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Big Island Sights

Waipio Valley

  • Hwy. 240 Map It
  • Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge
  • Fodor's Choice

Updated 01/06/2014

Fodor's Review

Bounded by 2,000-foot cliffs, the "Valley of the Kings" was once a favorite retreat of Hawaiian royalty. Waterfalls drop 1,200 feet from the Kohala Mountains to the valley floor, and the sheer cliff faces make access difficult. Though completely off the grid today, Waipio was once a center of Hawaiian life; somewhere between 4,000 and 20,000 people made it their home between the 13th and 17th centuries.

To preserve this pristine part of the island, commercial-transportation

permits are limited—only four outfitters offer organized valley trips and they're not allowed to take visitors to the beach: environmental laws protect the swath of black sand. On Sunday the valley rests.

A road leads down from the Waipio Valley Overlook, but only four-wheel-drive vehicles may attempt the very steep, treacherous road. (Check your rental contract to see if it is allowed.) An information booth at the lookout is staffed by volunteers who can answer questions. There are no roads on the valley floor, and the going is often muddy. The walk down into the valley is less than a mile from the lookout point—just keep in mind the climb back gains 1,000 feet in elevation and is strenuous. If you do visit here, please respect this area, as it is considered highly sacred to Hawaiians.

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Fodorite Reviews

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Jul 19, 2007

Out of a Fairy Tale!

We took a horseback ride into the valley after stopping at the overlook and it was fantastic. The lush, green valley looks like something out of a fairy tale!

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May 8, 2007

Worth it with a tour

Absolutely dangerous without a tour--even with a four wheel drive, most companies will not let you take their car down there. Unfortunately, people attempt it anyway, making the narrow winding roads even more dangerous to the rest of us. We took the mule drawn carriage tour and loved it! It really takes you back to ancient Hawaii. Our tour guide actually is one of the 50 people who live there and she showed us how the waterfall near her house is

her "running water" It really is a step back in time. Please take one of the tours down there (they are very inexpensive) so you don't add to the problem.

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