Price & Hours
- Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Tours Type
- 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
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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.