Waipio Valley

#4 in Best Things To Do in Hawaii - The Big Island
Waipio Valley picture1 of 3
Waipio Valley2 of 3
Tor Johnson/Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)

Key Info

At the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive

Price & Hours

Tour prices vary by company
Tour times vary by company

Details

Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Tours Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.3

scorecard

  • 4.0Value
  • 0.0Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Waipio Valley, translated as "curved water," is named for the river that runs through it, and it's a historically significant spot to the Hawaiian people. Situated along the Hamakua Coast on the island's northeastern side, it was once one of the most fertile valleys on the Big Island and home to an estimated 10,000 people when the navigator captain James Cook first arrived in 1778. It was also home to Kamehameha the Great and many other Hawaiian rulers, earning it the nickname "The Valley of the Kings." 

Now, Waipio Valley is regarded as a modern-day Garden of Eden. One-mile wide, more than 5 miles deep, and encased by verdant cliffs that rise 2,000 feet, the valley is best beheld from an overlook point on its southern side. You can also enjoy Waipio's scenery on a van tour, a strenuous hike (you'll have to make a steep descent into the valley) or by horseback. There are also a couple of black sand beaches, but the murky water isn't suitable for swimming; head to Hapuna Beach State Park or Kaunaoa for calmer, clearer waters. 

Technically, the Waipio Valley is free to enjoy, but most people visit on a tour. The cost varies dependent on the company you choose and the type of excursion, for instance whether you're traveling by Jeep or by helicopter. Keep in mind: If you're not traveling here via an organized tour and don't want to hike, you'll need to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle to access the bottom of the valley (where the black sand beach is located). If you just want to see the lookout, you can access it at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive.

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Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park1 of 13
Akaka Falls State Park2 of 13
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Four months after closing due to intense and damaging volcanic activity, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park reopened in mid-September 2018. "The Volcano," as it were, loosely refers to two active volcanoes in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park; specifically, it's Kilauea that's the real must-see. A 4,000-foot-tall mountain, Kilauea has been spitting, spewing and oozing since Jan. 3, 1983 and in May 2018, it started erupting, forcing evacuations and destroying entire communities. Although the eruptions have stopped, Kilauea is still at the top of America's list of volcanoes to monitor. 

Most people who come to the park hope to see some lava flow; some travelers see a little bit, others are not as lucky. Check in at the Kilauea Visitor Center for up-to-date information on trails, safety precautions and where to expect lava flow. 

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