The beautiful sights of Waimea Valley

North Shore, Oahu

The beautiful Waimea Valley on North Shore, Oahu, attracts 1200-1300 visitors per day however you wouldn’t know it, as its stunning botanical garden setting provides many spacious areas to relax under huge shady trees.  It’s easy to find a quiet spot to rest on the grassy areas and unwind from the busy highways of Honolulu.  Most visitors flock to Waimea Falls, located on the property, to swim and sunbathe.  The place is most known for its’ 45-foot (13.7m) waterfall, which is on Kamananui Stream that flows from the north end of the Ko’olau Mountains on the Windward side of Oahu all the way through Waimea Valley and joins the Waimea River to the ocean.   Four of the five species of O’opu, a native freshwater fish, can be spotted in the stream.  It is a 1.5mile round trip to the falls, paved on flat ground that is negotiable for most ages and levels of fitness.

There is an optional shuttle service for the very young or elderly to be able to also enjoy the falls. 

Waimea Valley is a sacred ahupua’a – a Hawaiian Land Division that extends from the mountains to the sea.  It is enjoyed by many people for a variety of reasons.  As well as being a popular tourist attraction, many folks also utilize the beautiful grounds for concerts, parties, weddings, special events and even a weekly farmers market  (Hale’iwa Farmers Market is open Thursdays 3-7).

Enjoy an afternoon swimming in the Waimea Falls

Enjoy an afternoon swimming in the Waimea Falls

There are platforms where hula demonstrations take place, as well as a beautiful amphitheater nestled into the hillside.  History walks, hula lessons, crafts, music and storytelling take place in the magnificent gardens.  School groups often visit for an environmental education tour; approximately 10,000 school children came through the site this and last year. 

Throughout the gardens there are also a number of visiting cultural practitioners, who offer painting, feather work and artifacts for sale.

The mission of Waimea Valley is to “Preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural and natural resources of Waimea for generations through education and stewardship.”

The valley is a rich and culturally significant wahi pana (storied place).  Historically, the valley has been home to and ruled by a long line of Ali’I Nui (kings), Ali’I (chiefs), and Kahuna Nui (high priests).  The last Kahuna Nui to reside in the valley was Hewahewa, who was a High Priest from the island of Hawaii.

How the Hawaiian people lived in the Waimea Valley

How the Hawaiian people lived in the Waimea Valley

Hawaiian people lived in the valley for thousands of years – it was one of the main settlements on Oahu, until 1893 when people vacated the valley due to flooding.  Apparently the river was much higher 100 years ago than it is today due to erosion.  Evidence of an early existence can be found in the many archaeological and cultural sites throughout the valley, including the Hale O Lono Heiau (Temple dedicated to the god Lono), Kauhale Kahiko (Traditional Living Site), and Lo’i (Agricultural Terraced Walls). These are sacred to the Hawaiian people, and believed to be hundreds of years old.  There are 78 reconstructed archaeological sites in total.  A traditional Hawaiian game site that has been preserved offers a number of games that can be respectfully played by visitors to the valley.

Waimea Valley is deeply rooted in Hawaiian history and is a respite for Hawaiian spirituality and traditions.  Previously managed by a number of different families and companies as a profit-generating venue, it is now a not-for-profit place with a focus on preserving its abundant cultural and world-class botanical attributes. In 2006 the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), along with DLNR, Trust for Public Lands, US Army Garrison, and the City and County of Honolulu purchased the property and Hi'ipaka LLC a nonprofit organization now holds title as well as manages the land.  Despite the many changes over the years, what remains is the mana (life force, essence) of those who once resided and ruled here.  It is a healing valley, and has always been a place of respite and refreshment.  The property is 1875 acres in size, and the valley itself extends all the way back to Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa.

Tons of peaceful gardens in the Waimea Valley

Tons of peaceful gardens in the Waimea Valley

The Waimea Valley staff, who total 60+ including volunteers, are very proud of their stunning botanical gardens that include 5000 varieties of plants.  It was in the late 1960’s that the collection began and they are still adding to it today.  There are 41 different gardens, some of which are dedicated to plants from places such as Guam, the Seychelles and the Ogasawara Islands.  Each plant is named with a placard, which is color coded according to rarity and use.  Cannonball Trees, Monkey Pods and bright red Poinciana Trees form the canopy, providing a pattern of leafy lacework against the blue sky above.  There are abundant native species of plants as well as Hawaiian flora.  Many introduced species were brought here in the 1960’s when it was possible to transport plants between countries.  Apparently a lot of these species no longer exist in the host country, making Waimea Valley a unique collection of rare and native specimens.

Waimea Valley is also a sanctuary for the Common Hawaiian Moorhen – ‘Alae ‘Ula – which is not so common as it is an endangered species.  These can be sighted easily while walking on the path to the falls.

Another feature of the property is the Proud Peacock Restaurant, (opening Sept 4th, 2014) and will be open Thursday through Saturday 4pm-9pm, Happy Hour 4-6, and Sunday Brunch 10am-2pm.  It is a great place for North Shore local folks to dine, also to be enjoyed by visitors to the area.

The main focus of the Waimea Valley caretakers is to protect and enhance the native ecosystems throughout, to nurture and care for the treasure that it is. Each visitor is encouraged to be a part of its unique legacy by sponsoring a Koa Legacy Tree.

Hours: Open Daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, 7 days a week Phone: (808) 638-7766

Admission: General Admission to the Valley is $15.00 for adults and $7.50 for children (ages 4-12).  Seniors are discounted at $7.50 (age 60+).  

Golf cart Shuttle transportation available from Ticket Booth area to the Waterfall.  One Way $5.00, Round-Trip $8.00

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Article Edited/Contributed by: Penelope Law
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