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Hawaii Travel Guide

Best Places to Visit - the Big Island's Northeast Coast

      Best Places to Visit on the Northeast Coast of the Big Island






Best Places to visit on the Big Island's northeast Coast 



Tsunamis are large, rapidly moving ocean waves triggered by a major disturbance of the ocean floor.  They are  usually caused by  earthquakes but  can be produced by  submarine landslides or a volcanic eruptions. Tsunamis have been referred to as "tidal waves," but they have no relation to tides.


Explore the Big Island

Intro to the Big Island
Volcanoes National Park

The Northeast Coast  - Hilo and Hamakua

Hawai'i's northeast coast from Hilo northwest through the Hamakua District  is the rainy side of the island .  The area's heavy precipitation combine with the island's warm temperatures to sustain  beautiful, lush, rainforest vegetation.  Over the last 70 million years, the rains have collected in natural depressions before gathering enough mass and  speed to find their way to sea level and a return to the ocean.  The pull of gravity and copious rainfall work to create gullies which eventually erode into deep valleys creating high cliffs, majestic waterfalls and scenic vistas in the process.

The impressive scenery from Hilo through Hamakua is revealed to those who drive the Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Coastline Drive. Known as Route 19 and also called the Hawai'i Belt Road.  The Heritage Drive  is approximately 50 miles long.  The road cavorts through spectacular ocean views, near majestic waterfalls and several  towns  that formerly served the needs of the area's large plantations.  The Hamakua District was once a sugar cane center, but those days are gone. The cane industry has moved to  lower cost producing areas, such as the Philippines.


The Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Coastline Drive ( a local effort to promote tourism) is marked with unique brown and white road signs that are recognizable due to their use of  an image of sugar cane tassel.  Each sign is used to mark of point of interest (scenic or historical) along the drive.

Hilo       Click to see temperature and rainfall by month for Hilo

Hilo is Hawai'i's second largest city (population approximately 42,000), but its  fortunes have fallen with the decline of the Sugar Cane industry on the Big Island.  Some  guidebooks use the terms funky or sleepy to describe Hilo but they are being kind. Compared to the rest of the Big Island,  the Hilo area has little to offer in the way of attractions, but is a good place to stay on a round-the-island tour.

Hilo sits in an area of the coast that is, unfortunately, prone to devastation by tsunamis. The geometry of its bay works to funnel waves towards the city and magnifies the effect of tsunamis.  The city was hit by tsunamis in 1946 and 1960. The 1946 episode was the result of an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, which generated a wave with a maximum height of 55 feet that killed over 170 people.  The 1960 tsunami originated in Chile and generated a wave 35 feet high, killing 69 in Hilo.

Head out of Hilo going north on route 19 to begin your tour of the wonders of the Hilo and Hamakua Districts.   The main attractions on this route are scenic views of one sort or another. In other words, if scenery is not on your list of enjoyables, you will probably not like the ride.

We recommend you stop at Akaka Falls State Park, which you will find at the end  of  the Akaka Falls Road (highway 220 - about 3.6 miles southwest of Honomū .   Yep, this is the home of the Kahuna Falls (that's the name), and the beautiful Akaka Falls that drop over 400 feet into a ravine.  The walk to see the falls requires a little effort and can be slippery when wet.


Eventually you will arrive at an old plantation village called Honokaa Town , which is considered the Gateway to the Waipio Valley.  Curiously Honokaa has two visitor centers. One is the  Hanokaa visitor Center that provides information on the area's attractions, while the Hamakua Heritage visitor center details the town and its past. From here you can head back to the Kohala area through Waimea (and the Parker Ranch ) or continue to the Waipio Valley.

The nearby Waipio Valley  is a waterfall heaven featuring  6 beautiful waterfalls . The valley starts  at a remarkable beach and is approximately a mile wide at its mouth.  Extending six miles inland, the valley narrows as it heads precipitously upslope to Mauna Kea.

Waipio Valley is  accessible only to  four-wheel drive vehicles but we do not recommend you try it, even if you are driving  one.  Instead, if you want to tour this area we recommend you arrange a tour. See the tour advertised below if you are interested.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.

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Coastline near Waipo Valley, Big Island, Hawaii Coastline near Waipio Valley


Akaka Falls in Akaka State Park, Big Island, Hawaii Akaka Falls in Akaka State Park















Kahuna Falls in Akaka State Park, Big Island, Hawaii Kahuna Falls in Akaka State Park




Note the waterfall on the cliff in the center of the photograph taken along the coast near Waipio Valley


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