See Waipio Valley on Hawaii, the Big Island


As you’re making your Big Island vacation sightseeing plans, I hope you’ll take the time to see Waipio Valley on the Hamakua Coast. It’s a marvelous sight with a mile-long black sand beach flanked by tall (1,000 to 2,000 feet high) green cliffs and thriving gardens in the flat of the valley.

We never miss an opportunity to see Waipio Valley as we’re traveling Highway 19  to and from the Kona side to the Hilo side. Each time, we visit, the valley looks different based on the season, recent rainfall and time of day.

It’s believed that some of the earliest Polynesian arrivals to Hawaii settled in Waipio Valley. With easy canoe access and a fresh water supply, the valley may have been the home of up to 9,000 early residents.

Waipio Valley Awaking

Getting to the Waipio Valley lookout is easy. Turn towards the ocean and the town of Honokaa at Plumeria Street  between mile markers 43 and 44. Follow Plumeria Street to the intersection of Highway 240 and turn left.  Just follow Highway 240 west from Honokaa until it ends at the lookout.

Several years ago, we took a guided hike around the Waipio Valley Rim. The following photo shows one of those vantage points from that hike. As of a 2018 update, we do not know of a tour company that is currently offering guided hikes around the rim. Note access to the trail can only be accesses via private property.

Waipio Valley

If you’d like to get down into the valley, that’s a little more challenging as the road is super steep and rough. Rental cars are prohibited from driving down Waipio Valley Road. You can hike down the steep road which is basically all downhill on the way into the valley and uphill all the way back. There’s shuttle service and mule-drawn wagon tours available. Horseback riding tours of the valley are offered that include a vehicle ride down the steep road. We’ve enjoyed horseback riding in Waipio Valley with Na’alapa Stables.

Another interesting way to see Waipio Valley is on a Big Island helicopter tour. Here’s a video clip of Waipio Valley. (Email subscribers: click this link to find the Waipio Valley video embedded in this post.)

Have you been to Waipio Valley? How was your experience?

See this link for more ideas of attractions to see on Hawaii’s Big Island.

  1. We visited in Jan/11 and it was wonderful!! The article doesn’t mention that you can WALK down and back up again. I don’t recommend for everyone, and especially NOT for small children in strollers or anyone with unstable footing. My husband and I loved the hike down and up. It took us about 35 minutes to get down and about 90 minutes to climb back up. Be reminded that the taro farms in the valley are private property and hikers and other visitors should be respectful. It was a highlight of our trip!

    1. Cynthia – thanks for your comment and reminder about hiking. I had an appointment sandwiched in between writing this article. I had planned on including hiking, but somehow I forgot. Doh! I’ll update the article to include that option for getting down into the valley.

    1. Hi Kamila — your definition of not long and mine are different. I think an 18-mile hike is pretty darn long. 🙂 But, what a way to see that part of the Hamakua Coast!

  2. Went to the Waipio Valley 10 years ago and got a tour from some old dude names Kelly. Ultra cool and seemed to know everything about the area as would stand to reason if he really grew up there like he said he did.

    Next time I get to the Big Island, I’m definitely going back to the Waipio Valley! It was a great time with beautiful scenery.

  3. It was one of the settings for the TOP CHEF Season 2 finale. It was such a beautiful locale and loved seeing the wild horses in the valley. You definitely need a four-wheel drive vehicle to get around down there.

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