Akaka Falls in Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii

‘Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island of Hawaii: Complete 2024 Guide!

Captivated by waterfalls? You cannot miss a stop at ‘Akaka Falls State Park when you visit Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Located along the lush Hamakua Coast in the northeast of the island, Akaka Falls State Park protects Akaka Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Hawaii.

The 442-foot Akaka Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state!

Akaka Falls Loop Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii
The Akaka Falls Loop Trail

The waterfall is named after Chief ‘Akaka-o-ka-nī’au-oi’o-i-ka-wao, the ruler of Honomu, who, according to legend, threw himself from the cliff and turned into the waterfall.

The lush 65-acre park is worth visiting not only to gawk at Akaka Falls but also to experience the dense rainforest landscape of the region.

Because it’s relatively easy to visit, Akaka Falls State Park is one of the most-visited state parks on the Big Island.

In this article, we describe how to visit Akaka Falls State Park, plus what to see and do in the park.

Let’s get started!

Planning a visit to the Big Island? Snorkeling Captain Cook at Kealakekua Bay should definitely be on your itinerary: check out our guide to the best Captain Cook snorkel tours!

Akaka Falls tumbles down the cliff face in Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii
Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii

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Want to visit Akaka Falls on a guided tour?

Consider this very popular and highly-rated island tour that covers all the big attractions, including Akaka Falls, on a day out from Kona!

>> Check pricing and availability for this top-rated Big Island guided tour now!

Things to Do in Akaka Falls State Park

Walk the Akaka Falls Trail

In Akaka Falls State park, a paved 0.4-mile loop trail leads to the eponymous falls. The trailhead is located off the parking area.

The trail is scenic and classed as moderately challenging by the park, with an elevation gain of about 100 feet.

There are several steps along the way, so the trail is not accessible, but it’s a fun family-friendly excursion.

Steps on the Akaka Falls Trail on the Big Island in Hawaii
Steps on the Akaka Falls Trail
The Akaka Falls Trail on the Big Island of Hawaii
Walking the Akaka Falls Trail

If you are really pressed for time and just want to take in the main attraction and leave, you can talk the path to the left at the first fork in the trail. The Akaka Falls viewing area is a short walk from here!

But if you have the time, the loop trail is very worthwhile for plant and nature lovers. It winds its way through lush rainforest vegetation, and you’ll see every shade of green imaginable!

You’ll also see little cascades tumbling over rocks: they make for great photos!

Trail sign in Akaka Falls State Park on Hawaii Island
Stay right for the loop trail

Interpretive signs along the trail offer lots of information if you stop and read.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Look for Kahuna Falls

En route to Akaka Falls, you will come to a viewpoint that looks out onto Kahuna Falls.

Kahuna Falls cascades about 100 feet into the gorge below, and, although it is a pretty waterfall, it is overshadowed by its more famous neighbor.

Kahuna Falls in Akaka Falls State Park on Hawaii Island
Kahuna Falls can only be seen in profile and is somewhat hidden by vegetation

The trail offers only a profile view of Kahuna Falls, not a full-on view. And sadly, vegetation obscures quite a bit of Kahuna Falls, so you only get a decent view if the waterfall is really flowing well, after rains.

If you plan to book a helicopter tour of the Big Island, many tours include Kahuna Falls and Akaka Falls in the flight. From the air, you get a nice full-on view over Kahuna Falls!

Admire Akaka Falls

Continuing on the trail, in another 800 feet or so you arrive at the main attraction in the park, the 442-foot Akaka Falls.

You can see Akaka Falls from several points along the trail, which ends at the designated viewing area for the famous waterfall.

Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii
Akaka Falls!

Akaka Falls is an impressive free-falling waterfall that tumbles straight into a gorge below. It is framed by lush green vegetation for a picture-postcard appearance.

From the viewing area, you can view the falls full-on, and hear the water roar.

It’s a great place to snap lots of photos of Akaka Falls, and pose for photos against the backdrop of the beautiful waterfall!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Observe the rainforest vegetation

Plant lovers will enjoy all the varieties of tropical plants and trees you see on the Akaka Falls Trail.

Flora and fauna on the Akaka Falls Trail on the Big Island, Hawaii
Flora and fauna on the Akaka Falls Trail

The park contains hundreds of varieties of plants, including many that are endemic to Hawaii.

Look for the ohia lehua tree, one of the best known native Hawaiian plants, with its beautiful red flowers!

You will pass groves of towering stalks of bamboo, ti plants, wild orchids in different colors, different types of ferns, heliconia, torch gingers with their showy flowers, hibiscus, ohelo, and clinging vines.

You will want to stop and observe the plants and flowers you see, and snap photos, so allow plenty of time.

Look for birds and learn about the wildlife

The streams in Akaka Falls State Park are home to the endemic Hawaiian goby fish.

These fish, known as o’opu are remarkable in that they can climb to the top of the waterfall when it’s spawning season!

There’s also a variety of shrimp, the ‘opae’kala’ole, that can jump the incredibly tall waterfall.

Several dozen species of birds, including Hawaiian birds, have been observed in Akaka Falls State Park.

Avid birders should definitely bring a pair of good binoculars and a zoom lens — we love this little camera with a 30X zoom lens you can keep in your pocket.

You will very likely see the common mynah and the zebra dove, but also keep your eyes peeled for Hawaii amakihi, i’iwi, ‘apapane, and elepaio, and seabirds such as the red-footed booby and the white-tailed tropicbird.

The Hawaii elepaio
The Hawaii elepaio can be hard to spot!
The'apapane Hawaiian honeycreeper
The ‘apapane and the i’iwi are bright red birds

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Getting to ‘Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park is located along the scenic Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island, at the end of Akaka Falls Road, or Highway 220 (see map). The park is about 3.3 miles west of Honomu.

Most people arrive at the park from Hilo, on the windward side of the Big Island.

From Hilo, the driving distance to Akaka Falls State Park is 15.1 miles, and it will take you about 25 minutes in normal traffic (map).

If you choose to visit from Kona, on the leeward side of the Big Island, the drive is a little over 86 miles, and it will take you an hour and 50 minutes in normal traffic (map).

Planning to base on the Kona coast on the Big Island and do not want to rent a car? Consider this very popular Big Island excursion that includes Akaka Falls and many other must-see Big Island attractions!

>> Check pricing and availability for this Big Island in a Day tour!

Sign for Akaka Falls State Park near Hilo, Hawaii
Akaka Falls State Park sign

Akaka Falls State Park Hours

‘Akaka Falls State Park is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Plan to arrive by 4.15 p.m. at the latest so you can park, complete the loop trail, and leave before closing time. Gates to the parking lot close at 5.00 p.m.!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Akaka Falls State Park Admission Fees

Akaka Falls State Park charges an entry fee and parking fee for visitors that are not residents of Hawaii.

The entry fee is $5.00 per person. Kids 3 and under are free.

The parking fee is $10.00 per standard vehicle for non-residents if you park in the parking lot.

Residents of Hawaii enter free and park free with a valid Hawaii license or state ID.

Only credit cards are accepted for payment.

Flowers in bloom at Akaka Falls State Park in Hawaii
Flowering plants at Akaka Falls State Park

Are reservations required for Akaka Falls State Park on Hawaii Island?

No, at the time of writing, reservations are not required for Akaka Falls State Park.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

The Best Time to Visit Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park is open year-round, so any time you visit Hilo or the windward side of the Big Island is a good time to visit Akaka Falls State Park.

The vegetation is lush year round, but if you visit after rains, you will be able to see moe of Kahuna Falls. Akaka Falls always looks impressive.

Small cascades on the Akaka Falls Trail in Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
Small picturesque cascades on the Akaka Falls Trail

As far as time of day, mornings after the sun is up are better from a light perspective because the falls are lit up at that time.

When sunlight hits the mists at the base of the falls, you may be lucky enough to see a rainbow!

But if you cannot make it in the morning, don’t sweat it: you will be in awe of Akaka Falls no matter the time of day.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Tips for Visiting ‘Akaka Falls State Park

Pay for parking and entrance online in advance

Cell service at Akaka Falls State Park is minimal to non-existent.

If you know your visit date in advance, the park recommends making payment online ahead of your visit.

Visit in the morning for lower crowds

Akaka Falls is a very popular Big Island attraction and the relatively easy-to-walk waterfall hike can get congested during the day.

Visit in the morning for a more secluded experience. Plus, the light is better in the morning!

Rainbow in the mist at Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii
You may see a rainbow in the mist at Akaka Falls!

Bring rain gear

Rain gear is a must when you visit Akaka Falls! This area of the Big Island receives 84 inches of rain annually: that’s why the vegetation is so lush.

We always carry lightweight ponchos or rain jackets in our backpacks or daybags when we go sightseeing in Hawaii.

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Carry an adequate supply of drinking water

The park does have a water fountain, so you can bring your refillable water bottle, or bring a supply of drinking water to carry you through your hike.

Bring cash for the fruit stand (Mana’s Aloha Fruit Stand)

Mana’s Aloha Fruit Stand is located along Highway 220 just before you arrive at Akaka Falls State Park (see map).

Stop for fresh coconut water, sugar cane pieces to chew, mango bread, piña coladas, fresh pineapple, and more.

The coconuts are a bit pricey (at $10 apiece), but it’s fun to watch it being prepared for you to drink! Afterwards, they will cut the coconut further so you can eat the tender meat.

Bring cash, because they do not accept credit cards!

Akaka Falls plunging into the stream-eroded gorge below, Big Island, Hawaii
Akaka Falls plunging into the stream-eroded gorge below!

Do not leave any personal items visible in your car

As a matter of habit, it is wise to stow all personal belongings in the trunk of your car such that nothing is visible.

This will help minimize the potential of a car break-in while you are on vacation!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Do not bring pets to Akaka Falls State Park

Dogs are not allowed in Akaka Falls State Park!

Wear proper shoes

Although the trail is paved, it can be wet after rain, and the steps can be slippery.

Wear walking shoes with good grip that you do not mind getting wet.

We love our Teva sandals (women’s/men’s on Amazon). We also use Keen sandals, another great option for this tour (women’s/men’s on Amazon).

Wear sun protection

Sun protection is a must when spending time outdoors in Hawaii!

Wear a sun hat with a broad brim (men’s/women’s on Amazon). Lather on the sunscreen (and use a reef safe brand!). Wear sunshades and a lip balm with SPF.

Walking the trail in Akaka Falls State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
The Akaka Falls Trail offers views of the waterfall!

And bug spray!

You are going to be hiking through dense rainforest. Bring bug spray or bug wipes to minimize the chance of bites!

>> Book an exciting, 5-star rated, highly popular, Big Island tour now!

Don’t expect cell service

There is little to no cell service at Akaka Falls State park, so download maps, brochures, and bird or plant guides before your visit!

Visit the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden nearby

The stunning Hamakua Coast of the Big Island offers many other attractions.

Plant and waterfall lovers will want to consider a visit to the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve & Garden near Akaka Falls State Park.

The well-designed garden features a variety of tropical plants and paths allow you to wander. Bridges over streams and waterfalls and views of Onomea Bay add to the allure.

Gecko on a torch blossom in Akaka Falls State Park, Big island, Hawaii
A gecko on a torch blossom in Akaka Falls State Park

Waterfall Safety

Waterfalls can be exciting, but safety is paramount. Always carefully assess conditions on the day of your visit.

  • Heed all warning signs.
  • Remember that flash flooding can occur with very little or no warning, even if it isn’t raining or stormy where you are.
  • Waterfalls, streams, and other water bodies may not be safe for swimming. The water may not be safe to drink.
  • Always stay on designated trails. Expect muddy and slippery conditions.

The Best Big Island Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Big Island tours yet?

Guided snorkeling with manta rays at night, a bucket-list underwater Big Island adventure to watch the amazing manta rays up close. Sightings guaranteed or go again.

Big Island in a Day excursion from Kona or Waikaloa, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, ‘Akaka Falls, and the Waipi’o Valley Lookout!

Snorkeling historic Kealakekua Bay, one of the top snorkel spots on the Big Island. Look for dolphins en route (plus whales in season)! Don’t want to snorkel? Take a dinner cruise instead.

Sunset and stargazing at the summit of Mauna Kea, the highest point in all of Hawaii! Travel up and down in a luxury 4X4 van. Hooded parkas and gloves provided!

Thrilling zipline adventure over KoleKole Falls, a 7-line Hilo ziplining experience that allows you to soar over lush forest vegetation and the 250-foot waterfall!

Renting a Car on the Big island

Most visitors that travel to the Big Island choose to rent a car because the island is, well, BIG, and the Big Island must-see attractions are scattered around the island.

Depending on where you choose to base — Kona or Hilo are the main places visitors choose — you can pick up a rental car in either location.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kona car rentals or Hilo car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Kona car rentals now!

>> Check availability and prices on Hilo car rentals now!

Where to Stay on the Big Island

Kailua-Kona, on the sunnier leeward side of the Big Island, ands Hilo, on the lush windward side, are the main bases on Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island. Most visitors to the Big Island split their stay between these two places.

You will find the biggest choice of hotels and resorts in Kailua-Kona and Waikaloa, with both chains and boutiques, while Hilo has fewer hotels and inns.

The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort is an excellent choice if you are looking for a pristine beach out the front door. The Hilton Waikaloa Village is a great choice if you are traveling as a family.

The Mauna Lani on the Kohala Coast, just 40 minutes from Kailua-Kona, is a fabulous resort for a splurge. The SCP Hilo Hotel is the perfect base from which to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

You will find VRBO listings all over the island, especially in Kailua-Kona, Hilo, and Volcano (the base for travelers spending a night or more visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park).

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Volcano as well as in Kailua-Kona and Hilo and we’ve found the choice and quality great.

>> Look for a Big Island vacation rental on VRBO now!

Powerful Akaka Falls on the Big Island of Hawaii
Watching the power of Akaka Falls!

More Big Island Travel Inspiration

Planning a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii? Also known as Hawaii Island, the Big Island is home to some spectacular scenery and lots of activities.

Learn about the 4 national parks on the Big Island, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where you may be lucky enough to catch flowing lava!

Head to the southeast part of the island to admire Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, possibly the most striking of the Big Island’s black sand beaches, and read our guide to the rare green sand beach on the Big Island!

The state parks of the Big Island protect some of the island’s best treasures. A few miles north of Hilo, you will find Akaka Falls State Park, home to the 442-foot Akaka Falls.

Also on the scenic Hamakua Coast, stop to visit the lush and beautiful Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden, with its numerous varieties of tropical plants.

On the leeward side of the island, you’ll find many beautiful beaches. Must-visit Hapuna Beach is a picture-postcard tropical beach with its long stretch of white sand.

Kauna’oa Beach, also known as Mauna Kea Beach, is another white sand beach north of Kona you have to visit. It routinely makes the top 10 beaches in the USA list!

Part of the Kekahai Kai State Park, Manini’owali Beach is yet another stunning white sand beach on the Kohala Coast just north of Kailua-Kona.

South of Kailua Kona, you’ll find arguably the best snorkeling spot in all of Hawaii at the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay. Our guide to the best Captain Cook snorkeling tours will help you find the perfect tour for you!

Also on the South Kona Coast is Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, one of the Big Island’s national park sites that is historically and culturally significant. And, it’s very scenic!

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Discover how to visit the popular Akaka Falls State Park on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii (near Hilo). The 442-foot waterfall is one of the best and easiest waterfalls to visit on the Big Island.

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