28, 2009 9:33 am by dar357 - I've been there (Akaka Falls) in Oct. 1988 / Sept. 1992 / June 1994 / Oct. 2000 & most recently April 2009 & it was very wet & rainy every time. However, renting a car & driving on Rte. 220 thru the tiny town of Honomu, HI & buying the best Tropical Flavored ice cream's… ...Read More

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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