At the northern tip of the Big Island in the Kohala district lies a hidden emerald that just might be the highlight of your trip to Hawai‘i. Waipio Valley, long a retreat for kings and Hawaiian royalty, is now a secluded sliver in the lush green mountains, draped with a beautiful black sand beach and carpeted with a rich tapestry of taro fields and banana trees, home to local farmers and wild horses. This is a land of waterfalls, of mystery, and of a lifestyle, that time has nearly forgotten.
The valley is the work of the Waipi`o River (“curved water”) and is truly breathtaking. From the road and the small town of Waipi`o on the highlands above, the valley falls away to the floor some 800 feet below. Standing on the civilization side, you are met with panoramic views of the sheer mountain cliffs and their coats of lush vegetation. A patchwork of taro ponds sparkles in the sunlight far below, and the black sand beach seems to pulse with the afternoon soon and the tumbling waves piling on its shore. Beyond are some of the most remote and beautiful valleys in Hawai‘i, accessible only by grueling switchback trails. Waipio Hawaii has something for everyone!
The valley is open to the public, but the road down is treacherous and not for most vehicles (4WD is highly recommended). The trek down is an excellent hike, but is not for the faint of heart. Clocking in at 6.5 miles roundtrip, the grade of the road can be as steep as 40% in places, dropping 800 feet in only 0.6 miles. If you aren’t an avid hiker, we recommend hitching a ride or joining a tour to make the journey easier.
Once you reach the valley floor, however, it is a short, level walk on dirt tracks to the beach and the base of the breathtaking Kuluahine Falls, a tumbling flow of water cascading from the cliffs above. The back of the valley is private property and home to subsistence farmers growing taro, bananas, and avocados; it should not be entered without permission (although most are friendly and happy to give you a tour). In this mysterious enclave, the valley splits into six smaller fingers, each with their own magical waterfall. Towering above it all is the 1400-foot peak of Hi`ilawe.
Whether you only visit the lookout, tackle the valley on foot, spend the day lounging on the beautiful black sand beach, or take a horseback ride across the valley floor, Waipio Hawaii is not to be missed, no matter where on the island you call home during your stay with us.
Tour the Valley
If you don’t have access to a 4WD vehicle and aren’t up for the grueling hike to the valley floor, yet you want to experience more than the views from the lookout, there are other options available. A guided tour with one of the reputable tour companies offering tours into the valley might be right for you. Let someone else worry about the details while you enjoy the views by booking one of these Waipi’o Valley tours.
Hop Aboard the Waipio Valley Shuttle
Descend into the magical Waipio Valley aboard a van driven by a knowledgeable local guide. Your guide will share interesting information with you about the native plants and fruit you’ll see along the way, along with the area’s history. The road is steep and bumpy, but you can sit back and relax while someone else does the driving. There are plenty of lookouts along the way where you’ll want to stop for photo ops, and there is also an option to walk to the beach once you reach the valley floor. Tours are available Monday-Saturday at 9am, 11am, 1pm, and 3pm. Tickets are $64 for adults and $35 for children under 11 years old. Book your valley tour online or by calling 808 775-7121.
Take a Ride with Na’alapa Stables
Awaken your inner cowboy as you ride like the paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) from a former era. You will be transported by 4WD van into the Waipi’o Valley. From the stables there, you will enjoy a horseback ride through lush jungles, along gently flowing streams, and by thundering waterfalls. What more romantic and adventurous way to explore this fantasy land than by horseback? Tours last 2.5 hours and are available Monday-Saturday at 9am or 12:30pm. Book your horseback experience online or by calling 808-775-0419.
Chase Waterfalls with Wasabi Tours Hawaii
Joining the Waipio Valley and Waterfalls Tour with Wasabi Tours Hawaii will allow you to visit not only Hi’ilawe Falls in Waipi’o Valley, which cascades a jaw dropping 1300 feet, but also 442-foot Akaka Falls, Rainbow Falls, and a private waterfall where you can enjoy a cool swim or kayak. This tour truly gives you a larger picture of the Big Island, also providing the opportunity to explore a tropical fruit farm (with samples, of course!) in Hilo and the scenic Saddle Road. Tours are offered Monday-Saturday and last approximately 9.5 hours. Tickets are $189 for adults and $169 for children 12 and under. Book your grand waterfall tour online or by calling 808-238-5222.