Waiulili Falls

Waipio Valley / Kohala Coast, Hawaii, USA

About Waiulili Falls

Hiking Distance: 2 miles round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 2-3 hours

Date first visited: 2007-03-11
Date last visited: 2008-02-23

Waterfall Latitude: 20.1207
Waterfall Longitude: -155.57687

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Waiulili Falls is the second of the ocean-bound waterfalls accessible via the sacred Waipi’o Valley (the other being Kaluahine Falls).

While the falls didn’t look all that tall from the ground, we were fortunate to see the falls from a helicopter.

Waipio_047_02232008 - Waiulili Falls
Waiulili Falls

That was when we realized just how tall this waterfall really was.

I don’t have the figures of this one, but for sure it seemed to span the entire height of the cliff!

As for hiking towards the falls from Waipi’o Valley, I only became aware of this option after reading about it through the Blue Bible.

After undertaking this hike, I have to say that this was an excursion that definitely had its share of risks.

Let me get into the hike description and tell you about the risks as they come.

Risky Scramble to Waiulili Falls

Waipio_061_03112007 - A horse grazing in Waipi'o Valley
A horse grazing in Waipi’o Valley

First, I had to descend the steep access road into Waipi’o Valley.

As mentioned on the Hi’ilawe Falls page, that was a road you definitely would NOT want to drive in a rental car.

Plus, it was not an easy hike on the way back up.

Once I was down in the valley, I was immediately faced with a junction.

Turning right at this junction, the muddy road eventually led to the beach at the mouth of Waipi’o Valley.

Waipio_028_03112007 - Looking back at the mouth of Waipi'o Valley as the awkward boulder scramble began
Looking back at the mouth of Waipi’o Valley as the awkward boulder scramble began

At that point, the coastal boulder scramble towards the waterfalls began.

Initially, the boulder scramble went a short distance towards what seemed to be a small gully that would normally harbor a stream.

However, both times I’ve been here, this gully was dry. I believe this was supposed to be the Kaluahine Falls, but I wonder if it was merely an ephemeral waterfall that just so happened to be named.

I couldn’t believe that this was supposed to be the same waterfall that was in a scene for Kevin Costner’s Waterworld (I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t verify that claim).

Apparently the falls were flowing back then, but definitely not these days as far as my experience goes.

Waipio_029_03112007 - The dry Kaluahine Falls
The dry Kaluahine Falls

After the disappointment of Kaluahine Falls, I continued onwards.

At this point, the space between the churning ocean and the vertical cliffs got narrower.

So as the slow progress on the loose boulders persisted, I was constantly faced with being plucked by a rogue wave on the makai side and being hit with falling rocks on the mauka side.

Indeed, being out here definitely did not feel very safe, and in the back of my mind, I kept thinking I’d much rather be out of here than lingering around to see a waterfall.

In any case, I went far enough to catch an angled view of the Waiulili Falls.

Waipio_032_03112007 - Pushing forward on the awkward boulder scramble where there wasn't much room to navigate between the cliffs and the crashing waves
Pushing forward on the awkward boulder scramble where there wasn’t much room to navigate between the cliffs and the crashing waves

I believe this was about 1/4-mile of awkward boulder scrambling beyond the Kaluahine Falls (which itself was a very short distance from the mouth of Waipi’o Valley).

While it appeared that I could’ve gone closer to the Waiulili Falls, I just didn’t feel like pushing my luck given the everpresent hazards that were all around me.

So the photos you see on this page were as good a view as I was going to get.


Waiulili Falls and Kaluahine Falls reside on the Big Island of Hawaii. As far as I know, they are 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.

Waipio_011_03112007 - Descending into Waipi'o Valley
Waipio_022_03112007 - A rusted sign saying you're proceeding at your own risk
Waipio_001_jx_03112007 - Walking towards the mouth of Waipi'o Valley and the boulder scramble leading to both Kaluahine Falls and Waiulili Falls
Waipio_029_03112007 - Looking up at the bare wall of a dry Kaluahine Falls
Waipio_035_03112007 - First glimpse of Waiulili Falls
Waipio_034_03112007 - Another look at Waiulili Falls with a crashing wave fronting it
Waipio_045_03112007 - Checking out the full context of Waiulili Falls
Waipio_046_03112007 - Looking back at Waipi'o Bay from far along the scramble
Big_Island_Heli_Paradise_169_02222008 - The full height of Waiulili Falls
Waipio_027_02232008 - Once again, Kaluahine Falls was dry on a second time down here
Waipio_033_02232008 - Looking back across Waipi'o Bay
Waipio_036_02232008 - I noticed this tall, thin waterfall which I didn't notice before across Waipi'o Bay
Waipio_044_02232008 - Back at a familiar view of Waiulili Falls

This waterfall shares the same trailhead as that of Hi’ilawe Falls. So see that page for driving directions to Waipi’o Valley Lookout.

For context, the Waipi’o Valley Lookout was 51 miles (over an hour drive) north of Hilo, 23 miles (about 30 minutes drive) east of Waimea, 41 miles (about an hour drive) east of Waikoloa, and 62 miles (90 minutes drive) northeast of Kailua-Kona.

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Tagged with: waipio, waipi'o, kohala, kamehameha, hiilawe, hi'ilawe, stables, tour, kapu, private, steep road, big island, hawaii, waterfall

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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.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.