Don’t Let the Rain Wash Out Your Trip to the Waterfalls Around Hilo


Rainbow Falls

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.

Braving the rain to see a few of the local sights

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.

Wai’ale Falls

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.

Rainbow Falls rushes by with added rain to keep it moving

Exploring up above Rainbow Falls

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.

No idea where one pot begins and one ends at Boiling Pots

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.

Enjoying the downpour at Boiling Pots

No cup needed to grab a refreshing drink

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.

Our motto today was “if you can’t escape the rain you might as well enjoy it.” 

The family takes advantage of a rare rain free minute at Rainbow Falls

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.


Recommended Posts
Showing 8 comments
  • Becca@R We There Yet Mom?

    So great that y’all still ventured out despite the rain – nothing more fun than seeing a toddler getting to enjoy the puddles!!!

    I love your way of describing the area too – it is as if I am there with you!!

    Thanks for linking up this week! I appreciate it!


  • Jessica

    Way to go making the best of the weather!

  • InACents

    We will be heading to the Big Island this summer, so we will try and add these to our list of places to see with kids. I am beginning to worry a week is not going to be enough time to see the whole island, but we shall see.

  • Sabrina

    These waterfalls look really, really strong. The water looks kind of brown/murky though. Nice pics!

  • InsideJourneys

    That’s a LOT of rainfall!

  • Sonja

    Gotta just make the best of it sometimes – and you did! I’m glad you walked around in a bulky poncho – I’ll tell my teenagers I’m not the only embarrassing mom. 🙂

  • Reply

    I’ve learned not to let a bit of rain keep us inside. We pack our poncho’s wherever we go! 🙂 The harder the rain and the wetter we get, the better the story is that my kids have to tell their friends later. 🙂 Would love to see those water falls one of these days. Beautiful. Even in the rain.

  • Steve

    I get a little concerned when a Seattle-ite is telling me a story about a large amount of rain. I love that Dek just doesn’t care how wet he gets though. Gotta be a whole lot easier than trying to keep him dry all the time.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.