New Hike in Hawaii's Waipio Valley

Hawaii Forest and Trail’s new hike delves into Big Island valley

By: By Deanna Ting

The Details

Hawaii Forest and Trail

Getting There: The Waipio Rim Hike Adventure departs daily from Hawaii Forest and Trail’s headquarters and the Queen’s Marketplace at Waikoloa Beach Resort.

What to Know: The excursion lasts eight hours roundtrip and is suggested for hikers ages 8 and up. A deli-style lunch with beverages is provided at the end of the hike. Tour groups are limited to 12 guests. Clients with knee or hip problems should avoid this hike.

Prices: The cost is $149 per adult and $119 per child ages 12 and under.

Commission: 10 percent

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While the Big Island of Hawaii is best known for its volcanoes — Mauna Loa and Kilauea, especially — travelers sometimes forget that it is home to other landscapes, too. From plains that resemble the golden strands of the Midwest prairies to valleys of lush, tropical foliage, your clients are sure to encounter a number of different surroundings while visiting the Big Island.

I was recently reminded of this on Hawaii Forest and Trail’s newest hike, the Waipio Rim Hike Adventure, as I stood at the top of a waterfall, peering down into a mile-wide valley of verdant forest. The 2½-hour, three-mile hike began at 7 a.m. on a fog-filled day in May — not the best weather conditions for a scenic walk. Still, my group and I remained optimistic as we boarded the van, headed from Waikoloa Beach Resort to Waipio Valley.

Along the way to the valley, we drove through highways decked out in white coral graffiti, past the grazing lands of Parker Ranch, eventually making our way to a one-lane road surrounded by towering eucalyptus trees. As we drove along the road, our anticipation — and hopes for clearer skies — began to build.

Even before we set foot in the valley, our guide, Matt, began weaving together the myths and legends that have been connected to the valley for thousands of years. Waipio means curved water in Hawaiian, so named because of the Waipio River that flows through the valley, meeting the ocean near the Kohala coastline. Waipio is also known as the Valley of the Kings, because it was home to many of Hawaii’s rulers. When we finally arrived, I could see how it could be a royal retreat, rich with history.

Exiting the four-wheel-drive vehicle, our small group of 10 gathered to pick up our assembled accoutrements. Hawaii Forest and Trail provided each of us with walking sticks, day packs, granola bars and water bottles to prepare us for the trek. Clients would benefit from bringing sunglasses, sunblock, a hat, sturdy closed-toe shoes and bug repellent with them. Because it can get rather misty and muddy, Hawaii Forest and Trail also suggests that clients wear long pants and pack a light jacket. After outfitting ourselves, we set off for the trail, entering the forest.

It was still bright and early by the time we started our hike and, much to our delight, Matt began our journey by picking a few ripe strawberry guava fruits for our mid-morning snack — delicious.

Entering the heart of the forest, all I could hear were the sounds of the nene — the Hawaiian goose and the islands’ state bird — along with other bird songs and the quiet rush of falling waters. The terrain along the trail was only slightly muddy, and age-old trees provided us with plenty of shade, even if the humidity was on the rise. Taro fields lined the bottom of the valley and I could occasionally make out a few houses along the way.

While taking in scenic vistas and lookout points along the rim of the valley, Matt gathered us together at certain points to “talk story.” We learned how King Kamehameha began his conquest of the Hawaiian islands at Waipio. We listened intently as Matt described the mana (divine power) of the valley and how it was a place of refuge for many Hawaiians, as well as the final resting place for ancient rulers and gods. We were enthralled by the myth of Nanaue, also known as the shark-man, whose tale explains why Waipio residents remained safe from shark attacks.

Each time Matt regaled us with another story, the clouds and mist cleared, as if on cue, revealing a breathtaking landscape. There’s certainly a reason, I thought, why Hawaiians considered this place sacred.

My favorite part of the trip, aside from the myths and legends, came near the end of the trail. Crossing a tiny stream, hopping from one rock to another, each of us walked toward the edge of a cliff where Matt waited for us. One by one, we took our turns as we looked out over the edge and saw that we were standing at the top of an amazing waterfall from Lalakea Stream. Waipio is home to many waterfalls, but this one was simply beautiful. I was completely awestruck.

A good friend of mine (also an avid hiker) once joked to me that hiking was merely a “glorified version of walking.” While he might be right, I’d have to say that this hike certainly lived up to its expectations as an idyllic way to experience both the nature and history of Hawaii that your clients won’t soon forget.

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