Waipio Valley is a lush and scenic gorge on the northwest corner of the Big Island of Hawaii. The journey down to the bottom of Waipio Valley is not for the faint of heart, as it is the steepest road of its length in the United States!
Date: April 2018
Miles: 4.2 miles roundtrip
Elevation Change: 1,120 ft
Trail Type: Out and back
Trailhead: Google Maps
Waipio Valley is on the northern peninsula of the Big Island. It's about an hour and a half drive from Kona, and an hour and ten minutes from Hilo. This is a popular spot, so go on off times! You'll most likely have to park along the street and walk to the viewpoint/start of the trail.
If you want to drive instead of hiking down, you'll need to be great at handling a 4x4 vehicle with high clearance. We only had an AWD, but we decided to walk down anyway to enjoy the views.
As with any valley hike, don't forget to bring enough water and save enough energy for the hike back up! The hardest part is always coming back up :)
From the parking lot, it's a short walk down a grassy slope to the main view point of the valley. Get a good look at the beach below, because that's where you'll be headed!
We started the steep hike down the road. The entire road is at an average grade of 25%, with some portions as steep as 40%! I sometimes found myself making my own switchbacks to make it easier on my knees. With such gorgeous views, I didn't mind taking several breaks on the way.
As soon as the road leveled out, we found ourselves immersed in a lush wonderland. We really got to experience the diversity in Hawaii’s flora as we spotted mossy trees, enormous leafy plants, and trees with blooming red flowers all the way to the beach. The residents that lived at the bottom of the valley all smiled and greeted us warmly, welcoming us to the valley as we passed by.
After descending around 500 feet in less than half a mile all after hiking Waipio, my legs were jelly once we got to the bottom. Here you can walk along the soft sandy beach, explore the tree area, or rock hop down the coast.
We first headed up into the valley, and as we rounded the corner, we spotted the jaw-dropping Hi’ilawe Falls in the distance - the tallest falls on the island of Hawaii. At the time there were actually two different cascades and from a distance the water looked almost like silk as it cascaded 1,450 feet down to the base of the valley.
We then turned around and headed towards the black sand beach that lies at the mouth of the valley. As we stepped onto the beach, we spotted several waterfalls cascading off the sides of the sheer valley walls into the water. I absolutely love the look of sheer cliffs right on the edge of the ocean, impressive views like these are always humbling and make me truly appreciate the grandeur of mother nature.
Continuing east along the coastline and rock hopping on the black boulders lining the shore, we stumbled upon another set of falls tucked into a ravine on the side of the cliff. Unexpectedly finding little gems like these were some of my favorite moments on these hikes.
Once making our way back to the main beach area, there were no shortage of trees right along the shore to pick from to set up our hammock. After relaxing and soaking in the views for as long as possible delaying the hike back up to our car, we packed up and headed up the steep road. Going up took longer, as we had to take several breaks to catch our breath. I found myself making switchbacks across the road when a car wasn't coming by, and I think it really helped my climb up.
If you're considering this hike, don't forget to also look into Pololu Valley nearby. It's a shorter and easier hike with just as nice views!