The Muliwai Trail to Waimanu Valley is a strenuous 9-mile switchback trail that climbs 1,200 ft to the top of a ridge, then descends into the Waimanu Valley. The views into Waipio Valley as you start up the trail (often called Z-Trail) are incredible. Z-Trail Now, if you thought the view from the Waipio Valley lookout was fantastic. We recommend hiking across Waipio Beach to the other side and up the valley wall for a peek into the heart of Waipio. You can see the trail from the lookout. It is the zigzag cut into the side of the cliff. When hiking across the beach you will have to wade through Waipio River which dumps into the ocean. Only try this when the tide is low and always try to gauge the speed and depth of the water before crossing. If you are wearing hiking boots, bring water shoes for this part of the journey. Your feet will thank you later. Once you are at the end of the beach a small path leads to a gate. Do not go through the gate, instead look to your right for several signs that mark the trail head. The walk to the third (and best) switchback is only about half an hour. The trail begins in a very wooded and mosquito ridden area but eventually opens up on the side of the cliff. Once you reach the third switchback, turn around and take in the vast natural sight before you. From this side of the valley you can see deep into the heart of Waipio. If you look closely you should be able to see the lookout and parking lot. From this vantage point you can see the cascading Hi'ilawe Falls flowing through a crease in the valley wall. Notice how far back the valley reaches as it cuts around gently sloping cliff sides.
Waimanu Valley If you are eager to explore the beauties that lie beyond Waipio's far ridge, you can continue along Muliwai Trail (Z-Trail) and down into Waimanu Valley. If only it were as easy as it sounds. This trail is not for the novice hiker. Once you reach the top of the ridge, it is another eight miles of hiking through gorges and over hills to reach Waimanu Valley. Do not attempt to do this hike in a single day. You will have to cross 13 streams along the way, so it is not advised during the rainy season where unbelievable amounts of mud and swollen streams will make the trek dangerous and significantly less enjoyable. The descent into Waimanu can be tricky. Once you reach the end of the switch backs, cross the stream to the campsites on the other side. Do not drink the water straight from the stream. It must be purified to be suitable for drinking. If you are one of the adventurous to make the trip, you will likely have the valley to yourself. Waimanu has all the charm and beauty of Waipio without the people. At one time several hundred people lived in Waimanu until a tsunami made them leave for good in 1946. You may encounter some of the ruins on your exploration. Waimanu is bursting with waterfalls, including the spectacular Wai'ilikahi Falls on the far side. Camping permits are required. It is worthwhile to make your visit last at least a few days. Your permit will allow you to stay for a maximum of seven days and six nights. Get one well in advance by calling the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife in Hilo at 808-974-4221. If you do camp overnight, park your car at Waipio Valley Artworks for a small fee. No overnight parking is allowed at the lookout, plus your car will be safer in their lot. The store is located on Kukuihaele Road which branches off to the left when you are leaving the Waipio Valley lookout. MULIWAI TRAIL MAP You can view our Muliwai Trail Map on the Map tab above or view our larger Muliwai to Waimanu Valley trail map.
Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick