Hiilawe Falls isn’t just high—it's higher than the highest elevation in seven U.S. states. Located in the back of historic Waipio Valley—a lush cleft in the Kohala mountainside where King Kamehameha was raised—Hiilawe Falls is a thin ribbon of white that plunges 1,450 feet, thereby making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the entire state of Hawaii. For all of the superlatives about its height, however, rarely is the waterfall very wide, since the river above the falls is diverted. Only after a heavy rain—which is fairly common in Waipio—will Hiilawe Falls swell to life to become a rushing torrent of water.
Accessing the base of the falls, however, requires passing over private land that isn’t accessible to visitors, so the best view you can get of the falls is from the road through Waipio Valley. Some travel publications encourage trespassing over the private land, but doing so has strained relations between valley residents and visitors.
To get an up close view of the famous falls, there are many Big Island helicopter tours that offer a bird's-eye view of the waterfall. Watch from above as millions of droplets free-fall their way toward the sea, and get a sense for Waipio's seclusion on this corner of the Kohala Coast.