The East side of the Big Island seems like you are on a totally different island compared to the west side. You leave the bare, black lava rocks behind and find yourself driving along dense green vegetation. The slope is much steeper down to the ocean, and you are much higher in elevation. There is not many places along this drive that you can not see the ocean. This is truly a beautifully scenic drive.
If your driving south, before you get to Hilo, you will see a turnoff to go to Akaka Falls. This is a little side trip you won’t want to miss. About 4 or 5 miles into the countryside, be careful there is a one lane bridge on this narrow road, you will come to the Akaka Falls State Park. Since the first time I was there they set up a pay station, the cost is $5 if you park in the parking lot or $1 per/person if you park on the road. Even though it is an automated pay station, they have someone there watching.
This is a short “hike” to see two sets of falls. I put hike in quotations because it is really just a walk on sidewalk with lots of stairs. the path makes a loop and visits Kahuna Falls and the real attraction Akaka Falls.
When you start out down the steps I suggest to go to Kahuna Falls. This way you are able to save the larger falls for last. Kahuna Falls is around 100 ft. If you think this is amazing go back to the loop and continue on.
As you continue through the dense tropical vegetation you can start to hear the thunder of the falls. Then you get over a slight hill and you catch a glimpse of an amazing sight. Right there in front of you is Akaka Falls, at 492 feet it is really a stunning sight. Just for comparison Niagara Falls is around 175 feet high.
There is a zip line company that offers a zip line tour that takes you over the falls. I would have loved to do this, but we didn’t. Oh well, there’s always NEXT time.