Waipio Waipio

Waipi'o Valley

. The north slopes of Mauna Kea lead down to the ocean to form the Hamakua Coast, the windward side of the Big Island. This area is characterized by long green sloping hills, beautiful waterfalls, tropical botanical gardens, and some magnificent valleys. The best-known of these valleys is Waipi'o Valley. The road (Hwy 240) ends at the cliffs looming over the valley, providing a spectacular view down to the beach below. Waipi'o is called the "valley of kings" because it was once the political and religious center of Hawaii and home to the most important of the ali'i (chiefs or royalty). According to oral histories, more than 10,000 people lived in the valley, as it was the most fertile and productive area on the island. Today, the valley's population is a few dozen. If you're truly intrepid, you can hike down to the bottom and back. You'll be rewarded by views of waterfalls, lush green foliage, taro fields, and the black sand beach at the bottom. The difficulty is in the ridiculously steep road that hugs the valley wall. For the less adventurous, there are several companies that offer rides down and back up. It's a unique experience that should be part of any visit to the Big Island.