Hilo: Where Water and Volcanic Features Meet Jan 14, 2011
If you like the convenience of a city, but also enjoy taking in as many natural features as you can, tropical Hilo is a wonderful place to visit. Some of the unique sites listed below are literally within the city limits, and the others are just beyond. The best part is that all of these places are free for the public to enjoy.
Rainbow Falls: In the city of Hilo, take Wainuenue Street to the one mile marker. Just beyond, bear right on Rainbow Drive and follow the signs to Rainbow Falls State Park. Walking just beyond the parking lot gives you a beautiful panoramic of Rainbow Falls. The falls are at their most distinctive during the Wailuku River's moderate water flow, but are well worth the stop regardless of conditions. If you'd like to witness a little bit of magic, visit the falls in the morning when the sun is behind you. You'll be in for a colorful treat.
After being mesmerized by the falls, a very brief hike to the left will get you closer to the action. You'll be shaded by impressive Banyan trees along the way. Climbing to the pool at the bottom of the falls is highly discouraged however--there is absolutely no safe way to do this. Rainbow Falls is actually the most accessible waterfall in the entire state of Hawaii.
Boiling Pots: If you continue along Rainbow Drive for an additional mile and a half, you will come to the Boiling Pots. These unusual bowl shaped depressions appear to boil when the water flow is heavy. In actuality, the water is churning up within the pots, giving the impression of a natural Jacuzzi. You can safely view this unique attraction from the overlook above. When the water flow is low and less dangerous, you can wander down among the boiling pots and see their beautiful azure color up close. You might even find tiny wildlife swimming within the pots.
Pe'ePe'e Falls: Just to the left of the Boiling Pots you'll find Pe'ePe'e Falls. (Note to those smirking right now: it's pronounced "peh-eh peh-eh", NOT "pee pee".) This graceful waterfall is best viewed from the Boiling Pots trail during low water flow. If you are feeling particularly daring, scramble over the rocks in the Wailuku River to gain the best view of all.
Banyan Drive: For a beautiful scenic drive right in the center of Hilo, Banyan Drive cannot be beat. Besides housing the majority of Hilo's hotels, Banyan Drive is shaded by Hilo's famous Banyan trees. Each one of the stately Banyan trees is named after someone famous.
Kaumana Cave: Looking for a way to cool off on a hot day? Located a few miles outside of Hilo on Kaumana Drive, you can explore a Kaumana Cave. This cave isn't an erosional feature in the traditional sense, but rather, a lava tube that brought Mauna Loa's lava to the edge of Hilo in 1881. On account of Hilo's rainy climate, this lava tube contrasts greatly with its famous counterpart, the Thurston Lava Tube. Here, the tube has oxidized to a bright rust color, and is covered with trees, ferns, and other green foilage.
A steep staircase takes you into the cool Kaumana Cave. Feel free to explore this unique geological feature, but bear in mind that it is not maintained like the Thurston Lava Tube, and cave-ins could occur at any time. Bring flashlights and plenty of extra batteries--you don't want to be stuck in a pitch-black, rocky cave when the light burns out.
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