Big Island Travel Guide

Big Island Sights

Waipio Valley

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

Published 01/20/2010

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. The lush valley is breathtaking in every way and from every vantage. Though almost 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. In addition, it is a highly historical and culturally signifcant site as it housed heiau (temples) and puuhonua (places of refuge) in addition to royal residences. King Kamehameha the Great launched a great naval battle from here, which marked the start of his unification (some would say conquest) and reign of the Hawaiian Islands. To preserve this pristine part of the island, commercial-transportation permits are limited—only a few outfitters offer organized valley floor trips.

A paved

road leads down from the Waipio Valley Overlook, but no car-rental companies on the island allow their cars to be driven down. The distance is actually 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 do not look kindly on 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, conditions permitting. 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 who cultivate taro on family farms.

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  • Waipio Valley, Hamakua Coast , Big Island, Hawaii, USA

    Radoslaw Lecyk / Shutterstock

Sight Information


Hwy. 240, 8 miles northwest of Honokaa, , Hawaii, 96727, USA

Map It

Sight Details:

  • Closed Sun.

Published 01/20/2010


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