North of Hilo Tour
Rainbow, Pe’epe’e and Wai’ale Falls, Old Mamalahoa HWY, Onomea Bay, ‘Akaka Falls, Laupahoehoe Point, Waipi’o Valley
4-8 hours, depending on your plans
Old Mamalahoa HWY: 1 hr
Pe’epe’e/ Wai’ale Falls: 30 min – 1hr
Akaka Falls: 30 min – 1hr
Waipi’o Valley: 2 hrs
Hilo – Waipi’o Valley, no stops: 50 miles (~ 80km), 1,5 hrs
Old Mamalahoa HWY: 4 miles (~6.5 km), 1 hr with stops
Hilo – Pepe Falls: 4 miles (~6.5km), 10 min
Hilo – Akaka Falls: 14.5 miles (~ 23km), 30 min
Kona – Hilo: 85/124 miles (~ 137/200km), 2 – 3 hrs
What to bring:
Comfy and sturdy shoes,
sunscreen, bug repellent,
snacks and water,
Getting here from Volcano/Puna:
Take HWY 11 from Volcano and Route 130 from Puna area and continue towards Hilo. Make a left at the end of the road onto HWY 19 and a left into Waianuenue Ave to get to the first stop.
Be aware that we are talking about 135/115 miles just getting to Hilo not including the tour itself! Take HWY19/11 South towards South Point and continue further to Volcano and then to Hilo. At the end of HWY 11 make a left onto HWY 19 and another left into Waianuenue Ave to reach the first stop.
Alternatively you can take HWY 190 North to Waimea, coming from Waikoloa resort cut over Waikoloa Road to 190 North. Turn sharp right onto HWY 200/Saddle Road. Follow Saddle Road towards Hilo and make a sharp left into Waianuenue Ave after milemarker 2.
Please note you can also just visit Waipio Valley only by taking HWY 19/190 to Waimea and further to Honokaa. From there make a left onto 240 towards the valley. 66 miles (~ 106km), 2 hrs
1st stop: Rainbow, Pe’epe’e and Wai’ale Falls
Just outside Hilo on Waianuenue Ave you come across three waterfalls. Within the Wailuku River State Park that imbeds an 18 miles long river you can see the Rainbow Falls from the parking lot. If you want to have different angles on these falls you can hike along the trail to your left. The 80 ft tall falls name is based on the rainbows that form in the morning sun in the falls’ mist.
Following the river flow upnorth you come to Boiling Pots, an area where water rushes so hard through lava rocks that it seems to bubble, and to Pe’epe’e Falls. The trail that leads to the falls is dangerous and only recommended if the river is not raging. Definitely take bug repellent with you since the local mosquitos won’t spare you here.
The next and last attraction along Waianuenue Ave is Wai’ale Falls. You can watch the falls from a bridge crossing the river.
Turn on Waianuenue Ave and drive back to make a left onto Bayfront HWY aka HWY 19 in Hilo.
2nd stop: Old Mamalahoa HWY, Onomea Bay
After about 4.6 miles on HWY 19 (around milemarker 7) you will see a sign at the road saying “Scenic drive”. Turn right into the next street to enter Old Mamalahoa HWY, a breathtaking scenic road along the shore and through wild rainforest. Many visitors compare this HWY and its surroundings with Eden. Especially Onomea Bay’s beauty will blow you away. It is located behind the Hawaiian Tropical Gardens on the right.
As soon you are able to turn away from the gorgeous vantage point continue North and stop one mile further at What’s Shakin. The small farm offers delicious smoothies that are so rich of fresh fruits that they replace a full meal. Take some time to stroll the grounds but not without applying bug repellent before. The mosquitos around the banana plants are quite aggressive and won’t spare you.
Besides the tasty smoothies the small shack offers banana bread and small snacks for lunch.
3rd stop: ‘Akaka Falls
At the end of Old Mamalahoa HWY you merge back onto HWY 19 around milemarker 11. Two miles later make a left onto HWY 22 to continue to ‘Akaka Falls. The falls are located in a State Park with a parking fee of $5 per car. Free and overflow parking is available on the road in front of the gate. From the official parking lot a stairwell descends to a path that furcates into a left and right side of a roundtrail.
Depending on your direction you first will pass the 450 ft high Akaka Falls and later the 100 ft high Kahuna Falls. The trail is lined with lush vegetation. It will take you about 15-25 minutes to see both falls.
Back on HWY 19 turn off left again behind milemarker 15 to continue first on Lepolino and then on another section of the Old Mamalahoa HWY. Following the road you will pass more falls and streams and drive along vine-covered trees. Behind Waikaumalo Park you finally return to HWY 19.
4th stop: Laupahoehoe Point
Behind Laupahoehoe Town at milemarker 27 goes off a small road to the right that leads down to Laupahoehoe Point. The road opens scenic lookouts over sea cliffs and the rough and violent ocean. The area has a sad history since in the 1940’s a whole class was swept into the ocean during a field trip and tsunami. However, you can marvel at beautiful views taking this short detour.
5th stop: Waipi’o Valley
Coming to Honokaa stay left and continue on Route 240 to Waipi’o Valley. Prepare yourself for an outstanding view over the wild and lush valley towards the ocean.
Before the great tsunami in the 1940’s the remote area was populated with many Hawaiians. They cultivated vegetables and animals, which they lost because of the natural catastrophe and as a result left the area. In the 1960’s and 1970’s veterans and hippies returned to Waipi’o and still enjoy a life without TV’s, phones, water, power etc.
From the lookout you can start a hike down to the valley bottom and the black sand beach. It’s highly recommended to refrain from driving down the dirt road since it descends 1000 ft and is very steep. If you are not up for an exhausting workout by hiking the distance there are experienced companies offering roundtrips for $55-80. At the bottom you have the choice of heading to the right and the valley’s black sand beach and two beautiful waterfalls or to continue to the left towards the 1400 ft high Hi'ilawe Falls.
No matter if you hike or use the shuttle apply a lot of bug repellent beforehand.