The Big Island’s Waipio Valley: A short walk to a world apart
On the lush north nub of the Big Island of Hawaii, Waipio Valley is an adventure into the past, where young Kamehamea spent his youth surfing a wild beach and roaming one of the richest agricultural terraces in the Islands. Lush in Hawaii means ‘wet,’ so plan on getting your feet wet.
As seen from a lookout at road’s end, Waipio appears as a faraway land, its beach cleaved by a swift-flowing stream. At the cliff at the far end of the beach, the Muliwai Trail begins its switchbacking ascent into the roadless north coast, where wilderness is wild for real.
The road down requires 4WD vehicles or a ride with a one of the local tour companies. On the other hand, you can just walk down: it’s only 500-feet down over 1.5 miles, not bad considering the destination.
A hidden hike in Waipio leads to the taro fields that have been cultivated for many generations, often by the same families. The trail is sort of hard to find, since you begin by walking a water-washed road the looks like a streambead.
Waterfalls, including twin ribbons of Hi’ilawae Falls, accent cliff walls that hem Waipio in on three sides. The road down crosses over the top of Kaluahine Falls. Once at the beach, you can rock-hop to the right to get a point-blank look from the bottom (although standing at the bottom of waterfalls is not a good idea in Hawaii, since rocks and debris sometimes fall with the water).