Best known for Rainbow Falls, Wailuku River State Park is a collection of waterfalls and eroded pools only 10 minutes from downtown Hilo. Make a stop at Rainbow Falls to watch colors dance in the mist, and then continue five minutes up the road to the area known as “Boiling Pots.” These deep, circular, roiling pools seem to boil during periods of high water, and Pe‘epe‘e Falls toward the back of the pools cascades 60 feet toward the rocks below.
The waterfalls and pools here are at their most dramatic after a period of heavy rain. Flash flooding is a common occurrence, so swimming in the pools is a high-stakes gamble no matter how enticing they might seem. Since the trails down to the pools can often be slippery, the pools and falls are best enjoyed from the easily accessible lookouts. Bring a picnic and linger in the grass with rushing water as your soundtrack, or simply kill an hour in Hilo with a quick jaunt up to the falls. Not only is this Hawaii’s longest river, but it’s also one of the most popular getaways for Hilo locals and families.