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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Getting to Know Hawaii: Waimea Valley

The Need to Knows:
  • Waimea Valley is located at 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712.  Here's it's location on Google Maps:

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  • The hours are 9 AM to 5 PM, seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day).
  • The cost of admission for adults is $15, children (4-12) is $7.50, and seniors (60+) is $7.50.  The kama'aina/military rates are adults - $10, children - $5, and seniors $5.
  • The paved pathway is stroller friendly and is about 3/4 mile long one way.
  • You might want to consider bug spray, especially if you want to explore along the streambed.  However, we didn't really see any kind of bugs around the main pathway (around 10 or so in the morning).
  • There are changing rooms and restrooms located near the waterfall if you want to change into or out of your bathing suits (and restrooms at the entrance).
  • There's also a restaurant called the Waimea Valley Grill at the entrance if you're feeling hungry!
  • For more information, you can check out Waimea Valley's website here.
Waimea Valley is an absolutely gorgeous botanical garden on the North Shore of Oahu and is mostly known for it's beautiful 45-foot waterfall, Waimea Falls.  It is maintained by a non-profit organization and relies on admission fees, donations, and volunteers to make sure it continues to conserve the land and educate its visitors on ancient Hawaiian culture.

I noticed that on Yelp and some other places that Waimea Valley gets ragged on a little bit because it's not a "true" waterfall hike and has a pretty steep entrance fee.  For the longest time, I didn't decide to visit here because I thought it wouldn't be worth my time (I do enjoy a little challenge to my hikes most of the time).  But I honestly could not have been more wrong, and I'm sad that I didn't discover this gem earlier!

If you aren't into spectacularly blooming gardens with untamed trees and gorgeous scenery, you'll probably get bored here quickly.  It is a botanical garden, after all.  But if you enjoy getting lost in nature and natural beauty, you'll definitely enjoy yourself here.

The walk is paved the entire way, so it's absolutely stroller friendly.  If you don't feel like walking the whole way (3/4 mile one way) there is a tram that will take you to the falls for a fee (I'm not sure exactly how much).  There are also lots of side trails and exhibit areas off the beaten path, so you could easily spend a few hours here exploring.

Paved pathway
One of the many side trails
The gardens are divided up into different sections, like Sri Lankan plants, Hawaiian flora, and Central and South American flora.  There are also some areas where Hawaiian hale (houses) are set up to give people a sense of what life was like for ancient Hawaiians.

Hawaiian hale

Example of Hawaiian farming
This area is also home to an endangered species of bird called the 'Alae 'Ula, or Hawaiian Moorhen.  We were able to spot one nearly on the main path.

My parents and I took a nice, leisurely walk for about 30 minutes or so, slowly making our way towards the falls.  Near the end (past the Ginger and Heliconia plant section ) we saw this sign and headed towards the "main event" that everyone comes to see when they visit Waimea Valley.

After passing a snack stand selling Aloha Maids, shave ice, and some other goodies, we made our way down over another bridge crossing the stream and got our first glimpse of Waimea Falls.

Now, when people visit Hawaii, a good portion of them often dream of swimming under a waterfall while they are here.  If they happen to visit Oahu, however, unfortunately the pickings are slim when it comes to swimmable waterfalls -- our beautiful island only has a handful and are often very crowded.  (It's completely different on other islands, especially Maui!)  But they do exist, and if it's something you've always wanted to do, they don't get too much prettier than the waterfall here at Waimea Valley!

It definitely can get crowded though.  My parents and I visited Waimea Valley around 9-10 AM on a Saturday, and there were a TON of people there.

Portion of the crowd at the falls (a lot more were standing where we were)
Lifeguards are present here at the falls, and it's required that you wear a life jacket while you're in the water.  You are allowed to get under the falls themselves, but you can't stand, only sit.  And be careful, because it isn't just water that flows downward -- pebbles and rocks can sometimes come down too!

You also may recognize these falls -- Kate and Sawyer from LOST took a swim here and it's been featured in other television shows and movies.

I'm pretty sure Waimea Valley was one of the highlights of my parents' trip, particularly my mom's.  I can't wait to head back here with Mr. L in tow and more mainland visitors!

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