Base Camp Hawaii

The Big Island
By Carol Greenhouse
  |  Gorp.com
Surfers at Waipio
Killing time, Waipio-style (Photo © Phillip Rosenberg)
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GPS Adventure Coordinates:
The Big Island's Waipio and Waimanu Valleys

Primary Objective:
Bagging the "Z" trail, which gains 1,200 feet the first mile, then wanders through a dozen valleys on its 7.6-mile passage to Waimanu Valley, a smaller, often-deserted replica of Waipio. There, eight overnight campsites await. Floating in the pool at the bottom of the 1,000-foot-high waterfall in the back of Waimanu Valley, accessible from a trail off the back of Waimanu Beach. Harpooning crawfish in Waimanu Stream, which threads the falls to the sea, and foil-baking your catch upon returning to camp.

Secondary Objectives:
Boulder-hopping to Waipio Valley's Hi'ilawe Falls and scrambling up rock to reach the high pools of Nanaue Falls on the valley's west flank. Climbing past Hi'ilawe to "The Teahouse," an abandoned restaurant that some long-forgotten Don Quixote spent tens of thousands of dollars constructing decades ago. Kayaking up the progressively faster-flowing Waipio Stream as far as desire and long-twitch muscle fibers serve. Surfing the swells alongside the local boys who drive down from "topside" on school days at dawn for the privilege.

Base Camp:
Pitch a three-room tent amongst the pines at Waipio Beach. Access is down a very, very steep paved road to the valley floor, then across a rutted road to the beach. You can either park and car-camp right there, or haul your gear across a big stream to the more remote side of the beach. Pack a one-season unit to Waimanu (bring a rain fly; if rain's falling, it's usually in the north). A free camping permit is required for the state-owned Waimanu Beach campsites; call the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife at 808-974-4221 for details.

Practical Knowledge:
Hawaiians believe the spirits of the dead depart via the island's north shore. Consequently, each island has an unpaved stretch to the north. Bane of developers, this idiosyncrasy makes finding the purest outback simple. A bloke just flies into Hilo, rents a four-wheel-drive vehicle (unless he wants to navigate the vertiginous road into the valley on foot), and cruises past fields of waving cane and single-wall plantation homes to Waipio, where the road ends and the fun begins.

Gear List:
Screw traveling light. Travel heavy this once. Crack open the luxury backpacking equipment: the tent à la Out of Africa, the rain gear, sea kayak, longboard, boogie board, power hammock, battery-powered blender, cooler, and every possible game and gadget.


Published: 25 Aug 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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