Posted in Adventure, Places We Have Been

Exploring Waimea Valley

If you follow my blog regularly, you know that I am a sucker for a good waterfall adventure.  On our recent trip to Oahu, I was really looking forward to exploring the Waimea Valley and checking out the Wailele Waterfall.

Since we were already staying on the North Shore for 3 days, it was just a short drive to the Valley.  The facility is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm and the adult admission price is $18.  Our visit was on October 24th and the temperature got up to 91 degrees.

You can rent a wagon for $10 that will easily hold 2 kiddos. There is also an option to take a shuttle from the Visitors Center to the Waterfall for $10 one way or $14 round trip.


The Visitor Center and Pavilion

The Visitor’s Center and Pavilion was a busy hub. On the day we were there, a Farm Market was in full swing with many booths featuring food stuff, clothing and local handiwork for sale.  You will find an Information Desk, Gift Shops, Restrooms, a Water Bottle Filling Station, and Food Stands there as well.

Near the Information Desk, there was an area with a cultural presentation going on where they were illustrating local musical instruments and letting children come in and test them out.  They all seemed quite delighted to do so.



Hiking the Botanical Garden Trails

A direct hike to the waterfall is 3/4 of a mile each way.  You have the option to wander down side paths and explore primitive areas and different garden groupings along the way.  We walked a little over 3 miles total because we explored several of the smaller paths and gardens.



The Botanical Gardens were created through the hard work and planning of Botanical Collections Specialist, David Orr.  He transformed a once wild and untamed environment into a collection of cultivated gardens illustrating the ties between local culture and native plant species.



I loved the huge native Hawaiian tree varieties and colorful flowers that lined the main path to the Wailele Waterfall.  There were also sites along the way where you could enjoy additional cultural presentations that were held at scheduled times.



Wailele Waterfall

The meaning of the word Waimea is Reddish Water.  The red color comes from the underlying volcanic soil.  During times of heavy rains it is washed into the falls turning them red.

Our hike was on a toasty 91 degree day with full sun. I was super glad that I had filled up my water bottle at the Pavilion before we started.  There was another water bottle filling station near the Waterfall.

When we arrived, Mark was excited to find out that he could actually go into the waterfall for a swim.  For safety reasons, the park does require guests to wear a life vest when swimming there.  The vests are available for free (with sign suggesting a tip) near the bank of the waterfall.

Since we didn’t know before we came that we could actually get into the waterfall, we were not wearing bathing suits, and I opted to observe from a nearby seating area as Mark headed into the water. We later observed that there are some basic changing rooms near the falls if you want to don your swimsuit before jumping in.   Fortunately, it didn’t take Mark long to dry off after his swim during our return hike in the midday sun.


Tips for Planning Your Visit

  • I would encourage you to plan your visit there early in the day before it is too hot
  • Parking is free, but limited so it can be difficult to find a spot at high traffic times
  • Be sure to bring a refillable water bottle
  • Wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat to help prevent sunburn
  • Plan ahead if you will be swimming in the falls by bringing water shoes (the banks are slippery and rocky), a towel, and a swimsuit
  • Allow at least 2-3 hours to explore the gardens and everything available at the Pavilion and Visitors Center


This was truly one of my favorite experiences on our trip to Hawaii.  I would highly recommend that you plan a visit there if you travel to Oahu.