Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park

Chasing Volcanoes and Waterfalls on Hawaii’s Big Island

Waterfalls and Hawaii go hand in hand. But on the Big Island, waterfalls have some hot competition, like a glowing volcano..

It’s almost an unfair comparison.

Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day and a popular night spot because of its “glow show” at the summit of Kīlauea. Anyone can get this view from the Jaggar Museum overlook within the park. Mere minutes from the parking lot, it’s something anyone can do with little effort.

As amazing as it is at night, be sure to go back in daylight when the glow is replaced by plumes of volcanic gas.

Daytime Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

The National Park Service and Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park are both celebrating 100 years in 2016, and it’s moments like volcano viewing that hopefully inspires folks to take advantage of our National Parks more often.

The $15 entrance fee per car to Hawai’I Volcanoes National Park is good for seven days.

Rainbow Falls

Now, about those waterfalls.

Along with four National Parks, the Big Island of Hawaii also has an incredible collection of state and county parks visitors should take advantage of – waterfalls included. Rainbow Falls, known for the rainbows that form in the midst, is just outside of downtown Hilo in Wailuku River State Park. It’s so easily accessible, the viewing platform is just steps from the parking lot.

Entrance to the park is free. There’s not even a parking fee.

Akaka Falls

Part of the beauty of the Hilo side of the Big Island or Hamakua Coast, is easy to get to waterfalls. At ‘Akaka Falls State Park, not only do you get two waterfalls, but you get a short, but scenic walk along a fragrant, lush trail.

Flower at Akaka Falls

Follow directions on the signs posted along the trail and Kahuna is the first falls you’ll see. At 100-feet Kahuna is impressive, but the walk saves the best for last. ‘Akaka Falls plunges more than 400 feet. The sound alone is spectacular.

The ‘Akaka Falls Loop Trail is located just off the parking lot. There are a number of stairs, but the footpath is paved, making it a fairly easy walk. Less than half-a-mile, you can easily do the loop in less than hour, probably 30 minutes if you don’t take as many pictures as I do.

There is a $5 entrance fee to ‘Akaka Falls State Park. The park is free for Hawaii residents.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company exterior

After chasing waterfalls and volcanoes, relax and enjoy a tasty change of vacation pace, at the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. A bit off the beaten path, this family run farm is worth a stop for lunch, afternoon tea, the farm tour or just to pick up some great Hawaiian gifts and souvenirs.

Hawaiian Vanilla Company was the first commercially grown vanilla in the United States, and the results are delicious. The farm tour is entertaining and informative and when you’re finished not only will you know vanilla comes from an orchid, but you have all the knowledge necessary to mix up your own vanilla extract at home.

Vanilla plants

Head Bean, (Not making the name up. It’s on his business card.) Jim Reddekopp Jr. runs entertaining and informative farm tours.

Before you set out, call and ask for directions. There are a few different roads you can take to reach the Hawaiian Vanilla Company. A couple are pretty curvy, almost Road to Hana-esque. They’ll help you find the straight, direct route.

Tight shot pure vanilla

There are a variety of tour options. The Vanilla Experience Lunch costs $39 per person, the Farm Tour is $25 and the Saturday Tea is $29.

Review and photos by Dana Rebmann. Her stay on the Big Island was hosted by the Hawai’i Visitors and Convention Bureau, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

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