Waipi’o Valley is the biggest of seven large valleys in the North Hamakua District. The valley is a mile wide at the shoreline and about 6 miles deep. The valley is a stunning display of shear beauty. I highly recommend a visit, at least to the look out area that does not require Four Wheel Drive. Waipiʻo means “curved water” in Hawaiian.
Whether it was named to describe the winding rivers through the valley or the gravel beach where the river meets the sea, or the showering waterfalls, either way it seems appropriately named!
From the bottom of the valley to the top of the surrounding ridge line there is a 2000′ elevation difference! Several cascading waterfalls pour off of shear cliffs down into pools in the valley floor then feed into the river that lazily winds it’s way into the ocean. The river starts at the foot of the largest falls at the back of the bowl shaped valley out to the ocean.
For the more adventuresome, although 4-wheel drive is required, it is an exhilarating trip heading down a single lane, winding, poorly maintained, 25% grade and steeper in sections, down to a spectacular valley full of life and lush vegetation. It is the steepest road of its length in the United States and possibly the world according to Wikipedia. Once you make it to the valley floor you will be enchanted by towering flower laden trees and colorful hanging foliage. When you get to the fork in the road at the very bottom of the grade, head makai (towards the sea) to get to the black sand beach. This beach is popular with local surfers depending on conditions. There are portable toilets at the beach.
You will likely be greeted by a small herd of wild horses that have become tamed by the visitors. From the beach you can see up this beautiful valley and take in all of it’s splendor.
Hi’ilawe is the largest Falls in the Valley and the Largest Falls on the island with a drop of 1450′. It starts off as Lalakea Stream and drops into Waipi’o River. It can only be seen from the valley floor or by helicopter. There are locals that charge to take you down if you are unable to manage the hike down 1400′ in one mile. When it rains heavily the big waterfall will turn back into is “twin waterfall” ancient past. After redirecting waters at the top for irrigation purposes, the smaller of the two waterfalls, Hakalaoa all but disappeared. There are efforts under way to redirect to the historical flow.
For those that are very energetic, there is a foot trail called Waimanu that leads down a steep path to the adjoining valley, Waimanu Valley. Waimanu Valley has no vehicular roads to it. This is a very steep and long hiking trail that requires excellent fitness and will take all day if you park at the bottom of Waipio Valley. The trail is more than sixteen miles long and you’ll go up and down a mile and a half. You have to cross Waipio River and at least 13 other streams. All flowing waterways must have respect given them in Hawai’i. During heavy rain these waterways can become torrential flood paths, please be prepared if choosing to make this hike! There are a lot of loose rocks on this trail and a fall could be as bad as a couple hundred feet. Don’t even try to make this hike unless you start off at dawn if you expect to make it back before night.
“Valley of the Kings” Before King Kamehameha I, Waipi’o Valley was the capital and home to many early Hawaiian Kings up until the time of King ʻUmi. According to ancient stories, King Kamehameha the first received custody of Kukailimoku, the war god of the kings of Hawaii.
King Kamehameha had the first naval battle in Hawaiian history was off the shores of Waipi’o Valley. King Kamehameha began his conquest over all of the islands and lasted until his death in 1819. The valley is considered sacred to the Hawaiian people. There were many important heiaus (temples) in place throughout the valley. The most sacred, Pakaalana, was also the site of one of the island’s two major pu`uhonua or places of refuge, the other being Pu`uhonua O Honaunau. Most of the historical heiaus of the valley were decimated in the tsunami of 1946.
Waterworld was filmed off of the shores of Waipio Valley and was the site of the final scene in the 1995 science fiction film stared by Kevin Costner of where the they found dry land.
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HERE IS A VIDEO I TOOK OF THE ROAD DOWN TO WAIPIO VALLEY:
HERE IS A VIDEO I TOOK IN THE VALLEY:
HERE IS A VIDEO I TOOK DRIVING THROUGH THE VALLEY:
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