Overview of the Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach
February 2022 UPDATE – Due to unsafe conditions and unstable sections, the Waipio Valley Road is currently closed to hikers and vehicles that do not belong to residents or workers needing to access their property in the valley. For the time being, this means that the beach, hiking trails and all public lands accessed via the steep Waipio Valley road are essentially inaccessible until the County of Hawaii creates a plan for access or completes the needed repairs to the roadway. The overlook remains open for those who wish to view the valley from above. We will update this article when new information becomes available.
There’s something otherworldly about visiting the Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach – it’s a place that feels out of time. Spending a few hours relaxing on the beach here will rejuvenate your spirit while the hike will give your body a good workout. Waipio Valley is located in the Hamakua District on the northern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii. In the Hawaiian language Waipio means “curved water”, referring to the streams that run through the valley.
Serving as a breathtaking backdrop for many films, the beachfront at Waipio Valley is truly stunning. The shoreline in the valley is a soft black sand beach, made with water-trodden basaltic lava. While the beach is beautiful for sightseeing, there are no amenities here and little opportunity for water activities, so those looking for a classic Hawaiian beach day may want to enjoy the view from the lookout and continue on to some of the Big Island’s most popular beaches.
Overlooking the valley floor, Waipio Valley Road will lead you down into the valley originating from a lookout point at the top of the valley. This is a paved public road and open only to 4-wheel drive vehicles. Most rental vehicles are not equipped to go down this road and many of the rental car contracts forbid taking vehicles into the valley. It is the steepest road of its length in the United States.
Exploring the Waipio Valley Black Sand Beach
Despite some of the limitations of getting to the Waipio Valley black sand beach, it is worth the trip for those adventurous enough to trek to this deified ground. The Waipio Valley offers incredible sightseeing, hiking, and breathtaking coastline views. It’s a hikers’ dream! To hike from the lookout to Waipio Valley takes about 30-45 minutes, around a mile, one-way. Its steep grade makes for a strenuous trek, and with little shade, packing plenty of drinking water is advised. Bring a little cash to tip a local driver for a ride up, incase it proves steeper than you want to navigate on the return trip.
When you reach the bottom of the steep road section you will take the right fork of the road to head toward the beach, another half mile down. A few taro farms are located in the valley and you will pass by them and several historic sites as you walk to the beach. Several very large waterfalls at the back of the valley cascade into the stream flowing from the foot of the largest falls out to the ocean. Markers indicate sacred and private lands in this desolate and peaceful valley where Waipio wild horses wander in the lush landscape.
The beach is divided into a Northern and a Southern beach by the Wailoa Stream. Trekking across this stream can be difficult and should only be attempted at low tide, when it is not raining as flash floods and strong currents are possible. Just be aware of the current conditions and realize that things can change quickly. Kaluahine Falls and Waiulili Falls are to the north of the beach and can be seen when there is enough rain to get them flowing.
This beach isn’t really good for snorkeling or swimming thanks to the strong currents and high surf but the area is popular with very experienced surfers. We generally spend our time here relaxing on the shore, watching the waves and hiking or exploring around the shoreline. If you head all the way to the Southern end of the beach, you can hike up the first part of the Muliwai Trail that leads to the Waimanu Valley.
If you take this steep hike, you get a beautiful view of the Waipio Valley from the top of the ridge on the opposite side. The rest of the Muliwai Trail is suitable for experienced hikers who are typically on multi day excursions to camp in the Waimanu Valley. This trail is not a day hike and there aren’t many views until you reach the next valley 8 miles away, so unless you’re planning to camp, we suggest returning to the Waipio beach area, retracing your steps back down.
Take a Tour of the Waipio Valley
If you’re not equipped with a 4wd vehicle, or up for the steep hike, there are a couple of other options. The trail to the beach is public, but much of the valley is actually private property. For this reason, it can be better to take a guided Waipio Valley tour as you are led to the best spots and don’t have to worry about intruding in private and sacred areas, as the tour companies have special permissions. Excellent Horseback riding excursions through Waipio valley are also a great option. However you choose to get there, enjoy the beautiful Waipio Valley black sand beach!
Waipio Beach Amenities
Steep Road – 4WD only Access
Waipio Black Sand Beach Location and Map
48-5561A Waipio Valley Rd
Honokaa, HI 96727