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 century.
To preserve this pristine part of the island, commercial-transportation permits are limited—only a few outfitters offer organized valley floor trips. On Sunday, the valley rests.
A paved road leads down from the Waipio Valley Overlook, but only four-wheel-drive vehicles may attempt the very steep, treacherous road, more like a footpath in some places. (There is not a rental car company on the island that allows it, so driving down in any kind of rental will void your contract. We don't recommend trying.) 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 highly strenuous, so bring water and a walking stick. Area landowners have recently become upset with public trespassing to access Hiilawe Falls at the back of the valley, so stick to the front by the beach. Hike all the way to the end of the beach for a glorious vantage. Swimming, surfing, and picnics are all popular activities here. You can also take the King's Trail from the end of the beach to access another waterfall not far down the trail. (Waterfalls can come and go depending on the level of recent rains.) If you do visit here, respect this area, as it is considered highly sacred to Hawaiians and is still home to several hundred full-time residents.