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Fodor's Big Island of Hawaii
Waipio Valley 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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