Waipi’o Valley: Big Island’s Waterfalls, Black Sand Beach, and Hiking Trails

Waipi’o Valley: Big Island’s Waterfalls, Black Sand Beach, and Hiking Trails

Discover the secrets of Waipi'o Valley! From breathtaking vistas at the Waipi'o Valley Lookout to hidden waterfalls, find out why it's Hawaii's gem.
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Standing at Waipi’o Lookout, you breathe in the fresh Hawaiian air and gaze mesmerized by an extraordinary landscape. Green mountain slopes flow deep into the valley where, according to legend, Hawaiian kings walked. Waipi’o Valley, Hawaii’s own “Valley of the Kings”, is a place filled with history, natural beauty and an air that can only be described as magical.

The Aura of Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley is like a time capsule of what Hawaii might have looked like before the modern world made its mark. Once the busy center of ancient Hawaiian civilization, the valley was home to royalty and a dense population that worked the land.

Today, the valley is a quiet place, filled mostly with wild beauty. The taro fields are full of natural elements that will leave a few residents and you in awe. Situated along the Hamakua Coast, the valley and the surrounding Kohala and Mountain Kohala are rich in cultural heritage and natural splendor.

Once open to all, the valley is now restricted to the Waipiʻo Valley Trail, which is only open to locals. However, you can take in the beauty of the valley from the Waipiʻo Valley Lookout, a spot that offers spectacular views across the valley.

From here, the steep Waipiʻo Valley Trail winds through the heart of the valley, testifying to the rugged terrain of this part of the island.

For those seeking a more intimate experience, access to the valley floor and beyond is still possible through guided tours. This allows visitors to explore this sacred land on foot or by Waipio Valley shuttle.

Waipi’o means “crooked water” in Hawaiian and perfectly describes the winding Wailoa Stream that flows through the heart of the valley. It is a huge refuge, about a mile wide and six miles deep. It is considered the largest valley in Hawaii and one of the most culturally significant.

The back of the valley is divided into smaller ‘fingers’, each uniquely marked by its own waterfall; an ideal setting to be seen. One of the most famous waterfalls in the valley, Hi’ilawe Falls, adds to the mesmerizing beauty of the area.

Another beauty not to be forgotten is the spectacular black sand beach in the valley, bisected by the ever-flowing river. This beach and the valley’s other works of art make Waipi’o Valley a magical place to visit.

Waipi’o Valley Lookout

Don’t even think about leaving your camera at home – this place is a photographer’s dream paradise! While the Waipi’o Valley Landscape is famous for its spectacular views, it also offers amenities to make your visit enjoyable.

waipio valley lookout hawaii

As you prepare for your journey into the valley, the Waipi’o Valley Trail itself is as breathtaking as the destination. The Waipi’o Valley, which opens like a paradise in the greenery, will mesmerize you.

If you want to take a break, there are restrooms at the viewpoint, a picnic area and historical information panels with information about this sacred land.

The Partial Closure of Waipi’o Valley Road

Waipi’o Valley Road, once a free-for-all, is now a matter of caution. A comprehensive geotechnical assessment revealed immediate risks of rockfall, landslides and slope instability, and the County of Hawaii decided to limit access for safety reasons. This measure was taken to reduce rockfall and tackle slope instability and erosion.

As of 2022, only Big Island residents, contested tour company operators and those wishing to exercise Native Hawaiian traditional rights can access the valley floor in a covered 4WD vehicle. ATV use is prohibited!

Your journey to Waipi’o Valley doesn’t have to end at the viewpoint; the scenery is already amazing in itself. For those eager to get down to the valley floor, joining a tour group can be a ticket to paradise.

Given the need to reduce rockfall, these tours are the perfect way to get you exploring in safe and knowledgeable hands. It is also a way to support local businesses and respect the private property rights of valley residents.

Hiking in Waipi’o Valley

Are you ready to hike in Waipi’o Valley? But you should know that hiking here is no easy task. This valley is a challenging paradise and requires your attention, endurance and respect.

The Muliwai Trail

If you love adventure, make sure to check out the Muliwai Trail. This challenging trail zigzags up the wall across Waipi’o Valley and reaches Waimanu Valley, one of the most inaccessible spots on the Big Island.

The first part of the trail is challenging, but the views at sunset are breathtaking. The trail takes you from the valley floor to the side of the valley, where it offers a majestic view of the highest waterfall cascading down the valley wall.

hiking in waipio valley hawaii

For those looking for a less challenging experience, there are horseback tours that will allow you to experience the beauty of the valley without getting tired.

For the true adventurers, a day hike on this trail will be an unforgettable experience. This journey takes you from the beach to the other side of the valley, with the option to walk along the beach for a more scenic route if you wish.

Hi‘ilawe Falls

If you intend to hike to Hi’ilawe Falls, you need explicit permission from the landowner as the path crosses private property. The rule here is simple: no permit, no hike.

If you are lucky and get permission, the journey to these falls is as impressive as the destination, taking you along the beach and through the lush valley landscape.

Getting Down into Waipi’o Valley

The Waipi’o Valley Trail is only open to locals. So how can you get this special experience? Now that visitor access to the valley is limited to guided tours, it’s best to take this opportunity.

There are many options, from horseback adventures to shuttles that will drop you off in the valley in style. If you plan to spend the night in the valley, be aware that you will need permission to camp.

This is one of the steepest roads on the island, rising 800 feet in a mile and with an average gradient of 25%, reaching 40% at the summit! Do you have a rental car? Check your contract. Most rental companies strictly prohibit you from using their vehicles on this road.

If you are determined to explore the valley on your own, leave your car in a parking lot at the top and get ready for a challenging hike. If you have reached the floor in the valley, don’t forget your swimsuit. You can use the black sandy beach to cool off.

The Black Sand Beach of Waipi’o Valley

Waipi’o Valley’s black sand beach offers a unique way to experience Hawaii’s fascinating contrasts. The cool black sand under your feet, the gentle sound of the waves and the high cliffs watching over you are truly mesmerizing.

Getting to the beach is quite easy. After going down to the road in the valley, turn right and in a few minutes you can reach this unique black sand beach. This beach, where the river reaches the sea with a strong flow from the valley, is really worth a visit.

the black sand beach of waipio valley hawaii

However, the river crossings can sometimes be challenging. Always check the depth and current of the river. Also, as this area is culturally important to Native Hawaiians, it is important to respect the area and its traditions.

When you’re basking in the sun on the black sand beach, you’re in paradise. But don’t be fooled by the allure of the sea; it is known for its strong currents and unpredictable waves, especially in winter.

While it is a paradise for the eyes, it is not always a safe place for swimmers. For this reason, the beach is monitored to ensure the safety of visitors and any risks are constantly assessed.

The Kaluahine Falls

Kaluahine Falls is like a hidden natural wonder on the eastern side of the beach. Sometimes hidden from view due to rainfall, it offers a unique view of the ridges above from your vantage point.

the kaluahine falls waipio valley hawaii

Seeing Kaluahine Falls adds a magical touch to your Waipi’o Valley adventure. While some might consider seeing this waterfall a stroke of luck, others say it’s a rainy gift from the universe.


The Waipi’o Valley is a place of beauty, attention and awe-inspiring views. From adrenaline-fueled hikes to the tranquillity of the Waipi’o Valley Observation Terrace, every moment you spend here is an experience of extraordinary beauty.