Hilo and ‘Akaka Falls

07 March

Writing 2012.03.08.0820 Marriot Waikoloa Beach Resort

After spending some time in the morning catching up on the journal and Jonathan transferring his camera shots to the laptop, we drove off to Hilo at about 1030.

This graphic - taken from Wikipedia: Wikimeda Commons - comes from the US Geologic Survey, those folks we love to dial up when the earth starts to move here in California.

The point being that Hawai‘i (and all the other islands in the chain) are made of volcanoes, in this case, five of them: Kohala the oldest, and Kilauea the youngest (not counting Lo‘ihi as it hasn't reached sea level yet).

It’s rather redundant to say the geography of Hawai‘i is defined by volcanoes, given the origin of the islands, but while driving, one is always travelling between and around them. These mountains are described as shield volcanoes for the broad expansiveness unlike conical stratovolcanoes (e.g. Mt. Shasta in California, Osorno in Chile). For driving, this rise is gentle enough that the roads don’t need much in the way of switchbacks, so it can be surprising how much rise and drop one covers driving these routes.

We drove to Hilo on Route 19, the Hawai‘i Belt Road on the north side of the island (between Kohala and Mauna Kea). The landscape started sparse and dry and got progressively greener and wetter as we drove east.

We arrived in Hilo at 1230, parked the car and went looking for lunch – settling in at Café Pesto on the main drag facing the waterfront. After a pleasant lunch (caramelized onion soup, turkey and spinach sandwich made with real turkey – dark meat!), we wandered through the Hilo Farmers Market. I picked up some homemade refrigerator magnets made by a ceramicist specializing in tile. We also ended up visiting the Pacific Tsunami Museum which has a number of interesting displays – Hilo has been devastated twice in the 1900’s by tsunamis.

Heading back to Waikoloa, we stopped at the Akaka Falls State Park. Both Jonathan and I took numerous photographs of the vegetation and stream. Jonathan commented that he could spend several more hours there with his camera.

Click on the images for a larger view and narrative.

A couple short clips of the falls

From various park signage:
The 0.4-mile loop trail provides a closer viewing of ‘Akaka Falls, the highest free-falling waterfall in Hawai‘i. From the top of the gulch, Kolekole Stream drops straight down 442 feet (135 meters) to the pool below. ‘Akaka Falls is twice the height of the more famous Niagara Falls.

Along the trail you can see Kahuna Falls, a cascading falls that drops 300 feet (100 meters) into Kolekole Stream. Kahuna Falls is about 0.3 miles downstream of ‘Akaka Falls and is best viewed from the lookout off the trail.

Free-falling vs. Cascading: Kolekole Stream has cut a deep narrow gorge into the basalt and ash of Mauna Kea making it an ideal site for waterfalls. The waterfalls in this section of Kolekole Stream offer a good comparison of the two main types of falls. As a free-falling waterfall, the water of ‘Akaka drops from the cliff edge to the plunge pool below as one continuous flow. Kahuna Falls and Uluhi Falls, both downstream of ‘Akaka Falls are cascading waterfalls. They drop down a series of pools before merging with Kolekole Stream.

Listen for the thundering sounds as the water crashes into the pool below. Look for rainbows as the sun strikes the misty water spray

Ua ka ua, kahe ka wai.
The rain rains, the water flows.

With a straight fall of 442 feet, ‘Akaka Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls located at the border of New York and Ontario, Canada. However, Niagara Falls is greater in width and has a higher volume of water.

Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest free-falling waterfall in the world. Water falls a distance of 3,212 feet over a steep face of basalt rock to the pool below.

The highest waterfall in the United States and one of the highest in the world is Waihīlau Falls on the island of Hawai‘i. This waterfall drops 2,600 feet to the floor of Waimanu Valley, past Waipi‘o Valley at the northern end of the Hāmākua Coast.

We decided that as a result of the luau being held at the resort (every Wednesday and Saturday), we would eat Italian at the Macaroni Grill just up the road from the resort. After we finished, we walked back to the resort where the luau was still in full-throat – easily and loudly heard from the lobby. As Jonathan said, it would have been unbearably loud seated in the luau itself.

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07 March
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updated 13 June 2015