Waimea Valley – Oahu

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Visitors to Oahu can get an authentic taste of Polynesian culture in the Waimea Valley. This sacred land is full of cultural landmarks, religious sites that reflect ancient Hawaiian beliefs, surrounded by some of the most amazing landscapes anyone in the Hawaiian Islands. Waimea Valley is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors and tropical landscapes of Oahu while learning about the ancient history of the native peoples.

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Waimea Valley History

The Waimea Valley was awarded to the Kahuna Nui in 1092 because of it’s lush valleys, free-flowing streams, resource abundance, and geographic location. These people were considered experts in their fields including being healers, prophets, fishermen, and more. Due to the association with the Kahuna Nui, Waimea Valley is also called “The Valley of the Priests,” and includes many religious and cultural sites of significant importance.

In the 1900s, Waimea was primarily used for agriculture and ranching. The U.S. Military also occupied the area for several years and in the 1960s, the valley started being used for commercial tourism. The Waimea Falls Ranch and Stables operated for nearly two decades and provided stagecoach rides in an old west setting and offered guided tours, cliff diving, and hula shows.

Waimea Valley was returned to the Native Hawaiian government and is currently managed by the Hi’ipaka LLC. Their mission statement for Waimea Valley is “to preserve and perpetuate the human, cultural, and natural resources of Waimea for generations through education and stewardship.”

Waimea Valley Attractions

There are many attractions in Waimea Valley including cultural and botanical sites as well as places to eat and shop.

Waimea Botanical Gardens- The botanical gardens are one of the main highlights of Waimea. There are many rare plants and native as well as topical flora from around the world spread through the 41 defined zones. There are currently more than 5,000 plants from all over the world found in the gardens.

Hale O Lono- This cultural site is dedicated to Lono, a Hawaiian God and is thought to have been constructed in 1470 AD as a place of worship. Hale O Lono is still used by Hawaiians who participate in the traditional rituals.

Ku’ula Shrine- Several stones arranged as a shrine to Ku’ula, the fishing god.

Kauhale Kahiko- A Kauhale is a Hawaiian home that a high-ranking chief or sometimes a priest would live in. These living spaces were not one giant home however, they were many houses on a property that each represented a different room.

Hale Iwi- Meaning House of Bones, this sacred site is thought to have once been a burial temple for a person of high importance in Waimea. Construction of the site began in the 1600s and it is one of the biggest pre-contact sites in Waimea.

Agricultural Terraces- Farmers in the Waimea Valley once used extensive terraces to contain crops and allow for better waterflow. Many of these terraces can still be seen throughout the valley. Many farmers still use the practice for growing Kalo.

Wailele- The forty-foot-tall waterfall is one of the most beautiful sites in Oahu and is a scared site due to its fresh water than flows from the Ko’olau Mountains.

Ku’Ono Wai Wai Gift Shop- The gift shop specializes in locally sourced products from local artisans and handmade keepsakes. The shop also sells sunscreen, bug repellent, and other necessities.

Na Mea Ono Grill and Wailele Snack Shop- The Snack Shop is located near the waterfall where local favorites are served such as garlic shrimp, Maui Taro Burgers, homemade ice cream, and more. The grill is a full-service restaurant near the Visitor’s Center.

Waimea Valley Educational Programming

Waimea has more than 300 acres of conservation land and offers dozens of educational programs for K-12 schools that perpetuate indigenous history and botanical knowledge. Most of the programs offered are around three hours long and focus on different cultural elements including Traditional Hawaiian clothes, sustainable agriculture, water conservation, resource management, ecology, endangered and native species, and more.

Guided tours of cultural sites are also available, as well as a program specially designed for senior citizens.

Waimea Valley Special Events

There are several special events that happen throughout the year in Waimea Valley. Make sure to check out the events calendar for up to date information.

Kama’Aina Keiki Day- Every Wednesday local or military children age 4-12 have free admission to Waimea Valley.

 Hale’Iwa Farmers Market- Join local farmers and artisans every Thursday at 2pm to shop their booths.

Plant Sale- The plant sale happens every second Saturday monthly from 8 am to 12 pm at the nursery.

La ‘Ohana Day- Each month on the third Sunday local and military families receive half off admission to Waimea Valley.

Other special events include special holiday events and dinners, summer movie and concert series, Father’s Day cookouts, Mother’s Day brunch, and free cultural events throughout the year.