28-490 Kaakepa Street, Hawaii, HI, USA
Hamakua Coast Hawaii Reviews
Waterfalls and Rainforest Jan 12, 2011
Are you looking for a chance to experience the "real Hawaii"--without the throngs of tourists--in a quiet, relaxing atmosphere? If so, the Hamakua Coast on the northeast side of Hawaii's Big Island is a wonderful district explore. What makes the Hamakua Coast even better is that the majority of the best sights here are free! :-)
This portion of Hawaii's Big Island is located on the windward side of Mauna Kea, which means that it is delightfully tropical. Of course, that means this area is also prone to rain, so water resistant gear and an umbrella come highly recommended. I've been told that mosquito repellant is good idea as well. Although we did not encounter a single blood-sucker on our trip, rumor has it that the mosquitoes can be ferocious at times.
Some of the not to be missed sites on the Hamakua Coast include:
Akaka Falls: Located between mile markers 13 and 14 on Highway 19 is a rustic road that will take you to Akaka Falls. When you arrive, be certain to lock your vehicle, and then you have a choice of two paved, well-maintained trails to walk along. If you're in a hurry, take the trail to the left for a 5 minute walk through lush vegetation to Akaka Falls.
If you have a little more time to spare--which I highly recommend, because this place is gorgeous--the paved trail to the right will take you through a bamboo-filled forest to another waterfall before reaching Akaka Falls. The trail to the right is only a 20 minute stroll, but you will see so much more for a mere 15 extra minutes of your time.
Akaka Falls itself is stunningly beautiful, and quite impressive! Cut into a deep, circular gorge, the water free-falls for 420 feet before reaching the pool at the bottom. Feel free to linger here for awhile. There's plenty of room to stand, and a perfect overlook for photos.
Kolekole Beach Park: When returning from Akaka Falls, turn left on Highway 19. Just beyond the 14 mile mark (which will sneak up on you quickly), there is a rustic road on the left that leads to Kolekole Beach Park. This park seems to be one of the Big Island's hidden gems, and is a wonderful place to sit down to a picnic while enjoying the sounds of the pounding surf. On a hot day, get in touch with your inner child by grabbing the rope swing and splashing into the swimming hole just in front of a waterfall. If the surf is high, it's a great place to be transfixed by the large waves crashing on the shoreline just beyond the waterfall.
In fact, a particularly big wave made this place famous at one point. If you look at the mouth of the river before it enters the ocean, you'll notice a pair of girders with nothing attached to them. Those are the remnants of an old railroad bridge that was destroyed by the Great Tsunami of 1946, which actually originated in Alaska!
Waipi'o Valley: Continue along Highway 19 north until you encounter a road (Hwy 240?) that takes you to the town of Honoka'a. Feel free to stop for refreshments if necessary--this is your last chance--and then continue along this road for another 7 miles or so. Suddenly you will dead-end at the breathtakingly beautiful Waipi'o Valley. Parking can be a bit tricky on a busy day, and you may encounter a guard goat or two, with the purpose of preventing you from accidentally parking in someone's driveway.
Here, you'll find that the land drops almost a thousand feet into the valley below, before rising up again across the bay. You'll see a river entering the ocean directly in the middle of the valley, fields of taro, and a mile-long sand beach that is basically devoid of visitors. The scents of various tropical flowers waft in the breeze. Words cannot describe how amazing this place is!
In fact, the valley below is so removed from the rest of the island that those who choose to live there lack power, water, sewage, phones or any of the other basic amenities that we often take for granted. If you truly want a place to get away from it all, Waipi'o Valley is it!
In actuality, you can continue down into the valley along Waipi'o Road, but you'll be doing so at a 25% gradient. FYI: Waipi'o Road actually descends over 900 feet in less than a mile. That's a REALLY steep road. In fact, 4X4 (and a good engine) is an absolute MUST if you choose to take the literal plunge into the valley via motorized vehicle on your own. (You can also hire a ride or a horse if you choose.) Hiking down is another option, but be on the lookout for vehicles climbing and descending along the one-lane road as you trek along. Most visitors simply choose to enjoy the view from the top of the overlook. It is splendid.
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