The Waimea Valley is an ahupuaa, which is a division of land that stretches from the mountain to the sea, shaped like a pie slice. It is recognized historically as “The Valley of the Priests” as it was the ancient home to people of the Kahuna class as part of the island of Oahu.
Throughout its history, this beautiful piece of land has undergone many changes. One of the most recent was the collaboration in 2003 with the City, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, The U.S. Army and Trust for Public Lands, and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources. This collaboration means that the Waima Valley is now back in the hands of a Native Hawaiian governing entity the Hiipaka. Because of its historic significance and its current governing body being Native Hawaiian, when you visit today, it’s important to respect the beliefs of the ancient Hawaiians and be mindful to not touch, disturb, or remove any objects or rocks to pay respect to this truly unique place.
Hiipaka LLC is the governing body responsible for the nurture and care of Waimea Valley, and they currently hold the title to the land. This land is considered a respite for Hawaiian traditions and spirituality. Therefore, the group and its employees aim at keeping Waimea Valley a site of historic significance and cultural relevance and encourage guests to do the same.
You must pay an admission fee to access the beauty of the Waimea Valley. You can do so at the Waimea Valley Visitor Center, located across from Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore. There is also shuttle transportation available that you can enjoy that takes guests from Hale Hoike to Wailele waterfall and then turns around. The first shuttle begins running at 9:45 am daily.
In addition to getting a shuttle ride to access some guests’ favorite locations in the valley, you can also rent a wagon to help transport young children or gear. There are also daily guided cultural tours you can participate in including the Na Laau Hawaii: What’s Blooming Botanical Tour. This is an educational trek that takes place once a day, through the Waimea Valley. It is designed to highlight seasonal blooming plants. This guided tour is complimentary with your paid admission to the valley.
Another free tour that you can access by paying your admission cost is the guided Hele Wawae: History Walk. This tour features guides that take you on a historical and educational walk through the valley. You will learn all about Waimea Valley’s rich history, and visit the Kauhale, which is a traditional Hawaiian living site, to learn more about Hawaiian agriculture. This tour typically has a duration of 30 minutes and runs once daily.
If you are interested in a more robust activity, you can also enjoy the Na Mea Paani: Hawaiian Games. Inquire at the ticket booth about this activity. Here, you will get to participate in some ancient Hawaiian games like the ulu miaka and moa pahee, known as the games of skill, the ooihe, the game of strength, and the konae, the game of strategy. Valley staff will be present to demonstrate how to do these traditional games twice daily, and it’s good family fun and a great way to enjoy this unique setting.
If you would instead prefer to experience the valley on your own, you can enjoy the paved path that works its way from the world-class botanical garden to various historical sites and the breathtakingly beautiful waterfall area. The walk is around 3.4 miles one way, or if you want to make a round trip 1 ½ miles. It is wheelchair and stroller friendly, but it’s worth noting that the path can get a little steep at times.
-Due to the fragility of the wildlife, no pets except service animals are allowed on Waimea Valley trails.
-There is a discount for park admission for both Hawaiian residents and military personnel.
-Swimming at the waterfall is allowed, but the status of the falls can change depending on the weather. In other words, depending on when you visit weather-wise, the waterfall can be closed for swimming, have limited swimming availability, or have regular swim allowances.