Hawaii Adventure Series: Waterfalls and Gardens


I thought I would not be able to appreciate a modest 80 feet waterfall after seeing waterfalls that seemed to have started from the clouds in the Norwegian Fjords weeks before my trip to Hawaii. But I enjoyed the Rainbow Falls as much as I did the many waterfalls I saw in Norway. Perhaps, it was because of its accessibility. The Rainbow Falls are part of the Hawaii State Parks and Wailuku River, the longest river in Hawaii, and flow into a lava cave said to be the home of Hina, a Hawaiian goddess. It’s also called Waianuenue Falls which means “rainbow seen in the water”. It's said that a rainbow can be seen arching across the falls on a sunny morning. It was raining on and off during our visit, so we did not see a rainbow. But it was beautiful nonetheless. 

We planned on hiking the two and a half-mile route from our friend’s house, but because of the rain, we decided to drive and just walked the short trail to the viewpoint facing the waterfalls (there were a big drop and a tiny one on the side) and the trail alongside the waterfalls to the top. So I was able to follow the river flow as far as the eye or my camera lens could see. Also, the trail led to a jungle-like area with humungous Banyan trees that I was able to climb. 

A short drive from the Rainbow Falls, we found Pe’epe’e Falls or Boiling Pots, named because of the pools that look like pots of boiling water. 

The view was amazing that my friend and I were so excited to take pictures. So we followed the young men filming below the viewpoint. I did not realize that visitors aren’t allowed in that specific area. It was dangerous and we should not have gone outside the fence, below the viewing area.

There are a few waterfalls in Hilo. I noticed that every time we crossed a bridge, I would also see a waterfall. So watch out for a waterfall when crossing a bridge in Hilo.

Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Garden  

I’ve been to a few botanical gardens in my life, but I would put the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden at the top of my list for reason not only because of the exotic tropical plants and flowers but for its natural feature. It has natural waterfalls and it is bordered by the sea. Described as "A Garden in a Valley on the Ocean", the garden was founded by Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse in 1978. They spent six years hand-clearing the tropical jungle to create the winding trails and outstanding garden. They later purchased an additional twenty acres and donated the entire thirty-seven acres to Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden to preserve the natural beauty of Onomea Valley.  

From the road level, we walked down the boarded trail, enjoying the exotic flowers like the heliconias, bromeliad, and orchids (to name a few). As the boarded trail ended, we walked through trails named after plant groupings like Heliconia Trail, Torch Ginger Trail, and areas like the Fern Circle, Orchid Garden, Lily Lake,  Anthurium Corner, Palm Jungle, Monkey Trees down to the ocean.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden Photo Gallery

Hanging Heliconia

Ginger Flowers

Malay Rose (Origin: Malaysia)

Rose Grape (Origin: Philippines)

Crimson Medinilla (Origin: Philippines)


Spider Lily
Bat Plant Flower

The Orchid Garden


The Lily Lake
Lily Lake

Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Botanical Garden  

The Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Botanical Gardens are said to be the only tropical zoo in the United States.  We were invited by a local organization for lunch in the park so we had a little time to explore the whole zoo and garden. I saw some endangered animals like nene geese (Hawaii State bird), lemurs, spider monkeys and the most famous attraction in the park: the two Bengal tigers - one orange and one white.

I was also able to take pictures of the vireya gardens (varieties of tropical rhododendron), bamboo, orchids, and purple hibiscus. 


All photos by the author



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