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.
Visiting Kulaniapia Falls
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.
As mentioned earlier, Kulaniapia Falls is on private property and is not open to the general public. If you would like to visit the falls, please visit www.waterfall.net to book a waterfall rappelling adventure or to reserve a room.
Guests without reservations will be turned away (something they’ve had to do more frequently in recent years).
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.
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.
To give you some context, Hilo was about 76 miles (90 minutes drive) via the Saddle Road. If you take the longer way via Waimea, then this drive would be 96 miles (under 2.5 hours drive). From Waikoloa, the drive to Hilo via Hwy 19 through Waimea would be about 75 miles (under 2 hours drive).
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