City Girl Gone Wandering
Waipio Valley is a sacred place here on Big Island. Historically known as the “Valley of the Kings”, it was once the stomping ground of Hawaiian royalty.
Nowadays, Waipio Valley is home to an assortment of families who have been farming the land for generations. They mostly grow taro–a staple in Hawaiian cuisine–and primarily use traditional farming techniques. The valley is considered some of the most fertile land on the island and much of the island’s taro production comes from Waipio.
Life in Waipio Valley is of the old world variety. All properties are off-grid and residents use catchment water and generators to sustain their lives. Access to and from the valley is limited to a single access road which, with a 25% grade, is considered the steepest road in the United States. It can be accessed via four wheel drive or a rather challenging hike.
If you are not interested in taking that steady climb, you can observe the valley from the overlook. The land meets the ocean at the island’s longest black sand beach, and ambitious surfers can usually be found catching waves.
Waipio is also home to Hiilawe Falls: the tallest waterfall on Big Island (and one of the largest in all of Hawaii). It is located in the back of the valley, and not easily observed from the overlook.
However, there are several ways to get to the back of Waipio’s rim, and the most exciting and adventurous is with Ride the Rim ATV tours.
Their private trail runs through an unbelievable Eucalyptus forest and lasts a few hours. The first stop is at a peaceful lookout point, and then second at a secret waterfall.
After lazing about at (or in) the waterfall, you head to the main event: the back of Waipio Valley. You spend a significant chunk of time here, snapping photos and soaking in the glory of nature’s creation.
If you’re driving to Waipio from Kona side in the winter months, you may be lucky enough to pass a snow-capped Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa during your journey. They tower above the rest of the island like quiet friends keeping watch.
The northern part of this island is my personal favorite, and every journey there ends with immense gratitude for all of my time spent floating about on this pile of rock. If you find yourself on Big Island, do yourself a favor and head north.