A trip to Akaka falls on the Hamakua coast of the Big Island of Hawaii could take anywhere from an hour to a half a day out of your schedule. It is a very picturesque site, with little to do at the falls themselves except enjoy the beauty - but I suggest allowing time to explore the surrounding area into your busy vacation schedule because you will probably need it.
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The falls are located above the small town of Honomu. You'll have to follow Highway 220 up from Highway 19 (north of Hilo) about 5 miles to get to the falls themselves. You'll go past the general store, and ice cream place, a lunch place, and a few other shops. Your walk within the park will be about 1/2 of a mile so if you need water get it now at the general store (which has been there for almost 100 years).
The road to the falls is all paved and nice, and it winds up through old sugar cane on both sides. If it's winter you might get a nice view of Mauna Kea covered with snow directly in front of you. Drive slow, as there is a one lane bridge before you get to the parking area. At the parking area there are restrooms available. If you are lucky, there will be some local artists selling wares or weaving lauhala there. You can probably find some very inexpensive but wonderful gifts here.
The start of the path is marked, you'll walk down the concrete steps and tehn have a choice. I suggest going to the right, the natural progression is just better that way. You'll walk through a tropical rainforest on the way to the falls. Notice flowers, bananas, banyan trees, bamboo groves, vines, impatiens, palms and more.
*** note *** if you don't think you can handle (or don't want to handle) the walk you can go to the left here for a shorter, mostly flat trip to Akaka falls, bypassing Kahuna and most of the hill work. Then, go out the way you came in for a much shorter, easier trip.
The first falls will be Kahuna falls, which is a little over 200 feet high. You will walk to the end of the path out against the railing and the falls are across a large gulch against the side of a cliff. You can take pictures if you want but don't worry if you can't get good ones of the family here - Akaka falls are much better.
From Kahuna, keep following the trail around - you'll have to go up here and it can be exhausting, do take breaks if you need to. You'll hear Akaka falls before you see it - it sounds like the ocean surf, but no rise and fall, or lulling of the wives - just a constant chhhhhchhhhchh of water hitting rock and water.
When you start going down again you'll know you are getting close to the falls. The path will open up, the trees on your right will stop, and across the gulch will be a huge 420 foot waterfall barreling over the drop. It is really breathtaking. For some reason Akaka falls always reminds me of the waterfall in Jurassic Park where the helicopter is landing on the valley floor right in front of the huge waterfall.
If you have binoculars, now is the time to whip them out - look at the very top and the very bottom of the falls - the emerald colored collecting pools are really pretty. If you want pictures, the way this is all set up allows for really photogenic opportunities. Whoever is taking the picture can start on the trail and take the picture from a little above you - and easily get you next to most of the falls in the background. There is also a covered picnic table here if you packed a lunch. When you are done you can keep following the trail for a short ending back to where you came in at - keep the camera handy though, there is still some nice scenery.
On the drive back out, now is the time to stop in Honomu. There is an ice cream shop, a few lunch places, a gallery, a wood gallery, a botanical garden, and a few more places to shop at. You'll probably be hungry, even if you're not there is always room for ice cream or shave ice (snow cone) and you may be able to find another incredible deal on local art or products. All in all, a trip to Akaka falls can be very productive. picture of Akaka here http://www.theinsider.com/Aloha/PHOTOS/AkakaFalls.htm
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