On the northeastern side of Hawaii Island, just north of Hilo, lies the Hamakua Coast. With 84 inches of rainfall a year, this area is known for the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive, a road trip along the coastline that passes by lush tropical rainforests, waterfalls and lovely seaside views.
The Hamakua uplands were once a rich source for canoe wood and bird feathers for Native Hawaiians. During most of the 19th and 20th centuries, this area was covered with sugarcane. Today, communities that grew around these plantations can still be found along the coast where small farmers still grow kalo (taro), hearts of palm, vegetables and tropical fruit. Small towns like Honokaa also feature specialty shops and boutiques with their own local flavor.
As you drive along the scenic coast, you’ll see deep water-carved gulches and valleys, thick with tropical foliage. Stop and tour gardens full of exotic plants and orchids like the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden and World Botanical Gardens, home to triple-tiered Umauma Falls. This area is also home to Akaka Falls, one the Hawaii Island’s most famous waterfalls. One look at the beauty of these waterfalls and you’ll understand why they are called wailele (leaping waters) in Hawaiian. The amazing Waipio Valley Lookout provides a panoramic reward at the northern end of your journey along the Hamakua Coast.