Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley
Hi'ilawe Falls is at the back of Waipio Valley, accessible by either an easy or difficult hike depending on the recent weather. Some days it's unreachable altogether if the stream is too high and dangerous. The day we went was a beautiful sunny day, but the past two days had been rainy so we didn't know what to expect. The road down into the valley is passable by any two wheel drive rental car. Some hiking and trip reviews tell you to only drive down the road if you have a four wheel drive. On a rainy day a four wheel drive might make it back up the road easier; but really, it's no steeper than any hill in San Francisco or the mountains of Israel. Having driven all three, those are the best thing I can compare it to. No I didn't bother to take a picture of the road. It's a road. It's steep. Hey look there's the first good view of the valley as you head down the road.
Waipio Valley Hawaii black sand beach with Intentionally Lost and Kevin Wenning #intentionallylost
The other reason I wanted to visit this spot is for the black sand beach which is where we ended the day. On arriving at the bottom of the valley it's not clear where to go next. There aren't any signs for the trail and if you're not careful you'll be parking on someone's private property. This is probably why most people hike down the road instead of driving. Immediately after you cross the main stream (which may or may not be obvious) head south into the valley. The trail follows the right hand side of the stream for a ways and then criss-crosses it several times as you wind your way towards the back of the valley and the falls.
Hiilawe Stream after a rainfall in Waipio Valley Hawaii with Intentionally Lost and Kevin Wenning #intentionallylost
Since it had been raining for two days, there was quite a bit of water coming down the stream, and in one spot, absolutely no way to get through other than to wade up the stream. It took us about an hour and half to navigate the trail and reach the falls. That's my brother-in-law on the slope and my wife in the water. They're both just a bit taller than I am, and I almost turned back, thinking my cameras and lenses didn't really need a bath in that cold water.
wading up Hiilawe stream after a heavy rain #intentionallylost
We all managed to make it through the deep water crossing with dry shoes though. If you can make it to the falls, the sight will probably be worth the hike. If the weather has been dry there won't be much if any water. There was so much water coming over the falls that it was too wet to take photos from the base of the falls. I had to go back downstream a bit for some shots.
Waipio Valley Hawaii black sand beach with Intentionally Lost and Kevin Wenning #intentionallylost
After hiking back out, we spent a couple of hours on the black sand beach. About half of the beach is wave washed stones and the other half is just soft black sand. Plan a whole day in the valley and you can make it to the falls with plenty of time to enjoy this beach that you might just have all to yourself.
Hiilawe Black Sand Beach in Hawaii with Intentionally Lost and Kevin Wenning #intentionallylostHiilawe Black Sand Beach in Hawaii with Intentionally Lost and Kevin Wenning #intentionallylost
Hiilawe Falls in Waipio Valley


  1. Hi Kevin – Was curious what year did you hike to the base of Hiilawe Falls? I’m heading to Big Island summer of 2024 and trying to do some research on where to start the hike. Looking for the access point along Waipio Valley Road. Any insight is greatly appreciated.

    Chris Middleton

    1. Author

      I hiked all the way to the falls in 2014 so that was almost ten years a go now. From Waipio Valley Lookout ( you can walk or drive down into the valley. The trailhead was not marked so we started to just walk up Hiilawe stream until we found a trail that was following the stream, and then I dropped a pin at the falls gps location (20.095136253118913, -155.59554606861934) and we just kept ourselves pointed in that direction. In 2022 I was back in the area and asked some locals if we could hike into the valley all the way to the falls again. I was told that the private land owners have really made it difficult to find the trail and blocked off the access. I didn’t bother driving in to check out the trail access in person so I can’t tell you for sure if it’s still accessible without trespassing.

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