Waimea Valley, Haleiwa --
People can see the true beauty and history of Hawaii at Waimea Valley. There are paved trails winding through a canopy of trees in a peaceful tropical forest, leading to a beautiful 45-foot waterfall and swimming hole known as Waimea Falls. There are botanical gardens with 41 defined zones and more than 5,000 different plants from around the world. Visitors can walk the trail to the waterfall and admire nature.
“Walking the trail gives me peace of mind,” said Kavan Okumera, a lifeguard at Waimea Falls and native of Honolulu. “I enjoy the serenity and how peaceful and beautiful everything is.”
The stroll to the waterfall is nearly a mile filled with plants, wildlife and small historical sites. There are also short paths leading off the main trail that take people to see Waimea Valley’s beauty. Beside the beautiful views and sights, the valley is filled with rich history, including the restored remains of an ancient Hawaiian village and a shrine to a Hawaiian deity.
“This place is very sacred because of the history and who lived here,” said Coco Leong, a native to Haleiwa. “We respect it and it’s a very important part of our history.”
The valley’s 1,875 acres have been a sacred part of Hawaiian history for more than 700 years. Waimea Valley has also been called “The Valley of Priests,” since 1090, when the land was given to Lono-a-wohi, a high priest, from Kamapuaa, then-ruler of Oahu. Descendants of the high priests were stewards of the land until 1886.
Ancient native Hawaiians believed Waimea Falls had healing powers in its water. The high priests brought wounded warriors to the small pool and soaked them, believing the powers of the water would heal them. The falls were initially reserved for high chiefs, but is now open to the public, explained Leong.
“The waterfall is the focal point when people visit,” Okumera said. “When people come to the park and walk through the trails, the waterfall is the end of the road.”
Hawaiian tour guides offer private guided tours, ranging in price and distance, through hidden trails in the valley. The guides teach tourists about the historical and cultural side of the valley. The hike ends at Waimea falls, where hikers can swim and cool off in its fresh waters.
“I always wanted to visit Hawaii, and this was one of the first sites I wanted to see,” said Laura Bontems, a tourist from Virginia Beach, Va. “It’s beautiful!”
Waimea Valley is located at 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa. It’s open daily, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a fee to enter the valley, and every third Sunday the fee is $5 for service members, their families and locals. A golf cart shuttle is also available, for a fee, to bring people from the ticket booth to the waterfall and back.