Hawaii Road Trip: Waipi'o Valley Lookout, Big Island

Updated on January 16, 2019
punacoast profile image

The author lives in a quiet rural community in lower Puna on the Big Island. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.

Hamakua coastal cliffs.
Hamakua coastal cliffs. | Source

Waipi’o Valley Lookout is one of the most amazing (and most photographed!) places on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Located near the northern tip of the island and on top of a 2000-foot cliff, this lookout offers breathtaking views of the historic Waipi’o Valley and rugged Hamakua coastline.

Visit the lookout on a bright and sunny day for the best views, however, even when it’s cloudy and rainy, the views are still stunning!

Note: While visitors can go down to the valley floor to explore on their own (with a 4-wheel drive vehicle or hiking on foot), the author does not recommend this because of the dangerous steep road and out of respect for the residents who live in the valley.

Dramatic view on a sunny day.
Dramatic view on a sunny day. | Source
Lush landscape of Waipi'o Valley.
Lush landscape of Waipi'o Valley. | Source

Valley of The Kings

Often referred to as the "Valley of the Kings," Waipi’o Valley was once home to mighty rulers of the ancient Hawaii Kingdom, including King Kamehameha The Great.

For centuries, thousands of Native Hawaiians – taro farmers, fishermen, villagers – lived in the valley. They flourished by taking advantage of the fertile soils and abundant supply of freshwater from numerous streams and waterfalls that cascade down the side of the surrounding cliffs.

Today, only a few dozen Hawaiian residents remain in the valley, still living the peaceful and simple life embraced by generations before them.

A sacred place

Waipi’o Valley is revered by Native Hawaiians. Their folklore is filled with legends of mystical gods who dwell in the valley. Many heiaus (rock temples) have been found throughout the valley floor. The high cliffs were traditionally used as burial ground for Kings and warriors. Their divine spirits are believed to watch over the valley, keeping it safe from intruders.

How to get here

Visitors from Kailua-Kona can get to Waipi’o Valley Lookout by taking the Hawaii Belt Road (Hwy 19) north to Waimea then continue to Honokaa town (2-hour drive). From Hilo, it will be a shorter drive (about 1 hour 15 minutes), following the scenic Hamakua Heritage Corridor Drive (Mamalahoa Hwy) directly to Honokaa town.

From Honokaa town take Route 240 and drive 9 miles to the end of the road where the lookout is located.

Route 240 is a beautiful country road with eucalyptus forests, rolling hills, and grassland on one side of the road and the blue Pacific on the other side. Drive slowly and enjoy the scenery!

Route 240 on the way to the lookout.
Route 240 on the way to the lookout. | Source
Information tablet at the lookout.
Information tablet at the lookout. | Source
A
Waipi'o Valley Lookout:

get directions

Visiting Waipi’o Valley Lookout

  • Park your car in the lookout parking lot. Parking is limited, so either come early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.
  • Follow the short walking path down to the lookout area by the cliff’s edge.
  • Take in the incredible panoramic views of the valley, coastline, and vast ocean beyond! It’s like stepping into a prehistoric world – you almost expect to see pterodactyls soaring above those coastal cliffs!
  • A mile-long black sand beach can be seen far below where the valley meets the ocean. This spectacular beach has appeared in a few Hollywood blockbusters!
  • If you’re lucky, you might spot (maybe with binoculars) some wild horses frolicking on the beach. These animals live happily and freely in the lush valley!
  • A stream cuts across the beach and flows into the ocean. It originates from the bottom of the legendary Hi’ilawe Falls (tallest waterfall in the state of Hawaii) located deep in the back of the valley. Unfortunately, you cannot see this waterfall from the lookout.
  • However, you will see other waterfalls along the cliffs on the other side of the valley, some cascade directly into the ocean. More waterfalls appear during the wet and rainy season (December-January).
  • Look for the green taro patches on the valley floor. Taro is used to make poi – the main staple food for Hawaiians. Coconut, banana, breadfruit, and other tropical fruits are also grown abundantly here, thanks to the valley’s fertile soils.
  • Read the information tablets displayed at the lookout to learn more about the historical and cultural significance of Waipi’o Valley.
  • Relax and have a picnic lunch on the lawn next to the lookout.
  • Covered picnic pavilion, restrooms, and drinking water fountains are available.

Waterfall and stream in the valley.
Waterfall and stream in the valley. | Source

Note: If you plan to drive or hike down to the valley floor, check with the information officer inside the booth located at the beginning of the steep road. Because it’s so narrow and steep (25% grade), this road is notoriously difficult to navigate down and up, whether in a vehicle or on foot. Also, swollen streams and flash flood on the valley floor could happen at any time due to the frequent rainstorms in this area. Exercise extreme caution.

Alternatively, you may book a small, private tour (including one on a mule-drawn wagon), led by a local guide to see the beauty of Waipi’o Valley up close and personal, and learn more about the traditional taro farming practice.

Whatever you do in the valley, please show your utmost respect for the land and the people because not only the valley is a sacred place, but also home (privately-owned lands) to the remaining Native Hawaiian residents.

The majestic Hi'ilawe Falls.
The majestic Hi'ilawe Falls. | Source
Taro farm in the valley.
Taro farm in the valley. | Source

Nearby attractions

Honokaa town – A charming plantation town of yesteryear Hawaii. It has a school, church, movie theater, some souvenir shops, and a few restaurants. A small farmer’s market is held on Saturdays in downtown, with vendors selling crafts, local specialties, fruits and vegetables.

Kalopa State Recreation Area – Located on the mauka (toward the mountain) side of Honokaa town, this 100-acre state park offers hiking and horseback riding trails through an enchanted rainforest home to some rare plants and birds. A must for all nature lovers, bird watchers, and photographers!

Tex Drive-In – A favorite restaurant and bakery located on the highway, near Honokaa town, serving local Hawaiian food and the world-famous malasadas! You can watch the bakers making these irresistible pastries through a large glass window. Pick up a box of malasadas, bring to the lookout and make new friends!

Black sand beach at the mouth of Waipi'o Valley.
Black sand beach at the mouth of Waipi'o Valley. | Source

All photos were taken by the author with an Olympus Stylus TG-630 iHS digital camera and iPhone6.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Viet Doan

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

        Viet Doan 

        4 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

        Aloha Elayne! Thanks so much for your comment. Please come back to the Big Island soon to visit this incredible place!

      • elayne001 profile image

        Elayne 

        4 months ago from Rocky Mountains

        We lived on Oahu for several years and were able to visit the Big Island a few times. It is magnificent and one of my favorite places. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and photos. More people should witness it for themselves.

      • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

        Viet Doan 

        5 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

        Thank you Liz. This place is incredible and honestly, my photos don't do it justice! So glad you enjoy. Aloha to you!

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        5 months ago from UK

        This is a very interesting and well-illustrated article article, packed with information.

      • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

        Viet Doan 

        5 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

        Aloha Eman! Many thanks for your comment. It would be much, much better to see this magical place in person, believe me!

      • Emmy ali profile image

        Eman Abdallah Kamel 

        5 months ago from Egypt

        A very beautiful place. I liked the photos so much.

      • punacoast profile imageAUTHOR

        Viet Doan 

        5 months ago from Big Island, Hawaii

        Thank you Mary and Bill for your kind comments. It's such an awe-inspiring place. I always love the expressions on the faces of my visiting friends and family when they first saw the valley! Warm Aloha to you both.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 months ago from Massachusetts

        Absolutely Beautiful. You are living in paradise. Thanks for sharing.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

        So lush and lovely. You have beautiful pictures of the place. There's so much still to visit in Hawaii. Another reason to go back.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)