Waimea Valley: Just a simple walk in the park…nothing spectacular but still nice.
Visited November 16, 2012; Reviewed November 24, 2012 See this review on Trip Advisor.
As part of our visit to the north shore of Oahu, we stopped in at the Waimea Valley. The research I had done on hiking on Oahu indicated that this was the easiest trail and really the only one that was accessible in rainy weather. While I would have preferred hiking to one of the other falls, the weather had been wet during out stay, so rather mess with muddy trails we opted for the paved path.
Access to the park is off of route 83 (Kamehameha Highway) just at the crux of a bend in the road around Waimea Bay and Beach. The drive up the valley is scenic along the river. Keep an eye out for critters along the road. We saw several birds (ducks and chickens…er, junglefowl) and a mongoose. The access road leads you to the Visitor Center and parking. If the parking at the VC is full, there are two other larger lots back down the access road.
In the Visitor Center area there is a gift store, snack bar, public restrooms and the ticket booth for the trail t the waterfall. There is also a nice lawn area with birds walking about, such as peafowl. I was a little hungry and wanted to get a snack before taking the hike, something like a granola bar or trail mix, but the snack bar only had lunch type items. So we opted to split an order of garlic shrimp and also got some fries. Actually quite tasty even if the shrimp were more than a little messy. But the restrooms were nearby so it was convenient to wash up before hitting the trail.
After lunch we walked down to the trail. The cost is $15 per person. I think this was a little high for what you get along the trail, but I understand that there are costs for upkeep and running the park. This little park is more than just a hike to the waterfall, although that seems to be the primary attraction. There is also a nice garden, some ruins and reconstructions of native village sites, and a bird sanctuary along the ¾-mile trail to the waterfall. All of these plus the interesting plant life along the trail make for an interesting walk. There are also a couple of spots were you can see and hear the large wind turbines from the wind farm adjacent to the trail. The wind turbines make for an interesting contrast to the sights in the park. Just before your get to the falls there is a rest area with a couple porta-johns, a snack bar and a couple craft stands.
The waterfall itself is a little underwhelming, but I knew going in that it was not a huge fall. Still it is a pretty setting with a nice pool below the falls. Swimming is allowed and there were lifeguards on duty, but with all the warning signs for various hazards, I was fine just enjoying the view from the trail.
We enjoyed our time in Waimea Valley. It is a nice little park and well maintained. Since the trail is paved and fairly level there is good access for most all folks (there is some undulation along the trail, so wheelchair access may not be that easy). We did walk along most of the short spur trails to see the historical sites and also took the nature trail below the main trail on our return walk. While this is certainly not a must do it does provide a glimpse into the island away from the beaches.