ʻAkaka Falls State Park, Hawaii

‘Akaka Falls State Park is located on Hawaiʻi Island, in US state of Hawaii. The park, as the name suggests, has been named after the ʻAkaka Falls, which drop some 135m, for a stunning cascading view. The park is popular with visitors and tourists and has well travelled hiking trails which provide multiple views of the falls. The majority of the park contains the highland around the gorge into which the falls drop. 

Akaka Falls State Park
The majestic Akaka Falls on Kolekole Stream. 

The 'Akaka Falls themselves are part of the Kolekole Stream, which features a large stone some 21 meters upstream of the falls which is called Pōhaku o Kāloa. Also present in the park is the smaller Kahūnā Falls, which measures 91 meters in height.

Akaka Falls State Park
Tourists at the Akaka Falls waterfall trail in the 'Akaka Falls State Park. Editorial credit: Michael Gordon / Shutterstock.com

This waterfall is also visible from the hiking trail, increasing the popularity and impact of the hike. A 0.4 mile looping footpath allows for scenic vista views and exploration through the lush flora of the island, without too much strenuous activity or expert hiking knowledge.

Flora

Like much of Hawaii, the ‘Akaka Falls State Park is lush, green, and full of thriving vegetation. As it experiences a subtropical climate, where temperatures are warm year round, many plants thrive and grow big, beautiful flowers. Additionally, the soil in Hawaii is rich in volcanic ash, which is particularly fruitful for plant growth. These factors are the main reason behind Hawaii being so full of lush, dense vegetation and flora.

Akaka Falls State Park
Beautiful vegetation in Akaka Falls State Park. 

There are an estimated 2,600 different endemic plants in Hawaii, many of which can be found in the ‘Akaka Falls State Park. The two main types of trees here are the koa and 'ohi'a. Koa trees are thought to be the oldest trees on the islands, and are some of the largest in Hawaii. They measure on average 21 meters in height, and 3 meters around. 'Ohi'a are the most common trees on the islands, and the most common endemic species. These trees live in the higher elevations, and are distinct as they have small orange-red flowers. Different varieties range in size, with a maximum height of around 30 meters.

Other plants in and around these trees include vines, orchids, various ferns, Hawaiian ti plants, hibiscus, ohelo, and the endemic pua lehua, which is the official flower of the Big Island. Many of these species are also endemic to the Hawaiian islands, or in the Hawaiʻi Island specifically.

Wildlife

Akaka Falls State Park
Gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) on vivid red torch ginger blossom (Etlingera elatior) in Akaka Falls State Park. 

Within the river streams of ‘Akaka park lies an endemic Hawaiian species of goby fish. Found only in Hawaiʻi, the ʻoʻopu ʻalamoʻo spawns in the up river Kolekole stream, but spends much of its adult life in the ocean. These fish are both unique and impressive, as they are able to climb up the waterfall during spawning season by suctioning to the water rocks among the falls. This suction is a disk-like shape on their underbelly that helps them jump and stick to the rocks as they fight their way upstream. The goby fish is not the only creature that has learned to jump the falls, though. The ʻōpaekalaʻole shrimp can also climb the rocks, and spawn in the calmer waters above ‘Akaka Falls. 

Share