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The Mystical Waipi'o Valley of Hawaii

Updated on April 30, 2019
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FTank lives on the Big Island of Hawaii and loves to explore the island wonders.

The Gorgeous Waipi'o Lookout

The Waipi'o Valley lookout gives a picture perfect view of the valley and black sand beach below.
The Waipi'o Valley lookout gives a picture perfect view of the valley and black sand beach below.
The black sand beach is coarse and sparkles in the sun.
The black sand beach is coarse and sparkles in the sun.

Most Beautiful Spot on the Big Island of Hawaii

One of the most beautiful places on the Big Island has got to be the Waipi'o Valley also known as the Valley of the Kings located along the Hamakua Coast. Waipi'o comes from the Hawaiian word meaning "curved water." The largest and most southern of the 7 valleys on the windward side of the Big Island, the Waipio Valley is a mile wide where it meets the sea and extends 6 miles deep. The lush tropical valley is banked by a 2,000 foot tall cliffs with 100's of dramatic waterfalls cascading down the mountain side. Near the rear of the valley you can see the spectacular Hiilawe Falls which drops more than 1,000 feet into the stream below that runs to the ocean. There is an overlook at the top of the valley that gives you a good vantage point for looking down into this beautiful and peaceful valley.

The road into the valley has a very steep 25% grade descents 900 feet over the course of a windy, 1-mile drive so only 4 wheel drive vehicles can make it down into the valley. The only way to get into the valley is to take one of the many tours such as the Wagon Tour, Van, ATV or a Horseback Tour. Tour guides have a wealth of stories to share with you about the valley and its history. You can hike down but remember that what goes down, must come up! The hike back up is a bear and is not for those who are not in excellent physical shape.

On the opposite side of the valley wall is the Muliwai Trail. This very challenging, 9 mile switchback trail that zigzags up the mountain and eventually leads to the Waimanu Valley. This trail is definitely not for the novice or casual hiker so only take this hike on if you are experienced and very physically fit. You will also need more than 1 day to attempt this hike. State camping permits are required to camp here as well.

To get to the trailhead, hike across the black sand beach to the opposite side of the valley. To get there, you will need to wade across the Waipi'o River. Be sure to bring water shoes for crossing the river and only cross during low tide since the currents are swift during high tide. At the end of the beach, look for signs that will direct you to the trailhead. Since the area is heavily wooded, be sure to take mosquito repellent since the area has an intense mosquito population. The area is very dangerous during the rainy season so it is advised that you wait until a dry season to attempt this strenuous hike.


History of the Waipi'o Valley

The Waipi'o Valley has historical and cultural importance for the Hawaiian people. Today less than 75 people lead a quiet and peaceful life in the Waipi'o Valley. Residents of the valley are private and much of the land is now privately owned. If you do decide to venture down into the valley, be careful not to trespass on private land or intrude on those who live here as you will not be greeted warmly.

The Waipi'o Valley is known as the Valley of Kings since many of Hawaii's early kings lived here. It is reported that before the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778, as many as 10,000 people may have lived in this beautiful valley. In the late 1800's many Chinese immigrants settled in the valley and built churches, restaurants, schools, a hotel, post office and even a jail. In 1946, a destructive tsunami swept into the valley and many people abandoned the valley at that time. Waipi'o has had few residents ever since.

In 1780, Kamehameha the Great was sent the war god Kukailimoku who told him that he was to become the ruler of the islands. Off of the coast of Waimanu, the next valley over, Kamehameha the Great engaged in a naval battle with Kahekili, the King of the leeward islands and Kaeokulani, his half-brother, who ruled over the island of Kaua'i. Kamehameha was victorious in this battle, known as the Battle of the Red-Mouthed Guns and declared himself the ruler of the entire Hawaiian Island chain.

Waipi'o is considered a scared place for Hawaiians since many important heiaus or temples were build here. The most sacred of them was Pakaalana , a place of refuge like Pu'uhonua O' Honaunau located near Captain Cook on the west side of the island. Ancient burial caves are located in the sides of the steep cliff walls on both sides of the valley where many of the Hawaiian royalty have been buried. This makes the place not only beautiful but sacred for the Hawaiian people.

© 2009 ftank

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