Day 4: Started early because we wanted to have a nice heavy breakfast. Ken's House of Pancakes was at the top of yelp recommendations, so we came here. Breakfast here was very tasty. This was the first time I saw Vegetarian Benedict on the menu, so I definitely had to try it - and it was yummy. Strongly recommended. This place is open 24 hours, and is definitely one of the best places to eat in Hilo. I regret not going again.
Next we went to Rainbow Falls, which was pretty. Not the best falls you'll see in the world - but still nice to see. The thing that interested me more at Rainbow Falls were the huge banyan trees. Banyan trees are not new to me, I've seen them in India before - but this was different. These trees were humungous in width. Here's a picture of me with a banyan tree for comparison - definitely worth checking them out.
Our next stop was Waipio Valley. We'd heard about this from multiple people before - so we decided to check what the fuss was all about. We first arrived at Waipio Valley Lookout from where you can see some of the valley, and the black sand beach. It was very green and beautiful. But as the name suggests, it's only a lookout. We decided to drive down the valley (which requires a 4WD) to go to the beach.
The drive is not for the faint-hearted. It's a 25% grade road for about 15 minutes to enter into the valley. I had my heart in my mouth multiple times during the drive. As you start driving, you start seeing more of the valley to your right. It's lush green and mist was rolling into the valley - it's almost unreal. Driving on (closer to the end of the drive) - you get to see the Hi'ilawe waterfall. We first missed it, but then as we looked closer, it became evident.
Falling from the top of the valley (somewhere in between the mist) to the bottom - it's a breathtaking sight. It's one of the tallest falls I've ever seen. We were seeing it from quite a distance, but it still looked so tall. It was a magnificent view - one that makes you feel tiny. There's no denying these falls are spectacular. There is no public access to get into the falls (because it is private property), but there's apparently a horse-ride that gives you a closer view. We'll probably try that the next time.
We then headed to the black sand beach. The water was clear blue against the black sand. The waves were too strong to get into the water, but the beach was close to empty - so we had it all to ourselves. From the beach, we noticed that there was another smaller waterfall, (known as Kaluahine falls) starting from somewhere in between the valley and joining the ocean. After taking some pictures, we settled down near the Hi'ilawe stream nearby - where the water from the Hi'ilawe falls joins the ocean. From the stream - we had a great view of the Waipio valley. It was green all across, we could saw a horse at the other end of the stream (on the foothills of the valley), and with the mist - this scene looked surreal. If there was a heaven, this is what it probably looked like. Native Hawaiians treat this valley as sacred, and that made sense.
It was hard, but we pushed ourselves to get out from there (we were hungry as well). The drive back up on the 25% grade road was adventurous as well - and we made it back to the top safely. We stopped at a nearby town, Honoka'a for lunch.
We then drove to Kona for our last stop of the day at Hapuna Beach, which is known for it's clear blue water and white sand. It did not disappoint. We arrived there around 5 in the afternoon, spent some time in the water - played around with the waves and watched a memorable sunset. Not a bad way to end the day at all.