Waimea Valley is green, and lush and leafy and verdant. This picturesque valley extends from the Ko'olau Range, which runs up the east coast of Oahu, to Waimea Bay on the North Shore. The Valley brims with history and culture, flora and fauna. It's a place you'll want to visit again and again.
The Native Hawaiians called the area "The Valley of the Priests" because once upon a time it was. For more than seven hundred years, the 1,875-acre valley was ruled by high priests of the indigenous Hawaiian religion. Today, you can visit sites of cultural and archaeological significance from this period, including the Ku'ula Stones (a shine dedicated to the god of fishermen), the Hale O Lono Heiau (a temple dedicated to Lono, the god of agriculture, fertility, peace, and music), the Kauhale Kahiko (a traditional Hawaiian living site), and the Lo'i (ancient agricultural terraced walls).
You can also take part in daily guided activities, such as ancient Hawaiian games, hula lessons, storytelling, lei making, and guided walks. These activities are included in the admission price and are run up to four times a day. Check the Valley's website for current information about what's happening daily.
Without a doubt, the Valley's main attraction is the waterfall, which is (obviously) most impressive after heavy rain. You can swim in the natural pool at the base of the waterfall. The pool is thirty feet (nine meters) deep and, let's just say, the temperature of the water is "fresh". Lifeguards watch over the waterfall area and there are life-jackets available for use.
The waterfall is about ¾ mile (1 km) from the ticket booth. It's a lovely walk—easy and not too steep—along a path that is wide, paved, and shaded. A network of trails leads off the main path and through the Botanical Garden. Here you'll find more than five thousand different types of plants from around the world. These are categorised into forty-one "defined zones", including Food Plants, Hawaiian Hibiscus, Medicinal, and Central & South American Flora.
But if you just can't make the walk, then jump in one of the golf carts that shuttle passengers from the ticket booth to the waterfall ($4 one-way $6 return). Either way, pick up a copy of the free Bird Identification Guide at the ticket booth before you head off. Birds are conspicuous throughout the Valley, and even the most unsophisticated bird-watching eye will spot the endangered Hawaiian Moorhen and the many other native, introduced, and migratory birds that live in the Valley.
Amateur bird-watchers consult the Bird Identification Guide
A farmers' market is held at the entrance to the Valley every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is well-worth timing your visit to coincide with this market, which is a fun and well-supported community event. I go to buy the locally grown produce; and I linger to listen to the live music, to chat with friends, and to soak up the North Shore vibe. I always grab a freshly squeezed sugar cane juice to sip as I stroll around, and I always leave with a punnet of bright and crisp samphire—it's a "superfood", by the way.
You can buy samphire at the farmers' market at Waimea Valley