Waimea Valley: The North Shore's Hidden Treasure

Posted in: Culture & History, Environment, Things to Do

By Richard Melendez, Digital Editor

Waimea Valley taro
A taro patch, just one of the many culturally significant collections of flora found in the valley

This weekend we took a drive up to O‘ahu’s North Shore and visited Waimea Vally. I last visited this site about 20 years—and at least two landowners owners—ago. In fact, it’s been so long that I can’t really remember much about how it was back then compared to how it is today.

What I can tell you is that the Waimea Valley of today is a more than a worthwhile excursion, with something for pretty much anyone to enjoy. The current stewards of the valley, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, have done a great job of balancing education and activities into something everyone can find enjoyment in.

Waimea Valley is sort of a hidden treat. Unlike most of the North Shore, which unfolds and reveals itself to you as you meander along windy, coastal roads, Waimea Valley is tucked away off the main thoroughfare, coveting a hidden world all its own.

This separateness from the rest of the area’s goings-on lends itself to creating an insular, serene vibe. It feels like you’ve stepped into another realm.

Whatever your age or temperament, and whomever you’re traveling with, there’s something for everyone. History buffs will enjoy learning about ancient culture and traditions. There is a heiau (temple) on site dedicated to the Hawaiian god, Lono. There are also shrines, burial sites, ancient stone walls and terraces, and structures recreating dwellings and other living spaces.

Waimea Valley hale
One of the recreated traditional structures on the grounds

Active people will enjoy the 1-1/2-mile round trip path that leads deep into the valley and back, with various detours into gardens and other sights along the way. There’s even an area where you can partake in sports and games that ancient Hawaiians played.

At several points along the way are artisans and cultural practitioners showcasing their talents. Some of the items we saw that day included handmade jewelry, traditional musical instruments, and lomilomi (a Hawaiian form of massage).

Nature lovers will probably get the most joy here, as the valley is a lush botanical garden with vegetation from around the world, as well as flora that’s not only native to the islands, but also an integral part of Hawaiian culture and history. From local floral collections, to fruits, spices and nuts, there’s plenty to take in and learn here.

The pinnacle of Waimea Valley is the roaring waterfall at the end. Commonly known as Waimea Falls, but also known as Waihi Falls, it’s a beautiful sight to just behold and take in, but you’re also allowed to swim in the pool at its base. On a hot, summer day, the cool waters are inviting and refreshing. If you didn’t think to bring your swimwear, no worries, you can purchase a suit there. Changing stations and lockers are even available.

Waimea Falls
A beautiful and refreshing payoff: Waimea Falls, aka Waihi Falls

Oh, and be sure to check their calendar! They often have special events going on for holidays, families and children, as well as concerts and regular, recurring events like plant sales and farmer’s markets.

I'm embarrassed that it's taken me 20 years to return to the valley. There's so much to love about this place! I'd make it a regular stop if I could. While it's not quite located in my backyard, I do need to make a point of visiting more often.


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A taro patch, just one of the many culturally significant collections of flora found in the valley


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