Waipio Valley is not only a beautiful sight to behold, it is a valley of endless mystery, history and intrigue. It literally was the Valley of the Kings and if you get down into the valley you will see why. In the valley bottoms the floor is lush with tropical vegetation and makes for fertile growing, especially for the beloved Taro root. Look deep into the valley and you will see two water falls. There’s a stream that goes down the middle like the garden of Eden.
Most people stay at just the lookout area. It’s a gorgeous view while you are on a day trip. If you look completely across the valley on the other slope you can see a trail that zig-zags up the mountain.
Why do most people only stay at the Waipio Valley Lookout?
For starters the road down to the valley is at a ridiculous 25% grade. It’s one of the steepest roads in America and is definitely, without question a 4-wheel drive only. If there was a little more passing room that would make it a more comfortable road to navigate, but it just isn’t. Mostly it’s a 1 lane road where at about half way it becomes possible to pass someone. If you look down the cliff while you are driving you see those who didn’t make it. DO NOT TAKE YOUR RENTAL CAR DOWN.
If that weren’t enough this is in some ways an autonomous area. The people who live there are a law unto themselves. Police very rarely go down there, and if they do it is to deal with someone who may have drowned in the sometimes tumultuous waters. If you go down it’s not a bad idea to be with others.
Having said that, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. No exaggeration. The flora, the fauna, the waterfalls and even the herd of wild horses that will surround your car and stick their whole head in your car in search of snacks.
What’s the best way to see Waipio Valley?
If you really want to see the beauty of the valley the best way is on horseback. There are several horse tours that will drive you down the hill in a van and give you a trail ride on their geriatric wild horses (no worries, they are more than tame). It is a ride you won’t forget. I took one friend who had not traveled much and he as so overcome he could hardly speak.
We took the Na’alapa Stables horseback tour and had a great trip. Friendly folk and knowledge of the people in the valley–a must in working with the inhabitants of the Valley.
If you do go down with a local (not rented), 4-wheel drive vehicle, keep in mind that it is historical and holy ground for the native Hawaiians. There are reasons that they can be a little protective of the valley.
How is the Swimming?
The waters here can be turbulent so make sure you are intermediate to an advanced ocean swimmer. Also just because you are on shore does not mean immunity for beach dwellers. We were hit by a sleeper wave on one visit there. Standing 30 feet in from shore, a large unexpected wave came in filling the water up to our chest. Had we not been hiking with big packs on, we might have had a little unexpected swim in the ocean.
What about hiking the trail across the valley?
If you go on a day hike that’s not a problem, but be sure to register with the guide at the top of the drive down (who is sometimes there). If you are spending longer than a day make sure you get a permit. It’s a safety precaution so that people know where you are at. There are wild pigs, wild waters and some hazards worth noting.
There are other areas to hike in the valley but be respectful of private property. With visitors from around the world it’s challenging for the local dwellers and Taro farmers respecting their property.
Waipio Valley is Worth the Visit
Overall Waipio Valley is a beautiful place of adventure and history. It’s definitely an ideal stop at the lookout and if you have the day, a trip down into the valley floor itself.