The Waterfalling Estate is located on the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain, Hawai’i (aka the Big Island). It gets its nickname for also being the largest, with a total area nearly double all the other islands combined! The Big Island is also the largest island in the country, and 3rd in all of Polynesia, behind New Zealand’s two main islands. It is also incredibly diverse geographically, with all but 4 of the world’s climate zones represented.
This property is located on the northeastern slopes of mighty Mauna Kea—the world’s largest mountain when measured from its oceanic base, registering at over 33,000 feet. This lush region, referred to as the Hamakua Coast, is home to some of the most pristine scenery on the entire island, dotted by powerful waterfalls, massive sea cliffs, fertile valleys, and an array of botanical gardens.
The closest airport and major town is Hilo 30 minutes to the south. Hilo is the oldest city in the Hawaiian archipelago and will be your hub for creature comforts, with shopping centers, movie theaters, cafes, bars and ample restaurants.
If you’ve come to surf, there are few spots that consistently offer waves a short drive from your estate. Hakalau is the closest, easily accessible wave to the property, a river mouth 4 miles southeast. Kolekole is about a mile south down the road after that, and another popular river mouth. Finally, Honoli’i Beach Park, located just north of Hilo, is a fun reef that breaks frequently with different swell angles.
A couple of our favorite nearby attractions include ‘Akaka Falls State Park and the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, about 15 and 20 minutes away respectively. ‘Akaka falls features an easy .4 mile loop through a lush rainforest, with wild orchids, hanging ferns, and large bamboo groves, leading up to a stunning 442-foot waterfall.
The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden is located within a 40-acre valley and is a fabulous museum of living plants, being home to more than 2,000 different species. The H.T.B.G. is a scientific and educational non-profit, with a mission to serve as a nature preserve and sanctuary, a living seed bank, a study center for vegetation of the tropical world, and an advocate for tropical rainforests around the globe.
It’s worth repeating, this is a BIG island (nearly the size of Connecticut), and you’d be doing yourself a disservice staying on just this side of the island. In fact, our favorite beaches are all located at least 45 minutes away from the estate, so you’ll need a car, or better yet 4×4, to see all Hawai’i has to offer!
Speaking of beaches, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 here:
Waipi’o Black Sand Beach — about a 45-minute drive west, you’ll find the Waipi’o Valley lookout and trailhead. While the views are breathtaking from above, a trip to the valley floor and black sand beach is that much more magical. The drive is accessible by 4x4s only, and round-trip hike is about an hour with a moderately steep incline. Once you’ve made it down, observe the towering waterfalls both in the back of the valley and along the coast. You might even see some wild horses enjoying the pasture land and stream. The black sand is some of the finest and softest around, with water deep blue. This can be a great spot for surf, but be advised it can get dangerously large during the Winter season. All in all, this one of a kind location is a must see and represents the Big Island’s fertile beauty perfectly.
For a more relaxed and easily accessible beach, we recommend Kaunaoa (aka Mauna Kea Beach) about an hour west of Waterfalling. This pristine stretch of sand is about ¼ mile long and forms a near perfect crescent. There’s a reef further out that protects the bay from huge surf, making it great for snorkeling, swimming, and kids.
The next bay south is Hapuna Beach and is just as nice. It’s nearly ½ mile long, with powdery white sand and calm conditions for snorkeling and swimming. There’s also a nice sized pavilion with picnic tables and plenty of grass, so this a perfect spot to bring your own lunch.
Focusing on the south side of the island, are two beaches that may be far away, but very much must see. First is Punalu’u about an hour and 45 minutes south. This stunning black sand beach is lined by coconut palms and frequently visited by endangered Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) and hawksbill who like to bask in the warm sand. This coastline got its unique color when molten hot lava hit the water, exploded and then cooled. Note that during sunny days, the sand can be extra hot. Also, the current can be strong as well, so use caution if you’re a beginner.
At a bit over 2 hours away, our final must visit stretch of sand is perhaps the most remote beach on the entire island, Papakolea (aka Green Sand Beach). Located in South Point Park, on the southernmost tip of the island, is one of only four known green sand beaches in the world, getting its green hue from tiny olivine crystals. Again, this is not an easily accessible location. You either hike 5 miles (round trip) or a hire a local 4×4. Be prepared with lots of water!
Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (about 60 miles/1:50)
A must visit for conservationists and rare bird watchers, this refuge is almost 33,000 acres and home to endemic honeycreepers like the ‘Akepa, Akiapola’au, ‘Amakihi, and I’iwi, as well as birds of prey like the ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk) and Pueo (Hawaiian Owl). You are also immersed in some of the most spectacular native mountain rainforest left in the islands, thanks in part to over 400,000 koa, ohi’a, and other vegetation being planted during the ongoing reforestation program.