Friday, August 19, 2011

Big Island Trip: Waipio Valley hike

The Housemate's brother had heard about a hike down into Waipio Valley from a friend of his. A steep road descends into a secluded valley on the Big Island's north shore. Most of the valley is private property. At the head of the valley is the tallest waterfall on the island. At the other end, a black sand beach. The hike wasn't supposed to be very long, maybe an hour. Sounded like a good idea at the time.

The hike descends from the ridge into the valley 1000 feet below in the span of a mile. While that's not a long hike, the often 45-degree slope is pretty brutal, especially in the hot sun. Going down into the valley, you have to be careful not to start running down the slope, because you could get out of control and take a tumble. The walk is jarring to the joints. Coming out, it's like hiking up a mile-long staircase. We went down with the whole family. The Housemate's brother had the little girl in a child backpack. The Housemate carried the four-year-old in his arms for part of the way. Going down it was manageable (if somewhat painful for certain people involved), but I don't know how we would have made it out if the Housemate's brother, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew hadn't hitched a ride with the cars driving up out of the valley. Yes, it was a road we were hiking down into the valley, but because of the steepness of the slope, only four-wheel-drive vehicles can drive down. The Housemate and I hiked the whole way, and I was pretty red faced by the end. Now that I've done it once, I'd be happy to rent a Jeep next time. If you want to go with young children, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is a must.

That said, I'm really glad we did the hike, because it was gorgeous! This was the view of the valley and beach from the ridge, where we ate our lunch.

From the hike down into the valley. I'm not sure you can tell just how steep it is from the picture, but it was intense. Back in the valley, you can see some small taro farms.

The opposite ridge, and some nice marshy vegetation.

Before we saw where it was (it wasn't visible from the ridge lookout), we'd planned to go all the way to the waterfall. But that is a long way, and involves a lot of hiking through private property. Once down in the valley, we passed some hikers who described the path their friends were taking to the waterfall: Follow the stream, you'll have to wade waist-deep in the stream for a hundred yards or so, then you'll see where you climb out over the rocks on the other side... Basically, it was totally infeasible with the children, and probably not what we wanted even if it had just been the adults. We enjoyed the view of the waterfall from the valley road.

It's kind of interesting how there's clearly a second waterfall path carved out of the rock. I wondered whether it would sometimes have two waterfalls if there was enough rainfall, or if the second was just an older path and the river had for whatever reason been slightly diverted from it.

Since we couldn't go all the way to the waterfall, at least we could go to the beach! It was a beautiful black sand beach, the nicest one I've been to, with soft sand and very few people (given the remote location, that was to be expected). I think the Housemate took this shot.

I took a LOT of photos on the beach, so I'll make them a separate post.

After the strenuous hike out of the valley, the Housemate and I were rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley, a bit before sunset.

The Housemate took a photo of it with his camera:

Next: Photos from the Waipio black sand beach.

Back to Big Island Trip master link page


C said...

What a lovely adventure!

Eleni said...

We weren't ideally prepared for it, but we still had a good time :)

Vanessita said...

What an astoundingly beautiful place! These are some of the most amazing pics!

Eleni said...

Thanks! It was a very beautiful valley.