Day 3 – Our Trip To Hilo And Akaka Falls

On our third day on the Big Island of Hawaii, we decided to head over to the east side of the island. We had been to places on the West and North coast of the island on Day 1 and Day 2. It was time to head East. We wanted to visit the town of Hilo, the largest settlement on the island. To get there, we traveled down Ali’i Drive, but instead of turning left on Highway 19, we continued on straight, going up through Palani Road, a road that would take us up through the Honuaʻula Forest Reserve. After having just left the resort, we were heading up in elevation, passing by what looked like grasslands, and soon losing our view of the ocean to the left.

Also known as Highway 190 or the Mamalahoa Highway, this continued north for several miles until it started to veer to the Northeast. The landscape dramatically changed again, giving way to the unique views of Pu’u wa’a wa’a Cinder Cone State Park near Hualalai mountain, the third-largest of the five active shield volcanoes on the island.

We came to a point where we could continue going north east on the highway which would take us to Waimea, but we instead turned right heading south down the Daniel K. Inouye Highway. After passing the Ka‘ohe Game Management Area, the road changed again to what is called Saddle Road, and we could clearly see Mauna Kea off in the distance to our left. At the top (a place we could not access with a rental car) are some of the best telescopes in the world at the 13,000 feet in elevation.

Observatories On Mauna Kea
Credit: Institute For Astronomy – University Of Hawaii

We were ascending in elevation, and would soon pass by the Mauna Kea access road. There is a Visitor Information Station at the 9200 foot level. I had been there once before, but had never been to the very top to see the observatories. We continued our drive, following the road all the way to Hilo.

Hilo Hawaii

Hilo is actually a very big town, especially in comparison to Kailua. It is where the University of Hawaii at Hilo is located. Students that are interested in pursuing a career in astronomy often attend, giving them access to some of the observatories at the top of Mauna Kea. On this side of the island, there is a significant amount of rainfall. As a result of that, there are a multitude of different botanical gardens and waterfalls that you can see. We arrived at Hilo around 10 AM. We had purchased tickets to go on the KapoKine Adventures Zipline.

This is actually the longest zipline on the Big Island, taking you across four different areas, one of which goes directly over a beautiful waterfall.

We could see Kilauea smoldering smoking in the distance. It was a beautiful clear day, perfect for this type of activity. Once we were done, we headed up the coast to visit Akaka Falls State Park.

Akaka Falls State Park

After KapoKine Adventures Zipline drove us back down the hill to Hilo, we headed north on Highway 19 and had lunch at What’s Shakin in Pepeekeo.

We then headed north, going up Highway 19 once again, passing the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and continued on up to Akaka Falls State Park.

I had actually wanted to show my girls UmaUma Falls, the first waterfall that I ever saw on the island. However, I once we were done at Akaka Falls, I thought I had missed the turnoff earlier, and we drove past it heading north up the coast. We headed up around the top of the island, going past Highway 240 at the turnoff in Honokaa. It was already getting dark, but if we had had the time, we could have drove up that road to yet another dead-end (like we did yesterday on our hike to Polulu Beach), which would have taken us to Waipiʻo Valley Lookout. We kept following Highway 19 until we arrived at Waimea where we ate out one of the local restaurants. From there we headed south on Highway 190, passing through what looked like California farmland. We continued past the Saddle Road turnoff to the left, and the Wailkoloa Road to the right, bringing us all the way back to Kailua and our resort.

This was quite a long day, having driven to the other side of the island with a full load of activities. We had dinner inside, cooking it in our kitchen, and then headed to bed so we could be fully rested for our fourth day in Hawaii.