During Christmas Break, the kids and I explored Waimea Valley. This is a preserved and sacred area along the North Shore of Oahu. I stumbled across it as I was looking for kid-friendly hikes. We wanted somewhere to explore yet was not challenging. Waimea Valley seemed perfect – a short hike to a waterfall, with tons of things to see in between. According to their website, the valley encompasses 1875 acres and has been a sacred area for over 700 years! It hosts native wildlife, native Hawaiian architecture and culture, and natural landscapes to be appreciated.
To start with, this is one of the easiest places to find. It is clearly marked along the highway, and along the North Shore, there are only 2 highways that take you through the area. I only passed the entrance because the views of the coastline are so pretty! We found free parking and paid for our ticket into the gardens/park. Admission seems a little pricey – from $12-$16 for adults – but perhaps I am just used to Hawaii tourism. Children 3 and under are free, and you can stay in the park from open to close for the same rate.
The park is loaded with botanical fare from around the world. We went during the winter, so there were not as many plants in bloom. I am eager to take some visiting family during spring or summer. Regardless, we made our way on the “hike” to the waterfall. I write this with quotations because even though parts of this are uphill, this is not really a strenuous hike. The walk is paved, making it very stroller and foot friendly. If you take the true path, never veering off into the unpaved areas, this is a 1.5 mile roundtrip excursion. If you cannot walk the trip, the admissions do offer trolley rides to and from the waterfall for a small fee.
When I first entered with the kids, they all had different reactions. Leo was dying to touch a peacock; there are signs everywhere warning you not to touch the birds, so he stayed strapped into his stroller. Anya did not want to explore, but she quickly changed her mind and was leading her sisters to hidden paths. Addie and Lorelei were continually distracted by learning booths. Okay, that is not their real name. There are stopping points set up to educate park-goers: traditional native Hawaiian structures, educational booths on Hawaiian artwork, music, fishing, and culture, and touch experiences. The kids particularly liked the musical booth and the replicas of Hawaiian instruments. The staff manning these booths were so nice and informative. I learned all about the roaming chickens and roosters on the island from a man at the artwork pavilion. In case you did not know, these birds free roam on the island; if you leave them alone, they will do the same.
As I said, there are flora and fauna from all over the world. Each plant is labeled with the name, country of origin, and hybrid (if applicable). It was beautiful to walk among so much green! Even though this is a popular tourist destination, the atmosphere is very calm and peaceful. The girls wandered down nearly every side path, in which you can find even more beauty and can trudge through mud and along the water. I let them explore and kept my stroller clean, but I did veer down a few to see what the fuss was all about. I was more surprised that other people did not do this! To us, this was part of the fun, even if it was a little muddy and buggy.
You can take as little or as much time as you want to reach the waterfall, but that is the best part. It is beautiful! You can even swim here, although you have to wear a life jacket for safety purposes. We did not swim, as I did not become Durga and have 8 arms to keep track of all of them; when I have more adults to help me, we will swim there! Additionally, they do have performers doing cliff dives here at specified times; the same goes for hula performances. We spent a little time just staring at the beauty, then made our way back down to the main entrance. The whole experience can be easily accomplished in less than 2 hours, and we spent about 3 hours exploring.
We truly enjoyed this place and look forward to bringing family here. I usually hate spending money on something that I feel could be visited for free, but you can see where the funds for admission are utilized in the preservation and care of the entire area. I also enjoyed all the educational elements available for no additional cost. If you would like more information about this natural preserve, see the link to the Waimea Valley official page. You can also request to hold events, weddings, and school programs there. How cool would it be to have your wedding there?