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Big Island Sights

Waipio Valley

  • Hwy. 240 Map It
  • Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge
  • Fodor's Choice
  • Waipio Valley, Hamakua Coast , Big Island, Hawaii, USA

    Radoslaw Lecyk / Shutterstock

Updated 03/04/2015

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 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. (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. Area landowners have recently become upset with public trespassing to access Hiilawe Falls at the back of the valley, so please 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, please respect this area, as it is considered highly sacred to Hawaiians and is still home to several hundred full-time residents.

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Sight Information


Hwy. 240, 8 miles northwest of Honokaa, unknown, Hawaii, 96727, United States

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Updated 03/04/2015


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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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