After a relaxed lunch at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden I felt inspired to journey on and see what other gems might await me along route 19 on the Hamakua Coast.
Headed north towards Honoka'a, I crossed the first of a series of gorges that can only be described as breathtaking. One bridge after another, the highway follows the curve of the base of the mountainous landscape that makes up the foothills of Mauna Kea. To drive along this road and feel the presence of a 13796ft volcano was amazing. An unseen volcano hidden in cloud and vog on the left, and an expanse of ocean on the right created a profound setting for my road trip experience.
The road descended down a steep slope and curved around as it dipped into the impending valley. As I crossed the bridge I caught a glimpse of an enormous waterfall cascading to the river below. The highway curved back up again towards the ocean and the gentle roller-coaster-style adventure continued. Water-carved gulches and valleys, thick with tropical foliage, lay nestled in the deep folds of the mountain.
I spotted the sign for Akaka Falls and decided to take a look. I took route 220 and followed Akaka Falls road through the sweet town of Honomu - its main street lined with wooden buildings that house cafes, antique shops and souvenir shops. Colorful batik sarongs swayed in the breeze like welcoming flags. Life In Honomu is rural and slow-paced. This fitted perfectly with the theme of my day. Two mammoth banyan trees were overhanging the street just south of the junction for Akaka Falls. I drove through the tree archway that appeared to be a gateway. This seemed to represent entering into another part of the terrain that holds another aspect of the unique and sacred beauty that is Hawaii. It felt like a privilege to be able to experience this land in its variety of forms and landscapes.
It was with a feeling of respect for the place that I approached the Akaka Falls State Park. The half-mile rainforest loop is thick with huge philodendrons, fragrant ginger, ti plants, dangling heliconia and gigantic bamboo. I enjoyed a moment of silence awash with the gentle sound of a nearby flowing stream as the path descended into a more shaded part of the forest. The roar of the main waterfall could be heard in close proximity. Not only is it just a short walk to view Akaka Falls, it is also incredibly impressive with its magnitude. With a straight fall of 442 feet, Akaka Falls is twice the height of Niagara Falls. I stood and gazed into the rushing white water dropping into the immense valley below. The roar of the falls seemed to soothe my mind and for a long moment I experienced emptiness and spaciousness. "Ua ka ua, ka'he ka wai - The rain rains, the water flows" - says the sign in front of the falls. That about sums it up. Simplicity and grandeur - nature at its best.