Waiale Falls is located on Big Island, near the east side of Piihonua Road, right next to the bridge. The hike to get to the waterfall takes about 10 minutes starting at the trailhead found right next to the street after the bridge.
Rainbow Falls and Peepee Falls only offer a lookout view, while Waiale Falls is one of the few waterfalls on the Big Island that you can swim in with the waterfall in the backdrop. It’s essential to note that the distance between the shore to the waterfall is much farther than it appears to be.
So we would recommend that only decent swimmers attempt to swim to it with a lot of caution as there are no lifeguards present.
Waiale Falls Hike
Bring a small tote bag to put your belongings inside to keep things dry when it rains. We also put our money and IDs in a ziplock bag to keep them dry since it was raining at the start of the hike. Wear tennis shoes or sandals with straps that have a good grip because the hike is very narrow and steep. If it’s rained recently, the trail can be quite muddy.
You can enter the hiking path from the street right by the bridge on the left side. You will see the sign down below that signals the start of the hike.
Shortly into the hike, you can choose between going straight or going to the left side of the path. If you want to go to the left, you will need to swim across semi-deep waters. Unless you’re not bringing any belongings or are tall enough to not get them wet, I would recommend you follow the path straight. The majority of the people follow this path instead of veering left.
As you hike across the path surrounded by grass on both sides, you will eventually reach the end of the hike at the river path. At this point in the river, the water is more shallow and there are a few small rocks that you can use as stepping stones. Here, we switched out our tennis shoes for flip-flops so they wouldn’t get wet before crossing the water to get to the other side of what is a small rocky island.
Beware of the water current when crossing. Although it may only reach a bit close to your ankles, it’s strong, and the rocks can be slippery when you step on them. Fortunately, it’s a very short crossing and takes at most 10-15 seconds.
When you get to the other side, you step on an island full of rocks where the river flows around it along with the waterfall connected to it. Walk a couple of feet toward the waterfall to see an amazing view of it.
There is one main waterfall which has most of the water dropping down and another waterfall on the left where you can see a skinny flow of water going down it.
The river water is quite calm and easy to swim in but a bit dark and not the most clear. There’s not much debris on the water either as it’s pretty clear of any branches or leaves. As you walk into the water from the shore, you will notice that it’s not too cold but it is rocky so be careful when you’re walking barefoot. Bring water shoes if you have them so that your feet don’t get cut when walking on the rocks. The water is shallow at the start but 10 to 15 feet in it get’s deep pretty fast.
You can also jump into the water from the cliffs right next to the waterfall. We saw several people jump off the short cliff. In order to get to the cliff, swim to the waterfall towards the left side. You will see some rocks that you can climb on and then walk to it. In the picture below, you can see where the people start to climb it.
As I mentioned, the distance to get to that area and the waterfall is farther than it seems. As I tried to swim there myself, I got tired midway and decided to turn back. Looking at the waterfall on the right side, you can also see a small cave structure. We weren’t brave enough to swim all the way out to it, but it looks like an interesting thing to check out. On that same side, there is also what appears to be a rope for people to swing off into the water.
In my opinion, Waiale Falls is one of the best waterfalls on the Big Island. It’s a wonderful and free place to visit if you want something more low-key without the tourist crowds that are found in Rainbow Falls or ‘Akaka Falls. It offers a short hike with a view and a reward at the end. Visitors can get close and comfortable to the waterfall by swimming near it unlike at other places.