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Waipio Valley: The Valley of the Kings

Waipio Valley with a mountain in the background
Waipio Valley Lookout
Waipio Valley Lookout

How to Get to Waipio Valley

The Big Island has no shortage of captivating natural spots. But Waipio Valley is one of the gems you won’t want to miss.

Visitors to the north side of The Big Island can take highway 240 to the Waipio Valley lookout. On a clear day, you will see white waves crashing onto the black sand beach below. You’ll take in the sapphire ocean and, if you look closely, you’ll see a waterfall on the other side of the valley dropping into Waipio Bay.

The overlook is about a one hour drive from Hilo. Most vehicles should be just fine driving to the lookout itself. However, if you’d like to drive down into the valley, you must drive a high clearance, four wheel drive capable vehicle.

Descending into Waipio Valley

The black sand beach touches Waipio Bay.
The black sand beach touches Waipio Bay.

There are several ways to get to the bottom of the valley. One method is parking at the lookout and hiking down. This hike can be hard on the knees. Definitely have good hiking shoes. Beautiful black sand beaches are the reward for a strenuous day of hiking.

This remote overlook can also be accessed from a steep four wheel drive roadway. This roadway requires skill and proper machinery to descend. Car rental companies often do not permit their vehicles to be driven down into the valley because of the treacherous road conditions. However, others do allow vehicles to be taken down the one way road, so long as the driver assumes responsibility for any damage. Any visitors who are hesitant to drive can join tours that will take them into the valley, or they can descend on horseback.

Valley of the Kings

This valley was once the center of political life on The Big Island. It is a sacred space that at one time was home to ten thousand Hawaiians. With its sacred temples and taro farms, it was a meaningful living space and burial area.

Hikers may find “heiau” or Hawaiian sacred sites in the valley. Treat any site you find with respect and reverence. Also, be sure to watch for signs that indicate the borders of public land, and avoid trespassing onto private property.

Getting the Most out of Waipio Valley

Whether you want to descend into the valley or simply visit the overlook, there are a few considerations to remember.

If you’re concerned about finding parking, come early or be prepared to wait. There are a limited number of parking spots available at the overlook. All vehicles are inspected before descending into the valley to make sure they are ready for the road. This steep roadway has grades between 20-40% and requires four wheel drive. Finally, check the weather on the day of your visit to make sure you get a good view and proper conditions for your trip.