Rainbow Falls in Hilo: Where Nature Paints the Sky

The magic of Rainbow Falls! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to witness nature painting the sky with its vibrant colors? Well, you don’t have to go far if you’re in Hilo, Hawaii. Right in the heart of the town, Rainbow Falls is a literal pot of gold—or shall I say, a spectrum of colors—at the end of a short trip.

A setting where the water gracefully cascades down an 80-foot drop, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. If you play your cards right, you might even get to see a rainbow arching across the misty air.

The Meaning Behind the Name

Names aren’t just words; they carry history, culture, and in this case, a good dose of natural beauty. In the Hawaiian language, Rainbow Falls is called “Waiānuenue,” which translates to “rainbow [seen in] water.”

Rainbow Falls Big Island Hawaii

You don’t need to be a linguist to see the poetic charm there! The name packs a double whammy, describing not just the falls but also the ethereal rainbows that frequent the misty area. Even more intriguing, according to Hawaiian legends, the lava cave behind the falls is believed to be the home of Hina, the ancient goddess of the moon.


Located on the beautiful Wailuku River, Rainbow Falls is a hop, skip, and a jump away from downtown Hilo. No long treks or perilous journeys. Just a quick ride, and you’re there, taking in the sights and sounds of this natural wonder.

Best Time to Visit

While the falls are a year-round attraction, the best time to maximize your chances of seeing a rainbow is early in the day. We’re talking “before-your-morning-coffee” early.

So, set that alarm and make it a point to be there maybe even before breakfast. Trust me, the sight you’ll witness will be worth the early rise. Plan to spend around 30 minutes to an hour to soak in the full experience.

Why Are The Rainbow Falls Called “The Rainbow Falls”?

Well, the answer isn’t shrouded in any deep mystery; it’s pure science and a pinch of perfect positioning. Rainbow Falls is east-facing, which means, for the best rainbows, you need to get there early in the morning when the sun rises from the east.

Rainbow Falls Hilo Hawaii

Now, how do these magical arches of color form? Rainbows are essentially the result of reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light in water droplets. The tiny droplets in the mist created by the cascading water work as perfect little prisms, splitting the sunlight into its beautiful spectrum.

So, while you won’t need rain to see these bows, you do need some good sunlight and a lot of misty droplets. And let’s not forget, the more water that’s flowing over the falls, the more impressive your rainbow will be. Though, even on a less water-abundant day, you can still witness this breathtaking phenomenon.

A Short Hike to the Top of the Rainbow Falls

A quick jaunt to the top of Rainbow Falls is a decision you won’t regret. It’s a short hike that packs a punch! The trail leads you through lush vegetation and colossal banyan trees, creating a sort of natural runway leading to the grand finale: a new perspective on the falls.

Ancient Banyan Trees

Just when you think you’ve soaked in all the beauty the place has to offer, you’ll come across an ancient banyan tree near the upper viewing area that’s sure to blow your mind. Enveloped in fig vines, this old-timer has numerous aerial prop roots sinking into the ground, making it look like it has multiple trunks.

Pe’epe’e Falls: A Nearby Gem

If you’re in the mood to stretch those legs a bit more, a short distance upstream will lead you to Pe’epe’e Falls. While Rainbow Falls usually steals the spotlight, Pe’epe’e is like the underrated opening act you end up loving.


With its blend of natural beauty, accessibility, and cultural significance, Rainbow Falls in Hilo is more than just a tourist attraction—it’s a memory waiting to be made. Whether you’re an early-riser catching rainbows, a photographer seeking the perfect shot, or a family looking for an outdoor adventure, Rainbow Falls has something for everyone.