Its dripping wet!
We were in Hilo, Hawaii, and the rain was pouring down when we got up. That was not the worry, because it was just another day in Hilo, where it rains a lot, in fact, quite a lot, all of 140 inches a year. The place is wonderfully green.
We had plans to go to Akaka Falls State Park near Hilo, before we drive off to the Volcanoes National Park to the south of Big Island. R was feeling a bit under the weather, and decided that he is going to just sleep at the back of the car all the way. He was conserving his energy for seeing the volcanoes.
From highway 19, also called the Hawaii Belt Road, we took the left turn to Highway 220 about 8 miles north of Hilo. The road passes through a wonderful little town called Homomu, which looks every inch like a western town. Do check out Ed's Bakery there. It has some mean 'Molten Lava' passion-fruit (Lilikoi, in Hawaiian) jam that you must taste. Its great stuff!
The road to Akaka Falls goes through some old sugarcane plantations, in fact the only sugarcane plantations we saw in Big Island.
Akaka falls is in a majestic setting, like Hawaiian waterfalls are apt to be. Its a straight 442 feet drop, and is surrounded by a lush green rainforest. Its obvious that it rains a lot in that area, since even the rocks around the waterfall looked green! The rainforest had some exotic Hawaiian plants.
Its a very short hike to the viewing area, roughly at the same level as the top of waterfall, but across from it. You get a great view of the gorge into which the falls plunge, completely unobstructed. In Hawaiian, Akaka means a split, in this case a split in earth. Its obvious why its called so when you see the falls.
There were quite a few people there at the viewing area, so we did the usual touristy thing of asking someone to take a picture of us, and in return taking a picture of them.The picture actually came out fine (a lot of times it does not because of camera shake). Looks like M is attempting to push back my belly. Hmmm. Some gym days are in order, I guess. The great Hawaiian breakfast at the hotel has spoiled me no end!
Walking back through the rainforest, I caught sight of a set of trees, covered head to toe with overgrowth. Looked to me like a group of tree people reaching skyward. A hangover from watching the 'Lord of the Rings' over and over again, I suppose. Who can forget the memorable 'treebeard'?
On the way out, looking back from the top of the stairs, I saw a bunch of tourists (just like me) crossing a bridge. Didn't realize that there were these many tourists there. Akaka does get a lot of tourists, being close to Hilo, and being very accessible. Its also a very minimal hike to the falls and back, so its just the right kind of touristic place that you will possibly find captured in many digital cameras.
Overall, Akaka Falls is a must see, since it gives a very reasonably good idea about Hawaii rainforests, even if from a safe distance. For the more adventurous, I assume there are better hiking opportunities around the falls, though I could not find any signs of that in the Akaka Falls state park. I am sure intrepid hikers can find ways to get up close and personal with Akaka falls following some hidden trail, but that will have to wait for a later time!