Don’t Let the Rain Wash Out Your Trip to the Waterfalls Around Hilo
There is one thing you need to know about Hilo before you head down. It rains. A lot. There is no specific rainy season. You can’t avoid it by planning your visit around a certain month or time frame. Rain is just part of life when you live on the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii.
According to our guidebook, 70 inches of rain constitutes a draught on the east side. 70 inches! Now don’t freak out, get discouraged and cancel your trip. Like many tropical areas the rain can come and go within minutes. The north side might have showers while further south might have blue skies. Most days the rain came through while Dek was napping midday. The mornings were gorgeous and our evenings were still filled with exploration, burgers on the grill and long walks.
One morning, about halfway through our week on the east side, we woke up to rain. Lots of rain. We were staying in Kapoho just outside of Pahoa. Hilo was a 30-minute drive north. We figured we could head into Hilo to check out some waterfalls and hope the rain had already passed through. No such luck. Breakfast seemed like a good way to wait out the storm. We popped into Ken’s House of Pancakes. The parking lot was a swimming pool. I was so glad I was in flip-flops. I just waded through the water while Mike, who was stubbornly wearing sneakers, carried Dek to higher ground and went around. Inside we were freezing and soaked but soon warmed up with some hot coffee and French toast.
The rain started to let up. We waded back through the parking lot and headed north to the nearest waterfalls. I could see a little blue sky on the horizon. Surely some was headed our way.
Nope. Not so much. The rain went from drizzle to down pour off and on all morning. At least we had come prepared. We had plastic ponchos, courtesy of our rental house, and umbrellas stashed in the trunk. We drove past Wai’ale Falls, but there was no great place to stop, especially with the rain still pounding down. We backtracked to Rainbow Falls. It was still raining, but not in buckets at least. We suited up and headed over to the viewpoint. Dek liked the idea of the umbrella, but in the end he couldn’t be bothered with it. He preferred to get soaked, drink a little rainwater and splash in the mud.
We had the falls to ourselves for a few minutes before a tour bus pulled up. A stream of Asian tourists piled out, took their pictures and then piled back in. We headed up some washed out steps to get a view from the top while we waited for the crowd to thin out again.
Rain kept coming down off and on the rest of the morning. As soon as I would pull out my DSLR camera to get some good shots the rain would pick up again, causing me to stick it back under my clear, plastic poncho. Let’s just say there is nothing sexier than a pregnant woman with a plastic poncho on and bulky gear stashed underneath. I have never felt so stylish.
Our last stop on the waterfall tour that morning was Boiling Pots. We were a little confused when we pulled up because the parking lot gate was still closed. The visiting hours said it should be opened. Maybe the park manager thought no one would come because of the rain? We saw a car pulled to the side next to the gate so we followed suit. The walk to the falls wasn’t that far. If a cop or tow truck came by we would be able to flag them down.
Boiling Pots was supposed to have pools that poured one into the other. Daring swimmers could jump from one pool to the next (not recommended as it is quite dangerous). The rain had filled the pots to bursting. We had no idea where one pot began and another ended. A torrent of water rushed by as we just stood at the viewing station looking on. My brain was trying to process all the hydropower that this little waterfall could produce with so much rain.
Mike ran back to the car to grab his sandals. By this point his sneakers were useless. I hid out in the bathroom while Dek just rain around in the rain. Thank goodness for an extra change of dry clothes we had permanently stashed in the car during our trip.
The rain might have tried to take down our adventures that day, but we pushed through. Sure it would have been nice to see the waterfalls in the sun. You can actually see rainbows at Rainbow Falls in the morning. Would I have liked to see Boiling Pots at their usual speed? Of course.
We could have headed back up to the waterfalls on a clear day later in the week, but we chose not to. We had so many other spots to explore, swim through and hike. Just because our adventure hadn’t turned out as planned certainly didn’t make it any less worthwhile; it just showed us a different, slightly more soggy face of the island.
Know Before You Go
- Getting there: In Hilo take highway 19 north. Turn left on Waianuenue Ave. Rainbow Falls will be the first you see on your right, followed by Boiling Pots, Pe’epe’e Falls (we missed this) and Wai’ale Falls. They are much closer together than you might think so keep an eye out for signs.
- Admission to all waterfalls is free. Parking is also free.
- Morning is the best time to visit
- Boiling Pots and Rainbow Falls are common spots for car break ins. Stash your valuables before you go off and explore.
- Strollers are not useful at the falls. The walks aren’t far. Strap the baby in a carrier and let older ones stretch their legs.