This post was most recently updated on July 23rd, 2020
On the north shore of O’ahu lies a hidden gem of lush gardens, native history, and breathtaking natural wonders: Waimea Valley. This valley consists of 1,875 acres and is considered a sacred place, as it was owned and maintained by high priests for over 700 years!
Boasting one of the only remaining waterfalls on O’ahu accessible for swimming, I definitely wanted to visit! To get to the waterfall, you walk about ¾ of a mile on an easy paved path. As you walk, you’ll be encompassed by marked botanical gardens, overgrown trees, and views of the Waimea river. We enjoyed taking a few little detours along our way to the waterfall in order to inspect more of the tropical plants up close. My husband and I enjoyed reading the placards naming all of the different plants, although I’m sure our pronunciation of the plants was severely flawed. We only stopped to see a few of the gardens, but if you want to see them all there are 150 acres of Botanical Gardens for you to explore!
We enjoyed seeing the Ancient Hawaiian Historical Sites as we walked to the waterfall. It made us feel like we were stepping back into time and seeing how life would have been for the natives that used to live here. There were some replicas of native huts and buildings, as well as some religious shrines.
When we reached the waterfall, we enjoyed a beautiful scene: the waterfall was powerful, with beautiful green foliage surrounding the reddish-brown pool at the base of the falls. The day we visited, the waterfall was raging a little more violently than normal and lifeguards were there to provide life vests–free of charge–to anyone wanting to swim in the pool. (At the entrance of the park they also warned of the need to use life vests, so attendees were well aware of what the conditions would be like ahead of time). We decided to stick our feet in first to check the water’s temperature as we enjoyed the beauty of this valley and its waterfall.
Brr! With water filtering down from the mountains, I suppose we should have expected the water to be cold, but this was a bit colder than I was hoping. Plus, by the time we arrived at the pool, a light sprinkle had begun falling from the sky. We let our feet soak and the water soothed our worn out feet, but we chickened out of taking the whole-body plunge into the pool. There were plenty of other, much braver souls who looked happy and enthusiastic to swim in the pool. So, if you do visit Waimea Valley, buck up and jump in the water; looking back I kind of regret not just doing it!
The route back to the entrance was fairly easy with one exception; there is a slight hill you need to walk up which can be difficult for people who, like me, tend to get out of breath quickly. Just take your time and you’ll make it!
On our hike back we noticed a group of people playing a native game that seemed like a Hawaiian version of horseshoes. It was great to watch what the natives might have done for entertainment back in the day. Although we didn’t participate, Waimea Valley offers many cultural activities and demonstrations, including games, storytelling, and crafts with paid admission.
We very much enjoyed our hike into Waimea Valley. It was the perfect length and difficulty for me, especially since I wouldn’t say I’m much of a ‘hiker’. There was so much to see and do along the way to the waterfall! We even spotted a wild peacock wandering the grounds.
I would definitely recommend visiting Waimea Valley, and perhaps when I go back some day I’ll have the guts to actually get into the waterfall for a swim. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the wonderful memories I had and the beautiful photos I captured.
A few more tips and info:
- Bring bug repellent. With all the water and lush foliage here, there are quite a few bugs hovering around.
- Pack your swimsuit and towel, as well as water shoes for a nice, chilly swim in the pool.
- There’s a changing room and bathroom right next to the waterfall for your convenience in changing into our out of your swimsuit.
- If you’re not feeling up to the walk to or from the waterfall, you can take a golf cart shuttle. It costs $6 one way, or $10 round trip. The shuttle picks up at the ticket booth and the waterfall.
- Entrance to Waimea Valley is $16/adult, $12/student, and $8/child
Disclosure**I was given complimentary tickets to visit Waimea Valley, but the opinions written here are completely my own.
Written by guest blogger Heather Young (my lovely daughter!), whose photography is featured on her blog, Heather Hiding Photography.