Crusin’ with Tita Nui to Waipi’o Valley

March 25, 2016, 2:26 PM HST
* Updated November 15, 3:01 PM
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Photo credit: Darde Gamayo.

Photo credit: Darde Gamayo.

Shhh… that’s the feeling one gets as they stand at the lookout that overlooks the lush, green valley called Waipi’o. The name Waipi’o means curved water, which comes from the river that curves throughout the valley as it makes its way from the base of the Kohala Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Its beauty is enough to take your breath away. But, there is more to Waipi’o then the beautiful black sand beach or the famous waterfall called Hi’ilawe. There is a history that is rich culturally as well as spiritually among those who have been blessed to call it home or live near it.

Sometimes called “The Valley of the Kings,” Waipi’o has an amazing connection to many of the kings that were instrumental in the history of Hawai’I as we know it today. It is said that in 1758, many prophetic signs appeared that a great leader would be born around the time that Halley’s Comet was visible in the Hawaiian skies. That was also the year of Kamehameha’s birth. The warring clans of Hawai’I Island saw Kamehameha as that potential leader and sought to have him removed. His family took him to Waipi’o Valley, where he was hidden for many years by family members to keep him safe. It is also said that Waipi’o once was home to over 40,000 Hawaiians. That number varies depending on its source, yet looking at the lush vegetation visible from the top, one realizes that the fertility of the aina could easily provide enough to feed that many people.

Today, Waipi’o is home to approximately 100 full time residents and taro farmers, as well as many part time residents and farmers. Several tour companies operate tours that will safely take you to the bottom and show you around.

As a full time resident of Waipi’o valley, it is my privilege, or should I say blessing, to be able to bask so to say in all of its splendor. The peacefulness and tranquility felt is unsurpassed. So, it is understandable that many people who come are drawn to want to go down and feel it also. It offers a person not just a get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy world, but also a place to recharge your batteries, so to say.

When visiting, please be mindful that you are entering people’s private homes, and for many, their farms are their livelihood.


My advice is that if you choose to venture into Waipi’o Valley:

  • First speak to the Information & Education officer at the little kiosk up on top before you go down. They are very knowledgeable about the current status of the road or any other situations that may be occurring in the valley at that time.
  • Be respectful to residents you meet. We know you want to see and feel it too. We get it because we feel it, see it, and live it.
  • Pay heed to all posted signs, Private Property or No Trespassing, as well as the one that says “Slow Down Flying Rocks!” My favorite is the one that says, “Waipi’o is like Heaven! Don’t drive like Hell!”
  • Do not venture beyond the end of the county road as it is all private property. Do not venture where you are not invited.
  • Waipi’o is not an off road recreational area, but a sensitive ecosystem that thrives on its own, with the help of all who take the time to malama the aina.
  • Know that despite what the guide books may say or what you read posted on the internet or see in other peoples video posts, there is actually no trail to any waterfall and you will be trespassing if you venture to any of the waterfalls in the valley.

Waipi’o Valley is now open once again after being closed to the general public for approximately two months due to the dengue outbreak. Please do your part to keep it as beautiful and dengue free for all to enjoy.

This article is part of a weekly BigIslandNow.com series by KAPA Hawaiian FM personality Darde Gamayo.

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