When you venture from the hotels and resorts and commercial areas, which of course have their appeal, you can stumble upon places that overwhelm you with their beauty. Waipi'o Valley on the big island of Hawai'i was one of the places we found this year.
As Wikipedia notes, it is not easy of access: "The road gains 800 vertical feet (243.84 m) in 0.6 miles (0.9 km) at a 25% average grade, with steeper grades in sections. This is a paved public road but it is open only to 4 wheel drive vehicles. It is the steepest road of its length in the United States and possibly the world." Try hiking down then back up that in unbroken 85º afternoon tropical sunshine! [For the record, on the way up I kept up with some other UH students we met, one a former military guy. He was impressed by the old guy. For my part, the way down toasted my thighs; the way up killed my calves and cardio-vascular system!]
But, man! was it worth it. One of the most beautiful places I've ever seen, maybe one of the most beautiful places on earth. Pristine green riverine valley surrounded by precipitous cliffs, waterfalls, deserted black sand beach, blue ocean!
The pix below probably won't do it justice. [As often, click pic to embiggen slide show, mouse over for secret message!]
|First of all, it wasn't easy to get to: we had to move a tree that had fallen over the road en route|
|The view from the top! To give you a sense of scale, there are about a dozen people on the beach|
|Waterfall with cliffs in the distance|
|The Waipi'o River and valley from the floor|
|1400' Waterfall: We bushwhacked for about an hour, fording the waist-high river several times...|
|...and never got half way to the bottom of the falls before we had to turn back|
|A perfect, deserted beach with black sand!|
|How black was the sand? This black!|
|Deserted beach, black sand, cliffs, waterfall|
|Is that a beached whale?|