Our travel companions set off to explore the Volcano today, maybe even a little lava walking? We had visited the park on a previous visit and opted instead for Hilo, a first for both of us. The new (to us) saddle road has made the trek much easier and faster so we planned to take the whole day to check out Hilo but our main focus was the botanical garden and waterfalls.
Crossing the island it instantly began to feel more like the “old” Hawaii, we were away from the resorts and throngs of tourists that have so totally changed the character of the islands, everyone under the spell of Hawaii, soaking up the sunshine and the mai tais.
We pass through some beautiful country as we climb over the island and Hilo turns out to be much larger than I imagined but it has a small town feel, I like it right away. We didn’t really do much more than drive through but if I ever return I think this would be the place to stay.
Our first stop was Rainbow Falls and after winding through a residential neighborhood on some very narrow roads we found it only because of directions on my phone’s mapping device. We never did see a sign to the falls so without the assist of GPS I don’t think we would have ever located it tucked away in the forest.
Pathway to Kahuna Falls
Next stop Akaka Falls where a paved path winds through lush tropical vegetation to first a view of Kahuna Falls, just a tiny peek through the overgrown trees and then onto the impressive Akaka Falls plunging 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge. The loop trail is an up and down affair but very doable.
Lush tropical vegetation lines the pathway around the falls, it was a beautiful walk.
Tummies grumbling we stopped for lunch near the falls in the little town of Honomu. Hilo Shark’s Coffee Shop, a funky little place, served up cold blended fruit smoothies rich with flavor and so refreshing after our steamy walk through the forest. We shared a scrumputous made to order sandwich and smoothie before tackling the large botanical garden. Great little eatery if you ever find yourself in Honomu.
Driving north from Hilo we found the large botanical garden, parked and headed across the street where a steep trail led us into a magical rain forest filled with blooming orchids of all colors, enormous leafed plants reminiscent of Jurassic Park. The nature trail crosses streams and passes several waterfalls as it meanders through the forest before dropping to the sea and a delightful ocean viewpoint. It would be easy to spend an entire day wandering the trails but we arrived late in the afternoon and had but 2 hours before closing so we felt a bit rushed.
What follows are just some of the flowers we saw – if you are not into flowers just stop here.