"Waipi`o Valley" Waipio by BlueCollar

Waipio Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 42 photos

Waipio Valley with Hiilawe Falls

Updated 6-27-10.

You will find plenty of untrue information online about whether it is legal and/or safe to drive down into Waipio. All I can say is that you CAN drive down there and that - if you know what you're doing - it is safe to do so. You may be breaking your rental contract, but that does not make you a criminal in the eyes of law enforcement.

For more info, click here.

Be aware that there is a reason some of the rental companies offer the 4WD Jeep - they know people who are willing to pay the extra dollars for these vehicles are going to use the extra features on it! The vehicle is rented with a wink and a nod because the rental contract excludes them from responsibility (more on that below) if it is used at certain locations.

If you look at the above photo, the legal road access in the valley is marked in red. This map comes from Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. It is posted at the top of the valley access road, where the Information Officer's booth is located.

To go beyond the first major river crossing (where the red line stops on the HDLNR map) becomes debatable from there. The county does claim the road that goes back into the valley as county property, but property owners in the valley dispute it. The property out by the blacksand beach where you see everybody parking is listed as public on this map and all locals who visit here daily come and go as they please, invited or not. One map I purchased does show the property as a county park, others do not. So you can see from where confusion eminates.

You'll notice that the beach is not shown in red. However, Hawaii law dictates that ALL beaches are public property. Staying on the beach to cross the valley will be your access to the "Z Trail".

For video of a past adventure in the valley, click here.

If you decide to rent a 4WD Jeep for your stay on the island and want to try driving down into this beautiful valley, be sure to heed these warnings:

(1.) Do NOT try driving down this access road with ANY 2-Wheel-Drive or All-Wheel-Drive vehicle! They do not have transmissions geared low enough to manage the descent without braking, nor are they capable of making the ascent without overheating the transmission.

(2.) Our rental contract specifically did NOT allow us to drive the valley access road. So, if you go down there, you are breaking your rental contract. If you get into trouble or breakdown, do NOT call the rental company for help without understanding that you will pay hefty penalties and repair bills

(3.) Stop at the Lookout parking lot to complete this step and the next. You MUST be sure you've locked the transfer case (it's manually done in the Jeep Wrangler) into 4-wheel-low BEFORE attempting the descent. The transfer case gear selector is marked 2Hi/2Lo/4Hi/4Lo. You want 4Lo.

(4.) Next, pull the transmission gear sellector into D-1 and just idle downhill letting the drivegears of the vehicle slow your descent

(5.) The road is so narrow most of the way there is little room for more than just your vehicle. Hikers and vehicles coming uphill have the right-of-way, so be sure to stop early on wide areas of path to let all pass

(6.) DO NOT drag your brakes! This will lead to brake fade and then failure. The transmission and transfer case together, if set properly, will allow your engine to slow your descent and braking will not be needed

It is not that tough but can be dangerous if you are not careful. On the way back up, be sure to offer hikers going uphill a ride! Since going downhill is the easy part of hiking this road, many have spent all their energy hiking around in the valley. They then have a tough or impossible time going back up. So be generous.

Waipi`o Valley Road

Here's the road you'll be driving down. The Valley Lookout (from which most people steal just a glimpse of the valley) is at the upper left corner in the photo. This road traverses about 1,000 feet (304m) of elevation in less than a mile (1.6km). Hence, its steepness.

Return to my Big Island page.

Return to my main Hawai`i page.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:The most beautiful place on the Big Island
  • Cons:For the great views, it's the toughest to get to
  • In a nutshell:Rent the 4WD and see the whole valley
  • Last visit to Waipio: Mar 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
  • Add to Trip Planner (?)
  • Report Abuse

Reviews (3)

Comments (2)

  • selfishman's Profile Photo
    Aug 7, 2004 at 12:25 AM

    One of my favorite places in the world! The most brutal and rewarding hike in Hawaii! Aloha, Caleb

  • JetlagCity's Profile Photo
    Jul 23, 2004 at 6:50 PM

    That's so cool that you hiked up the opposite side of the valley! And someday I hope very much to follow in your footsteps re: the horseback ride!


“Get out and explore!”

Online Now


Top 5,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 1 9 3 4
Forum Rank:
0 0 8 4 4

Badges & Stats in Waipio

  • 3 Reviews
  • 22 Photos
  • 0 Forum posts
  • 4,397PageViews

Have you been to Waipio?

  Share Your Travels  


See All Friends (3)

Travel Interests

See All Travel Interests (5)