About Onomea Falls
Onomea Falls is a cascading waterfall with multiple small tiers making for a nice little photo op.
As of our last visit in 2007, it was nestled in the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden on the 4-mile scenic drive through Onomea Bay. Although we found this waterfall to be both attractive and a reason for us to come, I thought the main draw of the garden was its impressive collection of tropical flora from around on the world as well as some exotic birds. Indeed, it looked like this garden was almost a world onto itself given its size and the various flora on display throughout.
I later read that Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden opened in 1984. But prior to that, it was a dense jungle when Dan Lutkenhouse purchased the land about 7 years earlier. During work to turn the jungle into a garden while providing bridges and footpaths, Lutkenhouse and company discovered the falls.
I recalled the walk to the waterfall was a few minutes going downhill then towards the left once we were deep into the garden. I’d imagine with the price of paid admission, that waterfall wouldn’t be the only thing you’d be seeing on a visit here so detailing walking directions for it won’t be necessary.
Deeper into the park on Alakahi Stream was a 10ft waterfall called Boulder Creek Falls. And true to its name, the diminutive falls tumbled into a boulder-filled stream.
From the Hwy 19 and Hwy 11 junction by the Hilo Airport in Hilo, take Hwy 19 (Mamahaloa Hwy) north. Just north of the 7-mile post, take the “Scenic Drive” turnoff on the right. Follow the narrow 4-mile Scenic Drive (Old Mamahaloa Way) for 1.5 miles to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden car park.
Shortly before the car park is an opening with good views of Onomea Bay and the collapsed Onomea Arch. The car park, registration, and gift shop are on the mauka side of the Scenic Drive. The garden entrance is on the makai side of the road.
To give you some geographical context, Hilo was 79 miles (under 2 hours drive) east of Kailua-Kona via the Saddle Road. Otherwise, taking the more conventional route along Hwy 19 through Waikoloa, Waikoloa Village, and Waimea, this drive would be 96 miles long taking over 2 hours.
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