For many travelers to Hawaii, a visit to a breathtaking waterfall tops the list of experiences that make for a memorable vacation. Because the islands were formed by volcanic eruptions and now have dramatic mountain ranges with periods of heavy rain, the 50th state is the ideal place to see these natural wonders. Many of Hawaii’s waterfalls are easily accessible, with some offering a chance for a refreshing swim in spectacular tropical surroundings.
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1) Akaka Falls (Big Island)
About 11 miles north of Hilo on the Big Island’s famed Hamakua Coast, Akaka State Park provides an opportunity to follow a 0.4-mile loop to a stunning 442-foot waterfall. An admission fee of $5 per car covers parking, use of the restrooms and water fountains, and access to the paved path (which is not strenuous but does include stairs). The path winds its way through verdant rainforest with bamboo and wild orchids, to a mighty display of nature.
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2) Waimoku Falls (Maui)
On the lush east side of Maui just south of the magical Hana region, hikers will find the Pipiwai Trailhead across the road from the Kipahulu parking lot at Haleakala National Park. The well-maintained trail, nearly two miles in each direction, meanders alongside the Pipiwai Stream for an elevation gain of around 650 feet. The 200-foot Makahiku Falls appear just over half a mile into the hike, followed by a huge banyan tree, an otherworldly bamboo forest, and finally the powerful, awe-inspiring 400-foot Waimoku Falls.
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3) Uluwehi Falls (Kauai)
Also known as Secret Falls, the 100-foot-tall Uluwehi Falls are fed by a stream from Mount Waialeale, one of the wettest places on Earth. Guided tours (through companies such as Kayak Kauai or Outfitters Kauai) typically involve a 45-minute kayaking trip down the Wailua River, followed by a 20-minute hike through the Wailua River Valley rainforest. The journey features distant views of Nounou Mountain (generally referred to as Sleeping Giant), access to Kamokila Hawaiian Village and Fern Grotto, and the option of swimming in the cool waters of the pool below the falls.
4) Waimea Falls (Oahu)
Those traveling to Oahu’s North Shore may wish to take a leisurely, fairly flat 1.5-mile-round-trip stroll through Waimea Valley’s lovely botanical gardens. A 45-foot-tall waterfall awaits, cascading into a 30-foot-deep pool where many visitors opt to take a dip. Changing rooms, a lifeguard, a shower, and a visitors’ center with food and beverages make this one of the Aloha State’s more family-friendly adventures.