Waimea Valley

By Wendy Dunn and Nolan Dorado

If you have been recently questioning the value of your earthly existence or wondering exactly just what it is that makes you get up every morning to trot to work like a pack horse, then you are ready for a rejuvenating, heart pounding, mind altering blast of Waimea Valley. Whether you live in Hawaii, or just visiting, Waimea has something for you, something you need desperately.

The setting is one of the most beautiful spots on the island of O'ahu, so spectacular that it makes your heart actually ache (one of the first steps of being alive is to experience the beauty of earth in such a way as to really feel it pumping through your veins, making your heart shiver). We are talking about the North Shore, home of some of the worlds biggest waves and also of Waimea. So if your heading from town you will want to hop on the H-1 west bound, then take the H-2 heading to the North Shore take the Wahiawa exit where you will hook up with Kamehameha highway and stay on it until come to a beautiful bay ( that will a very famous surf spot-Waimea Bay ) and you will make a right past the sign that says Waimea Valley. You have arrived.

Upon driving up the pot-holed road that wraps itself in a blanket of motely colored foliage and is paralleled by a running river you feel lighter. Waimea is not only a world class botanical garden, boasting more than seven thousand various plants from around the world (and many endangered plants at that ) , there is also a waterfall and swimming, all terrain vehicle rides, mountain biking trails, kayaking, ancient Hawaiian living sites, Hula performances as well as cliff diving presentations, and much much more.

The best way to see the valley is to get there early ( hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ) before the crowds arrive. Early admission is taken at the front entrance in the visitor center. Admission is $19.95 for adults, ages six to twelve are $8.95, and $3.95 for ages three and five, Kaima'aina rates are also available. Take a nice leisurely stroll through the many different botanical collections as you make your way up to the waterfall. The air will have a musty smell to it, it is magical with the melding aromas of plants and flowers from all around the world. The waterfall is about three-quarters of a mile back into the valley. Once you get there you will definitely want to go for a healing swim. Waimea means reddish fresh water, ancient Hawaiians believed that Waimea had healing properties and they would bring their wounded soldiers to the waterfall and lay them in water for healing. The water has it's reddish tint due to the iron oxide found in volcanic soil that gets washed down along the way, and perhaps it is healing physically.

After your swim you might want to go to the Kauhale Kahiko, it's an ancient Hawaiian living site, and talk to some of the aunties or learn about medicinal plants of Hawaii. If you feel a little more adventurous at this point you probably want to take on the four-wheelers toward the north of the valley. This entails a mainlining adrenaline rush of three and a half hours romping through trails and flying over dried stream beds, and there are no guarantees that you will come off your high. After the four-wheelers you will be pretty dusty and gritty so now it's time to wash off and have lunch. Grab your sack lunch and head on over to the kayaks. This is where you will paddle down stream, with ducks swimming by and fish popping up for a look, towards the beach. When you hit the beach pull up the kayaks. and have a nice picnic on the sand an go for a swim in the ocean or a quick snorkel ( mask will be provided upon request ). The choices at Waimea are endless, but there is only one option, the only option for you is to have a good time. So, make sure you bring your suit, a lunch, and enough time to enjoy it.