Hamakua Coast, Big Island

The spectacular natural waterfalls, tropical fern forests, emerald fields, hiking trails and stunning ocean vistas along Highway 19 northwest of Hilo are referred to as the Hilo–Hamakua Heritage Coast a "4 mile scenic drive" on the ocean side.

On the northeastern side of Hawaii Island, just north of Hilo, lies the Hamakua Coast. With 84 inches of rainfall a year, this area is known for the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive, a road trip along the coastline that passes by lush tropical rainforests, waterfalls and lovely seaside views.

The Hamakua uplands were once a rich source for canoe wood and bird feathers for Native Hawaiians. During most of the 19th and 20th centuries, this area was covered with sugarcane. Today, communities that grew around these plantations can still be found along the coast where small farmers still grow kalo (taro), hearts of palm, vegetables and tropical fruit. Small towns like Honokaa also feature specialty shops and boutiques with their own local flavor.

As you drive along the scenic coast, you’ll see deep water-carved gulches and valleys, thick with tropical foliage. Stop and tour gardens full of exotic plants and orchids like the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and World Botanical Gardens, home to triple-tiered Umauma Falls. This area is also home to Akaka Falls, one the Hawaii Island’s most famous waterfalls. One look at the beauty of these waterfalls and you’ll understand why they are called wailele (leaping waters) in Hawaiian. The amazing Waipio Valley Lookout provides a panoramic reward at the northern end of your journey along the Hamakua Coast.

Map of Hawaii Big Island

Explore Big Island by region: HiloNorth KohalaKohala CoastKonaPunaKau.

Download Tour Map of Hawaii (Big Island)

Island Highlights

- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Home to Kilauea Volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
- Historic Kailua Village (Kailua-Kona): Lively, historic gathering place in the heart of Kona.
- Hilo: Home to botanical gardens, waterfalls and off-the-beaten-path local shops and restaurants.
- Waimea: Experience the cool uplands of paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country.
- Holualoa: Visit coffee country and taste why 100% Kona coffee is so famous.

Hamakua Heritage Corridor

Hamakua Coast

Take a memorable day trip along the Hamakua Coast and drive along sea cliffs, through lush valleys and tropical rainforests. The beautiful Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive begins in Hilo and ends at the Waipio Valley Lookout. Along the way you’ll explore old plantation towns, see amazing waterfalls and discover scenic detours along the way.

Begin your journey just north of Hilo by veering off Hawaii Belt Road to take the four-mile Onomea Scenic Drive. This lush detour features moss-laden bridges, coastal views of Onomea Bay and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden on the way. This renowned botanical garden features 2,000 species of tropical plants from around the world.

Location: Along the Hamakua Coast from Hilo to the Waipio Lookout.


Hanookaa Town

Honoka'a is an historic agricultural town from the days of sugarcane and cattle ranching. A stroll down the main street brings you to a number of quaint antique and memorabilia stores, local art and craftsman's shops, a homemade ice cream shop, four family restaurants, galleries and friendly people.

There are many old restored historic buildings including a 1930's movie theater. In Honoka'a you can get a taste of what Hawaii was like many years ago. Every Saturday morning there is a local Farmer's Market.

Location: Along the Hamakua Coast from Hilo to Honoka'a village.

Waipio Valley Lookout

Waipio Valley Lookout

The sacred Waipio Valley was the boyhood home of King Kamehameha I, and an important historical center for political and religious life in Hawaii. Not only is "The Valley of the Kings" an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, it's also a place of dramatic tropical island beauty.

This fertile valley is about one mile across and over five-miles deep, and surrounded by cliffs up to 2000-feet high. Waipio Valley was once the home of thousands of Native Hawaiians. Today, there are less than 100 residents living amongst the waterfalls, taro fields and rivers permeating the valley. Hawaii Island's tallest waterfall, Hiilawe Falls cascades down 1,300 feet in the back of Waipio.

You can view the valley from the coastal Waipio Valley Overlook at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive, or you can take a guided van tour, hike, or horseback ride to explore the hidden wonders within. Tour guides will happily share the stories and legends of this special place.

Location: On the northern Hamakua Coast at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive.

Kalopa State Park

Kolopa State park

Kalopa State Park is a wonderland of trails in native Hawaiian rain forest which retains its original indigenous species of plants, ferns and trees. There are many beautiful well-kept trails throughout the forest, from a 0.4 mile 10-minute walk to a 6-mile circumlocution of the entire park. Recreational camping is allowed and there are cabins for rent.

Location: Approximately 40 mi (64 km) northwest of Hilo, near the village of Honokaʻa.

Laupahoehoe Point

Laupahoehoe Point

Laupahoehoe Point has a County beach park, including picnic tables, showers, and quiet tide pools for bathing, as well as spectacular ocean views. You can stop for a moment at a monument to the dead to say a prayer for the residents who were washed into the ocean when a tidal wave hit Laupahoehoe Point many years ago, the giant waves rose to 56 feet above sea level (today there are modern tidal wave warning systems in place).

Location: On the northern Hamakua Coast (Highway 11) North of Hilo to beautiful Laupahoehoe Point Park.

‘Akaka Falls State Park

Akaka Falls State Park

Located along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, you can see two gorgeous waterfalls on one short hike. Venture on a self guided walk through lush tropical vegetation, rain forests to scenic vista points overlooking Kahuna Falls and ‘Akaka Falls, which plunges 442 feet into a gorge.

As you follow the paved footpath, you'll first see 100-foot Kahuna Falls. Continue to follow the loop around the bend, and you'll discover towering Akaka Falls which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps Hawaii Island's most famous waterfall. Easily accessible, this hike takes less than an hour.

Location: End of ‘Akaka Falls Road (Hwy. 220), 3.6 miles southwest of Honomū.

Popular Big Island Activities

Big Island Sunset Dinner Cruises Hawaii Big Island Sports Fishing Hawaii Big Island Golf Courses Hawaii Big Island Horseback Riding Hawaii Big Island Kayaking Adventure Hawaii Big Island Scuba Snuba Hawaii Big Island Surfing Hawaii Big Island Zipline Hawaii
Dinner Cruises Fishing Charters Golf Horseback Riding Kayaking Scuba & Snuba Surfing Zipline

Big Island Adventure Tours

Big Island ATV Tours Hawaii Big Island Dolphin Watching Tours Hawaii Big Island Eco Tours Hawaii Big Island Helicopter Tours Hawaii Big Island Land Tours Hawaii Big Island Sightseeing Tours Hawaii Big Island Volcano Tours Hawaii Big Island Whale Watching Tours Hawaii
ATV Tours Dolphin Tours Eco Tours Helicopter Tours Land Tours Sightseeing Volcano Tours Whale Watching

Memberships and Certification

 Hawaii Tourism Authority

Certified Hawaii Tourism Authority 'Destination Expert'.

A member of Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

 Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau

Acknowledgements & Credits


Leave your comment

Hawaii discount sunset dinner cruises
Hawaii discount culture events
Hawaii discount tours

Island Guides: Tips & Fun Things To Do