Waimea Falls is a very popular and scenic waterfall nestled in the North Shore of O’ahu behind Waimea Bay.
When we were there in 2007, the falls resided in the Waimea Valley Audubon Center, which required paid admission into its botanical gardens.
In the past few years since we visited this place in January 2007, I believe the owner of the lands have changed hands.
Anyways, the waterfall spills 45-55ft into a large plunge pool, which invited visitors for a swim.
Flanking this pool was a change room as well as a lifeguard so we had seen numerous families taking advantage of this opportunity for sanctioned water play in Nature.
Walking to Waimea Falls
In order to reach this waterfall, we went on a paved walk (a little over a mile each way), which I recalled felt more like a stroll than a hike.
We passed through a variety of flora and interpretive signs, which seemed like par for a botanical garden.
Indeed, the experience felt like a combination of a groomed botanical garden and a natural park.
Once at the end of the walk at the far end of the park, we reached the waterfall and swimming area.
We had seen numerous families partake in this walk, and we agree that it would be a great place to take the kids and teach them about Nature while having a fun and relaxing time in this serene place.
Waimea Falls Nomenclature
Interestingly, Waimea Falls has many names.
“Waimea” means “reddish water” in Hawaiian, which is a reference to the underlying reddish volcanic soil.
During times of heavy rain, the swollen Kamananui Stream would scour the reddish volcanic soil from the stream banks and colors the falls red.
Waimea Falls was also known as Waihi Falls.
Waihi means “trickling water” or “clinging water.”
I’m betting it got this name when the waterfall would slow to a trickle during unusually dry Winters and towards the end of Summer.
I also saw that Waimea Falls has also been called Waihe’e Falls.
Waihe’e is Hawaiian for “water slide,” though this is certainly not a waterfall to be sliding down!
Changes in Ownership
It’s hard to believe that prior to this place being a botannical garden, it used to be the Waimea Valley Adventure Park.
Back then, the park featured cliff diving exhibitions, kayaking, and even ATV touring!
Needless to say, our visit was much more low key than in its past.
Waimea Falls is on private property. Since I generally don’t keep up with ownership situations, you may have to either go there and read the signs or contact someone beforehand. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting this website. Otherwise, if things change, you can fall back on visiting the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) website.
There are two major routes from Waikiki to the Waimea Valley, one inland and one coastal. The coastal route follows O’ahu’s eastern and northern shores, and took us about 90 minutes. The inland route cuts directly through the less interesting center of the island, but required us only 45-60 minutes.
Regardless of how you get to the North Shore of O’ahu, the turnoff for the park leaves Hwy 83 opposite Waimea Bay (I think they hold the Eddie Aikau [i.e. “Eddie Would Go”] Invitational here when the waves are crazy high). The access road leads inland right into the large car park area.
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