Nanue Falls

Hamakua Coast, Hawaii, USA

About Nanue Falls

Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2007-03-10
Date last visited: 2007-03-10

Waterfall Latitude: 19.92047
Waterfall Longitude: -155.16312

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Nanue Falls (I’ve also seen it spelled Nanua Falls) is really a series of waterfalls on the Nanue Stream (or Nanua Stream).

For the purposes of this website, we’re only singling out the waterfall you see pictured below.

Nanue_Falls_005_03092007 - Nanue Falls
Nanue Falls

That’s because I came to realize that just reaching a good view of that waterfall required a very tricky and awkward scramble inside the stream itself.

I suppose it would be a reasonable enough accomplishment just to even reach this falls though it wouldn’t surprise me if there were more to be found further upstream.

Stream Scrambling to Nanue Falls

As for the scramble itself, it wasn’t a very comfortable one as I frequently slipped and slid over slick boulders as well as broke several spider webs.

Most of the webs belonged to crab spiders (so named because they actually looked like fat crabs with big white eyes).

However, I think there was a particularly large spider (maybe the size of a hand if you count its long legs) that managed to hitch a ride on my backpack and eventually stowed away into our rental car.

Nanue_Falls_002_jx_03092007 - That's me scrambling through the dense bush en route to Nanue Falls
That’s me scrambling through the dense bush en route to Nanue Falls

Julie and I discovered the spider later when we were driving!

But arachnids aside, foremost on my mind was the everpresent danger of flash floods since I was pretty much in the stream the whole way.

From the informal pullout by the Nanue Stream bridge (see directions below), I descended a steep and faint path besides a guardrail and into the overgrowth.

I definitely had to watch out for broken glass on this descent as they were strewn in places where I could’ve easily cut my hands and legs.

Swarming mosquitoes also didn’t make the scramble any easier.

Nanue_Falls_014_jx_03092007 - While Julie was waiting on the bridge, she photographed me struggling with the scramble
While Julie was waiting on the bridge, she photographed me struggling with the scramble

Once I got to the rocky bed of Nanue Stream, I had to scramble under the road bridge and proceed about 900 yards further upstream within the stream itself.

Beyond the bridge, the streambed scramble became slow, awkward, and very slippery.

After rounding a bend, I was finally able to see Nanue Falls and its nice plunge pool.

By the way, that bend was the reason why it couldn’t be seen from the road.

By the way, had I done this stream scramble going the other way from the road bridge (i.e. going downstream), I would’ve ended up on top of another waterfall.

Hwy_19_008_03092007 - This waterfall seen from the Hwy 19 further downstream of the one I identified as Nanue Falls was what I called the 'Lower Nanue Falls'
This waterfall seen from the Hwy 19 further downstream of the one I identified as Nanue Falls was what I called the ‘Lower Nanue Falls’

For a frontal view of that waterfall, I had to drive back onto the main Highway 19 towards another road bridge (see directions below), and then view it at a distance from there.


Nanue Falls resides on the Big Island of Hawaii. As far as I know, it is not administered by any official authority. 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.

Nanue_Falls_010_jx_03092007 - Yep, we're on the right bridge
Nanue_Falls_003_jx_03092007 - Another etching on the bridge showed it was built during the Great Depression
Nanue_Falls_022_jx_03092007 - Guardrail near the start of the scramble
Nanue_Falls_007_jx_03092007 - That's me doing the awkward stream scramble on the Nanue Stream towards the Nanue Falls
Nanue_Falls_013_jx_03092007 - That's me disappearing into the bush as I scrambled towards the Nanue Falls
Nanue_Falls_010_03092007 - Zoomed in look at the elusive Nanue Falls
Nanue_Falls_014_03092007 - Contextual view of Nanue Falls after the awkward stream scramble

The Nanue Falls scramble starts on the narrow Government Main Road (parts of which are also the Old Mamalahoa Hwy) near a bridge over Nanue Stream. The Government Main Road passes through quiet residential neighborhoods and over lush gulches spanned by single-lane Depression era bridges. We could tell when the bridges were built because the year (from the 1930s) was etched on many of them.

From the Hwy 19 and Hwy 11 junction by the Hilo Airport in Hilo, take Hwy 19 north to the World Botanical Garden (roughly 30 minutes drive or 18 miles; see the Umauma Falls page for directions to this location). Then, continue north on the Government Main Road for about 2.5 miles past the World Botanical Garden registration area. Look for a bridge over Nanue Stream where careful searching will reveal the word “Nanue” and markings such as “1930” and “32-1” on the correct bridge. About 75ft past this bridge is a guard rail with an informal one-car pullout beside it. A faint path to Nanue Falls starts its descent near the guardrail.

For a view of the lower waterfall seen from the main highway, you have to drive north on Hwy 19 towards a large bridge spanning the gorge carved by the Nanue Stream. This bridge is between mile posts 18 and 19 (about 18 miles north of Hilo). Before crossing the Hwy 19 Nanue Stream Bridge, look for a large pullout area on your left to park the car. Then walk on the bridge until you’re satisfied with your view.

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: hamakua, big island, hawaii, waterfall, awkward, scramble, nanue, nanua, swim, swimming

Visitor Comments:

Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...

Dec 31 2017 Excellent experince (Nanue Falls) January 1, 2018 8:01 pm by Robert - We went down to the river on the north end of the ocean side side guard rail. It was an easy descend (steep but steplike) with no glass and plenty of vines and stuff to hang onto). I suspect the flow volume was lower than the report above because we found it to be an… ...Read More
Nanue Stream-Falls April 20, 2012 8:56 am by Valerie H - I live near this beautiful stream, but remember it is a stream and the flow of water in it can change rapidly dependent on the weather up the mountain, which you cannot see or know what is happening. It should be noted that Nanue Bridge is the highest bridge in the State of Hawaii.. also… ...Read More

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