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Best Hikes On Oahu: The Waimea Valley Trail

Basic Trail Information

  • Name: Waimea Valley Trail
  • Where: Oah’u, Hawaii
  • Distance: 1.5 miles round-trip
  • Difficulty: easy (no elevation gain)
  • Time: 1.5 hours round-trip
  • More Info: Oahu Trails

Picture from Waimea Valley

Google Earth Map of the Trail

Waimea Falls Trail

Waimea Valley Trail Narrative

Another great walk on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu that my wife and I undertook besides walking up to the Makapu’u Lighthouse was our hike up the Waimea Valley Trail.  This valley is located on Oahu’s famous North Shore and is a very popular tourist site. The trail takes visitors up a lush valley filled with ancient Hawaiian ruins and lush native plant life that ends at the scenic Waimea Waterfall:

This valley is believed to have first become a settlement in 1090 AD when the King of Oahu gave the land to the Kahuna Nui who was a powerful priest.  More priests eventually set up shop in the valley to the point that Waimea became known as the Valley of the Priests. This valley remained a settlement for the Kahuna and his followers until 1819 when it was abandoned.  By then much had changed in Hawaii with the arrival of Western missionaries and traders that led to a collapse of the Hawaiian culture.

The trail to explore this valley starts at a visitor center that of course has an area to buy souvenirs and food.  What I found most interesting about the visitor center was the birds that were walking around inside:

Picture from Waimea Valley

The trail through Waimea Valley isn’t like a trail in a national or state park land.  It is more like walking through a well cared for garden of not only native Hawaiian plants but other plants from Polynesia as well:

Picture from Waimea Valley

At the start of the trail is a lagoon with various plants growing in it:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Besides the plants the lagoon was home to some native ducks as well that visitors are encouraged to not disturb:

Picture from Waimea Valley

The first Hawaiian ruin along the trail is the Ku’ula Fishing Shrine:

Picture from Waimea Valley

The large stone on top is supposed to represent Kamoho’alii or the King of Sharks.  The smaller stone represents the freshwater fish O’opu.  The eight other stones represent the seas surrounding the 8 islands of Hawaii where the shark ruled the oceans. Before heading to the ocean to fish the native Hawaiians that once lived in this village made offerings at this shrine at the head of valley for protection against the dangers of the sea.

As my wife and I continued up the valley we crossed over this small creek:

Picture from Waimea Valley

We then camp upon a large rock that was significant to the ancient Hawaiians:

Picture from Waimea Valley

This stone was discovered by archaeologists in 1976 and believed to be either a marker or a roadside shrine where visitors to the valley could leave an offering to either the Gods or the village chief.

As we continued up the trail this was about the greatest increase in elevation we experienced:

Picture from Waimea Valley

This trail is very easy to complete and an alternative route even makes it wheelchair accessible all the way to the waterfall.  As we walked up the stairs we noticed what is known as a “Walking Tree” because the trees roots grow outside the tree and is able to grow towards where water is at and over time this causes the tree to move:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Next we came to a replica of an old hut that the ancient Hawaiians would have used to eat in:

Picture from Waimea Valley

These huts are really simple because of how nice the environment is in Hawaii.  There was no need for the ancient Hawaiians to create huge homes to stockpile food in and keep warm during the winter.  These simple grass shacks were sufficient enough to provide protection from the rain since cold is not a factor in Hawaii.

Near the home was the remains of what was believed to be animal pens for pigs and dogs:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Interestingly enough we learned that the Hawaiians considered young dogs to be a delicacy.  We also learned that only men could eat pork, bananas, coconuts, red fish, grey shark, and sea turtles.  These were all reserved for men to eat.  The women could eat dogs, chicken, non-red fish and shellfish.  Food scraps of chicken, pig, fish, and shells were used to feed the animals in the pens.

These ruins pictured below are of cookhouse with a stone fireplace that male Hawaiians would use to cook their food in during bad weather:

Picture from Waimea Valley

During good weather they would prefer to cook outside.

This next ruin was a family shrine that represented the deceased ancestors of the family who they held in high regard and made offerings to:

Picture from Waimea Valley

This small cave was used an area to keep pigs and dogs in during inclement weather:

Picture from Waimea Valley

As we continued up the valley we were impressed by the curly branches on these trees:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Then we came upon another ruin with this one being a family sleeping house:

Picture from Waimea Valley

This is where the Hawaiian family could congregate to talk and play games before going to sleep.  They slept on a raised floor on mats.  This was pretty much the last of the ruins as the trail now came to a large grassy park like area:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Picture from Waimea Valley

The in plaque describing this piece of wood said that it is a piece of wood from a rare tree found on a small Japanese island called Ogasawara:

Picture from Waimea Valley

As we continued up the trail we saw plenty of more plant life:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Picture from Waimea Valley

Picture from Waimea Valley

The foliage eventually opened up a bit and then we saw a small waterfall out in the distance:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Here is a closer look at the waterfall:

Picture from Waimea Valley

As we walked towards the waterfall here is what the end of the trail looks like which has restroom facilities for those visiting the falls:

Picture from Waimea Valley

As far as waterfalls go, Waimea Waterfall is not big at all, but still it is still a nice reward for walking to the end of the valley.  The waterfall also flows into a small lagoon which is a popular location for people to go swimming in:

Picture from Waimea Valley

There are certain days that they don’t allow visitors to swim in the lagoon and the day we visited just happened to be one of those days.  However, my wife and I enjoyed just walking around the lagoon and admiring the various colorful flowers:

Picture from Waimea Valley

Picture from Waimea Valley

Conclusion

From the lagoon it was just a simple walk back to the visitor center.  In total we spent about an hour and a half at Waimea Valley but we could have easily spent more time here if we would have stayed to go swim in the lagoon or happened to have visited on a day when the park gives special guided hikes to remote areas of the valley.  There are also a number of special events that happens at Waimea Valley, which makes checking out the park’s website a good thing to do before visiting the valley.  So all in all I definitely recommend anyone visiting to Oahu to stop by Waimea Valley to learn more about Hawaiian history, culture, native plant life and maybe even get a swim in at the end of the day.

Note: More Oahu trail information can be read in the below book:

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