The Waipio Valley is located along the Hamakua Coast on the Island of Hawaii. While most tourists only make it to the lookout, I urge you to make the trip to the bottom of the valley. I believe this is the most beautiful spot on the Big Island.
There are two ways of getting down to bottom. Walk or drive. Only 4 wheel drive vehicles are allowed down here as this is said to be the steepest road in the US. We saw someone drive down in a Nissan Sentra rental, which I would not recommend. We rented a 4×4 truck, but still did not feel comfortable with this drive. The hike to the beach is a 3 mile round trip with 1.5 miles on a 25% incline. Make sure you have good hiking shoes with grip (no slippah’s here), plenty of water and a walking stick may come in handy.
Once you get to the bottom, then it is time to explore. I would not recommend venturing to the interior of the valley. Most of that area is private property and the local residents appreciate their privacy. There is lots to see around the beach, so don’t worry about missing out on anything.
There are two sections of black sand beach here that is separated by the Wailoa Stream. I recommend crossing this stream as the other section of beach is a lot more secluded and has more spectacular views. You can hire a boat to take you across or you can navigate through the rocks closer to shore. The currents can be strong here so only do this if you have good balance. Water shoes may be a good idea for this. Once you have crossed it is time to enjoy the view.
There were a few things we encountered here that were a bit unexpected. The currents in the water are very strong. I got caught in a little rip tide, but managed to get out of it. Because this area is hard to access and does not have a lifeguard on duty, I would not recommend swimming here unless you are a very strong swimmer.
The washroom situation here is less than desirable. They had portable washrooms that looked like they had not been cleaned in weeks. Only use if necessary…
The weather here is also very unpredictable. The forecast did not call for rain, but there was torrential downpour on our hike back. On our way up we helped a truck out of the mud and they offered us a ride to the top in their box. We met some great people from Minnesota and Brazil during that ride. It was a bit terrifying as I was sitting against the edge of the box that looked over into the valley. I definitely clung on for life during that bumpy ride! I was just glad that we didn’t have to climb up as it looked gruelling in the rain. Wish we had brought an extra pair of clothes and shoes as everything we were wearing got soaked.
Other than the few surprises, our trip to Waipio Valley was worth all the struggles. The views of the surrounding hills along the Wailoa Stream are absolutely breathtaking. You just can’t fully appreciate it from the lookout. It was quite the adventure and something I look forward to doing again on our next visit.
Kira Canadian Girl