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Hiilawe Falls

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 20.0964 N 155.5962 W
No:544        (list of all attractions)
Values:Geology, Visual
Address:Oceania, United States, Hawaii, near the north-eastern coast (Kohala Coast) of Hawaii Big Island, in Waipio Valley
Alternate names:Hi'ilawe Falls
Height:442 m
Highest drop:366 m
Width:˜ 15 m
Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley, Hawaii
Lower part of Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley / Paul Hirst, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

One of the most spectacular waterfalls in Hawaii is Hiilawe Waterfall - spectacular 442 m tall waterfall majestically sliding down along the steep cliff.

Hiilawe Waterfall in Waipio Valley, Hawaii
Hiilawe Waterfall / Les Williams, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0


Hiilave waterfall is very tall, nearly vertical waterfall. It has smaller upper drop and giant, 366 m tall lower drop.

Thanks to the fertile soil and almost never ending rain the walls and bed of Waipio Valley are covered with rainforest thus making the scenery even more beautiful. Unfortunately for most part of the year the valley is hidden in clouds and fog.

Near Hiilawe waterfall is another, much smaller waterfall - Hakaloa Falls - which for most time is dry.

In order to access the base of falls one should cross private property. This is allowed only with guides who have appropriate permission.

Man made changes

Local sugar company changed the local hydrography in 1989. There was made a ditch which diverted the stream of Hakaloa Falls to Hiilawe Falls. Unfortunately due to dams the stream of both former falls became weaker and as a result now Hakaloa Falls are dry for most part of the year and Hiilawe Falls also seem to be weaker than before. Nowadays these dams and ditches seem to be less needed but no one thus far has restored the original situation.

Hiilawe Waterfall in Waipio Valley, Hawaii
Hiilawe Waterfall / Image from 1880, Hawaii State Archives, Wikimedia Commons / public domain


Most places in Hawaii have their own legends but Waipio Valley in this respect is a special place. It is known also as the Valley of the Kings - here was raised King Kamehameha I and other local kings before him. During the times of Kamehameha this valley was declared to be a place with special spiritual power. According to local beliefs people who live in this valley will not experience bad events during their life.

Nevertheless according to local legends the waterfall was created through bad events. Once upon a time a young couple - Hiilawe and Kakalaoa were hiding in this valley from god Lono who wanted to separate them during his search for Hiilave - his intended bride. Young people decided that they will stay together forever: Hiilawe turned into a giant waterfall but Kakaloa - into an enormous boulder next to the base of falls. Hiilave is permanently weeping its tears on Kakaloa.

Another legend tells that the name of waterfall is taken from the name of local chief Hiilawe. As Hiilawe was dying, his body turned into a large boulder but his spirit was turned into the waterfall and its mist. The mist keeps an eye on the people living in Waipio Valley.

Well, there are other creepy legends - for example about night marchers - ghosts of ancient warriors marching through the valley in some nights. That's how it is in Hawaii - land of legends.


See Hiilawe Falls on the map of Hawaii!


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