There are many wonders and enigmas, out of the way and generally off the beaten track, on the Big Island of Hawaii that have garnered a lot of word-of-mouth popularity over the years; the Golden Ponds of Ke-awa-iki, hike to see the flowing lava and the weird, fabulous and storied colored sand beaches of the Big Island come immediately to mind. The almost folk-tale way in which traveler’s impart information to each other about these incredible places guarantee that serious errors in the nature and history of these places, or even errors in directions on how to get there, creep in to the accounts. It would be a shame to set your heart on seeing a place a friend told you that you just had to visit and not be able to find it, or not understand what it was you were seeing once you got there.
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So, now let’s talk about fabulous Rainbow Falls, in Hilo Hawaii.
Wailuku River Park and Rainbow Falls
The subject of recent and ancient legend, Rainbow Falls is the lovely emblem of Hilo town. The cave beneath Rainbow Falls is said to have been the home of Hina, mother of the demi-god Maui, who brought fire to mankind. It is also said to be the place where Kamehameha buried his father’s bones.
The characteristic wishbone shape of Rainbow falls is best seen at moderate river flows…too little water and only a single drizzle remains, too much runoff and the falls merge into a single, roaring flume. At any time, however, it’s a beautiful place and worthwhile to visit.
Waianuenue in Hawai’ian means “rainbow in waterfall”, and just about every village in Hawai’i large enough to have paved roads, has a “Waianuenue Street”. This particular waterfall was called “Waianuenue” by the ancient Hawai’ians, and remains the reigning queen of its namesake. A remarkable and lovely waterfall, the rainbows within it, which are the emblem of the state of Hawai’i, are best seen in the mid to late morning.
Follow the trail uphill and to the left along the river bank, through a banyan tree jungle and a dizzying perch at the top of the falls. Hiking a bit further leads to delightful swimming and wandering; please note, however, that swimming in rivers and near falling water is dangerous. Don’t go in if the current is swift or if recent rains have swollen the river.
One can follow the Wailuku River all the way to the Boiling Pots (be wary; footing can be muddy and treacherous, especially at times of high flow) and thence on up to Pe’epee Falls State Park, although conditions may dictate you leave the river canyon and follow the roads at some point.
It’s best to go early in the morning when the rainbows are visible (if it’s sunny) and before the big tour buses begin pulling in. Late afternoons the park can sometimes be over-run with unruly teenagers who may make the visitor feel uncomfortable. As with many parks in Hawaii, the facilities are run down and the restrooms are a disgrace but the scenery, the falls, the hike and the tropical malama aina are more than worth the effort to see this magical place.
To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.
All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.