North Hamakua Region Sights, Tours, & Information

Things to Do & Visitor Tips for the North Hamakua Coast on Big Island Hawaii

On the North Coast of the Big Island lies the Hamakua coast, one of the most beautiful stretches on the entire island.

Rainwater from the northern flanks of Mauna Kea along with snow from the summit of the great mountain flows down in countless streams along this part of the Big Island.

John Derrick
Published on: 08-07-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick
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The result is a mecca of stunning waterfalls and valleys. One such amazing falls is Akaka Falls and its surrounding State Park.

Sugar cane was the crop of choice once upon a time along this coast, but those times have ceased to exist today. Today this stretch of Hawaii is primarily used for transportation between the east and west sides of the island. The main belt Highway (Highway 19) runs along the coast as the fastest route between Hilo and Kailua-Kona. Highway 19 often flirts with its predecessor, the Old Mamalahoa Highway, on which some amazing places and views can be found. The popular Four Mile Scenic Route is one such route off the main highway.

Today the North (Hamakua) Coast begins at the entrance to Waipio Valley, at the end of the Kohala region, a once flourishing indigenous Hawaiian community, and ends at the outskirts of the Hilo region on the east side of the island. Certain portions also include connections to the Saddle Road region.

Hamakua Top 5 Things to Do

Best Things to See & Do in the North Hamakua Region

Laupahoehoe Point

#5 Rated in North Hamakua on the Big Island

Between the 28 and 27 mile markers turn makai (toward the ocean) onto Laupahoehoe Point Road. As you twist and turn through the thick jungle neighborhood and eventually reach the point where the ocean beats the shore, you will begin to understand the beauty that draws people to this area.

However, it was nature's force that claimed the lives of several children and adults during the April Fools Day Tsunami of 1946. The terrifying power of the ocean simply swept everything out of this area. Now, people live a respectful distance from the unpredictable sea. A monument now stands to honor those who perished.

There is also a park here with a pavilion, safe drinking water, and a boat ramp. The surf pounds this rocky coastline with great fury which is impressive to watch, but do not swim here.

Four Mile Scenic Route

#4 Rated in North Hamakua on the Big Island

Halfway between mile markers 8 and 7 on the Hawaii Belt Road, you will see a rather large sign that says "Scenic Drive." Turn makai (toward the ocean) onto Mamalahoa Highway and prepare for a curvy, gorgeous drive along Onomea Bay.

Several rustic one-lane bridges separate stretches of dense jungle foliage. Graceful hala trees display their splayed roots next to gigantic jungle ferns and orange African violets lay like polka dots on the road.

There are several unofficial pullouts along the way where you can get out and view streams partially shaded by massive palm trees. About one mile in you will begin to see flickers of Onomea Bay through the coastal plants. 

Waipio Valley Overlook

#3 Rated in North Hamakua on the Big Island

Waipi'o Valley is the largest and southernmost of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains.

Time and nature's elements have carved an unimaginably massive valley filled with deep green-encrusted cliffs cut by plunging waterfalls. Its floor is carpeted with forests and neatly formed taro patches interspersed with the homes of its few residents.

At the mouth of the valley, the ocean licks the mile-long black sand beach which is sliced in half by the river that is partially fed by the 1,200 ft. free-falling Hi'ilawe Falls which resides deep in the valley.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

#2 Rated in North Hamakua on the Big Island

This isn't a free attraction, but we still encourage all visitors to take some time and stop at one of the most beautiful botanical gardens you'll find anywhere: the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

This stunning rainforest preserve is touted as one of the most beautiful locations in Hawaii; a distinction it well deserves.

With the aid of the map provided by the garden, you will easily spend several hours ambling through the various sections of this magical lush wonderland. Every twist and turn leads to a new plant or tree.

Akaka Falls State Park

#1 Rated in North Hamakua on the Big Island

Akaka Falls State Park, along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, is home to two gorgeous waterfalls and an abundance of lush tropical greenery to delight visitors.

The stroll to reach Akaka Falls is almost as beautiful as the falls itself. After taking a short set of stairs, turn left and follow the paved pathway through amazing greenery and small waterfalls flowing into babbling streams.

You will hear the dull roar of the waterfall before you see it. Just as you round a corner, you'll catch a glimpse of Akaka Falls free-falling 442 ft. through a green-lined gorge.

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