Rainbows rank close to sunsets on a visitor’s list of Hawaii must-sees. Their vibrant spectrum of colors light up the skies – as they bridge together sleepy towns – and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island. Rainbow Falls, however, is unlike any rainbow you’ll see. The waterfall’s mist reflects the morning sun and casts a dainty rainbow across the rushing Wailuku river. Be sure to arrive in the early morning for this spectacular view.
The cascading Rainbow Falls serenades a quiet Hilo town.
Located in Hilo on the Big Island, the 80-foot waterfall has become a popular stop for visitors because of its renowned beauty as well as its easy accessibility. You can practically see the waterfall from the parking lot. To get a closer view, some people climb the stone steps to the left (which may be slippery). But most are content with walking the short distance to the lookout on the right. Either way, visitors should enjoy the falls from afar at the designated viewing points to help preserve the vista.
Also known as Waianuenue, literally meaning “rainbow water,” the falls plunges into a deep pool below and creates a curtain over the natural lava cave with its rushing waters. Hawaiians believed the cave to be the mythological home of Hina, mother of demigod Maui. Don’t be disappointed if you show up after a heavy rain for the falls may look a bit brown in color. On the plus side, you’ll see it at its h3est as the water moves at a thunderous speed. Frequent Hilo rains nourish the lush forest surrounding the falls’ source of water, Wailuku river. The river itself is significant because, at 26 miles, it is the state’s longest river.
One of the nice things about Rainbow Falls is that it’s close to other waterfalls in the area. A couple of miles upriver, you’ll find Peepee Falls and Boiling Pots. During heavy rains, water from Peepee rushes below into an area of old lava rocks and lava tubes and appears to bubble up or boil as it makes its way downstream. Boiling Pots, as it has been named, can be very dangerous. Many people have drowned here due to the h3 undertow, so please be careful not to get too close. The other waterfall you’ll find nearby is Akaka Falls, which is said to be even more beautiful than the cascading Rainbow Falls and just as accessible. So if you got the time, take the full tour of one of the Big Island’s most beautiful areas.
RAINBOW FALLS • 967 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo, HI 96720 • Open daily during daylight hours • Free admission & parking