Akaka Falls is a waterfall on the island of Oahu, in the U.S. state of Hawaii. At 165 feet (50m), it is one of the tallest waterfalls in Hawaii. The falls are located at the end of the Pali Highway, about 4 miles from Waimea. On its path to the sea, the waterfall drops over 17 separate tiers. Each tier has an average height of 40 feet (12m) with a total drop of 660 feet (200m). The falls can be reached by footpath or by road via the Pualii Trailhead. There is no access fee and the park is open all year long. In Hawaiian, akaka means “reddish” or “roseate”. This name stems from the appearance of the falls’ lower portions which were originally pink due to the presence of hemlock trees nearby. However, after decades of erosion, the hemlocks have been replaced by sandstone deposited during the Eocene Epoch.
Today, Oahu is home to the main hub of the Aloha State Park system, which manages almost 20 million acres across the entire state. Oahu’s share of this area is roughly 1,500 square miles or 25 percent of the entire state. The largest unit is Sand Island, which is accessible via the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge. This portion of shoreline measures approximately 375 miles from north to south, 230 miles from east to west, and 15 miles from north to southeast. The bridge also provides access to Hickam Air Force Base. Sand Island is made up of mostly beach grass and native wildflowers in an unspoiled natural habitat.
Amenities include beaches, bicycling paths, bird observation areas, boat ramps, campgrounds, canoe rentals, disc golf courses, dog training stations, equestrian trails, fitness facilities, hiking paths, picnic sites, playgrounds, parking lots, pavilions, volleyball courts, and watersports equipment. Visitors will find themselves within walking distance of numerous restaurants, shops, parks, and activities. Oahu’s North Shore includes Makena, Olokele, and Kahoolawe. All three of these places offer opportunities to snorkel, swim, surf, sail, and explore. Makena offers great waves for bodyboarding, while Olokele has a sandy beachfront with calm waters ideal for kids and novice swimmers.
Kahoolawe has several beaches including a popular spot known as Halaula Bay. This place is famous for being very crowded, especially on weekends. Accessibility for the disabled was assessed by the 2005 edition of the ADA Survey. Overall, Oahu’s accessibility score was determined to be 16/20, which puts it in the Mostly accessible category. Five of the seven assessment categories scored higher than 70%, which indicates a high level of accessibility. Areas of concern included stairs and pathways, toilets and bathrooms, vending machines and food services, and traffic signals and signage.
This epoch of geological time was called the “red earth period”, because the rock that forms the cliffs is redder than the surrounding black basalt of the earlier Pleistocene era. Hemlock still grows along the base of the falls however, and gives rise to the reddish coloration seen at certain times of the year. Akaka Falls features prominently in many legends and chants of the ancient Hawaiians. According to mythology, Pele’s brother, Prince Kaha’i who was banished to the West, built his kingdom near the falls. He named it Kahiki which translates to ‘the land of the fall’. It was here that he ruled for some time until the kingdom fell into disrepair. To make matters worse, the king died around the same time as Pele herself. His sister took pity on him and brought him back to life using her powers. She taught him how to fish and build houses out of po and ti leaves. She even gave him new bodies parts grown from her own hair.
These stories may seem like myths but they record historical facts. During the reign of King Kaumualii, the kingdom stretched from Kauai to Molokai to Oahu. But when Kaumualii tried to claim the whole thing himself, Oahu refused to give up their territory. So instead of giving up the fight, Kaumualii made a secret alliance with the powerful British Empire. Together they sent joint forces against Oahu. The Battle of Nupeka resulted in the capture of Oahu and the death of most of Kaumualii’s army. After this loss, Kaumualii decided to abandon the Kingdom of Hawaii. He sailed to Kauai where he set up his court and began plotting his next move. While he was away, Queen Liliuokalani had his two sons, Prince George “Prince” Kaumualii and Prince Alexander “Prince” Kaumualii and six other children put to death in 1874.
When Kaumualii returned to Oahu empty-handed, he again plotted rebellion with the help of the British. This time they provided weapons and soldiers and together they conquered Oahu in 1881. Again, Kaumualii abandoned the kingdom leaving only his infant son, David L. B. H. Kopperud to rule. With the help of American businessman Robert G. Byxbee, Kopperud reigned from 1886 to 1889. Under the name “Kingdom of Hawaii” kaumualii once more declared himself independent of the United States and allied with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. World War I broke out in 1914. Once again America wanted nothing to do with them. President Woodrow Wilson granted the kingdom’s request to become a protectorate under the auspices of the League of Nations.
The kingdom flourished for nearly 60 years before becoming part of the Territory of Hawaii in 1950. Then came the surprise; Governor John A. Martin announced that Oahu would not host the capital city of Honolulu. Instead, he proposed that the entire archipelago should become the 50th state of Washington, USA. Despite strong opposition from local residents and businesses, the legislature and governor agreed, and signed the bill into law in 1959, making Oahu the first state in the world to join the Union without having met the minimum requirements established by Congress for statehood. Its official name remains the State of Hawaii.
Activities available include:
- bird watching
- wildlife viewing
- ATV riding
- horseback riding
- paddle boarding
- nature photography
Mammals observed at the park include:
Birds found there include:
- owls such as eagles
- ring-billed gulls
- Steller’s jays
Rare plants include:
- mountain lilac
- seabeach amaranth
- seaside arrowwood