"Waipi?o Valley and Hi?ilawe Falls" Hawaii (State of) Off The Beaten Path Tip by BlueCollar
Hawaii (State of) Off The Beaten Path: 170 reviews and 253 photos
The highest (1,500+ feet/460 meters) waterfall in all of the State of Hawai‘i goes unseen by most visitors. Hi‘ilawe (hee-ee-lah-vey) Falls is in the Waipi‘o (vhy-pee-oh) Valley which is on the north shore of the Big Island. Why do so few people see it? You either need to have rented a 4WD SUV for the drive down into the valley or you will need to hike down the valley access road, which has a 25% grade. Look at the road in the panorama in the second segment with its severe incline/decline. The falls are not viewable from the Lookout, which is at the top left where the road starts downward in this photo. (For a fullsize view of the panorama, go here: http://bluecollar.myphotoalbum.com/ The panorama is four separate photos I pieced together (the best I could do).
If you're hiking, going down isn't so bad. It's hiking back up that is the tough part. On our last trip while we were driving back to the top, we encountered an older couple trying to hike it back to the top. We stopped and offered a ride. They were grateful since they were having to stop every few meters to catch their breath. They said it looked much easier than it was.
If you're driving, going down IS the hard part. You must have the low gears of a 4WD to make it down this grade. We locked the transfer case of our rented Jeep into 4-wheel-low and just idled all the way down without the brakes. DO NOT try it in ANY 2-wheel-drive vehicle! Look in my Warnings or Dangers section for a picture of a car that didn't heed this warning.
Waipi‘o is THE most beautiful place on the Big Island! And well worth the trip (even on a cloudy day like my picture).
If you do not want the expense of renting a 4WD vehicle -OR- are physically challenged for the arduous return hike, try this company: http://www.topofwaipio.com. We have never used them so I cannot vouch for them but they are your only other option. They will take you down into the valley with a 4WD van for an up-close encounter.
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