Every time I have vacationed on the Big Island, I’ve wanted to do the Waipi’o Valley tour either on horseback or a mule driven wagon. On this trip we finally got to see the Waipi’o Valley from the valley floor with Waipi’o Valley Wagon Tours.
The 90 minute tour takes place from their small farm in the valley. Group members actually meet up at Waipi’o on Horseback, a local ranch as you approach the valley overlook. From there, a large 4x4 van takes the eight passengers down the steep mile long 25% grade incline road. I couldn’t look down as it was pretty freaky. Instead, I enjoyed the beautiful view across the valley.
Once the two mule team was hooked up to the wagon, we were loaded aboard, two people per bench. David and I were happy to be assigned the back row, as it provided us with a bit more notice of sights to see, although I must admit, it was probably rougher back there than up near the front. The ride was very rough! The “road” was not in very good shape and did cross two different rivers once in each direction. The mules had their own ideas too, thinking that maybe it would be an easier crossing near the shoulder of the road, where there wasn’t any road at all. It was quite the adventure.
The ride through the valley was actually very short, probably a total of two miles total. We got to learn about the farming that takes place in Waipi’o and the handful of residents who live here in spite of no electricity, running water or other human creature comforts (like bathrooms!). Some of the taro farmers actually live “top side” and come down to tend to their patches and other crops.
We saw a small herd of wild horses, said to be the ancestors of the domestic horses who were living here when the 1946 tsunami devastated the valley. In one area that we got to visit, the only remains of the local community church were the cement steps that led up to the front entrance.
Our tour guide was not native to this area...she was actually originally from Virginia. She had been in Hawaii for some 15 years and was living here in the valley on their farm in spite of the thick mosquitoes and what some might call undesirable circumstances. She said she loved it and couldn’t think of living anywhere else.
Perhaps the greatest disappointment of the tour was the fact that they had an especially dry “rainy season” and therefore the waterfalls that Waipi’o Valley is known for did not exist. And while yes, there had been a draught over the past year, we later learned that some of the community development on top of the valley rim was also to blame for the lack of waterfalls. Apparently the need to redirect the natural flow of water has caused there to be a cutoff of water making its way into the streams that support the valley. It would seem that especially in paradise, man continues to adversely affect the ways of nature.
We really did enjoy our morning mule wagon ride through Waipi’o Valley and would suggest it to other visitors to the Big Island. Our tickets were purchased through the “Diamond Discount” card for $37 per person. The regular price was around $55 per person.
More information can be obtained by calling (808) 775-9518. Please note: they are not open on Sundays.