Waimea Falls is a very popular and scenic waterfall nestled in the North Shore of O’ahu behind Waimea Bay.
When we were there, 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 at the end of the paved walk (a little over a mile one-way), which I recalled was really more like a stroll as we passed through a variety of flora and interpretive signs. It was literally like walking through a combination of a botanical garden and park.
Once at the falls, the plunge pool was flanked by a change room as well as a lifeguard. We had seen numerous families partake in this walk, and we agree that it would probably be a great place to take the kids and teach them about Nature while having a fun and relaxing time in this serene place.
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 scours the reddish volcanic soil from the stream banks and colors the falls red.
Waimea Falls is also known as Waihi Falls. Waihi means “trickling water” or “clinging water.” And I’m betting it got this name when the waterfall slows 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!
It’s hard to believe that prior to this being a botannical garden, this place used to be the Waimea Valley Adventure Park, which featured cliff diving exhibitions, kayaking, and even ATV touring! Needless to say, our visit was much more low key than in its past.
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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