I'm sorry it has taken us this long to go to Waimea Falls. I guess I thought it would be a tourist trap, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a really easy hike through some really pretty botanical gardens. It wasn't overly crowded or overpriced, either. In fact, we decided to buy the annual membership. We figured we need to go 3 times in order to get our money's worth, and we thought this was a nice enough place to visit and uniquely Hawaiian that we were sure to come back a few more times with visiting family and friends.
In searching for information about it before we drove all the way over there to the North Shore, I was disappointed not to find a one-source website FOR the park. I did find this blog very encouraging that it was doable with children (note one of their pictures shows stairs - those are on one of the side paths, you don't have to take any stairs on the main path out to the falls and back).
After swimming in the 70 degree water under the waterfall, ES offered this assessment: "Awesome" and "I don't ever want to leave here" and "I want to come back here EVERY DAY." Later, during the car ride home, I asked if this was better than the Makapu'u Ridge hike, and he said he liked them both, but he confirmed that this was also better than Lego Star Wars.
On our way walking back down to the car, the boys didn't want me to lose out on an opportunity for exercise, so they created some "drag" for me.
Update 4/26/08: Waimea Valley Grill. On our third visit to Waimea Falls, we actually ate lunch at the Waimea Valley Grill at the welcome center. Although the prices may seem a little high, the food ingredients were very fresh and delicious. I had the ahi sandwich, some fries, and a smoothie, and they were all excellent. My boys enjoyed their hot dogs. Here's the menu if you would like to see what they have and if you want to plan ahead to eat there.
WAIMEA FALLS HIKE SUMMARY: I know when I'm trying to decide on a new hike location, I search for an overview about the hike that will help me judge if it's doable with two little boys. For anyone else looking to do this hike, here's a quick summary:
Map: This hike is not covered by Ball (see this post for explanation). I included a scan of the map they give you at the welcome center above.
Mileage: My GPS trip odometer said 2.0 miles.
Elevation Gain: Approximately 300 feet of elevation gain at a very gentle slope.
Terrain: Entirely paved path, all the way out to the falls and back. There are several little side-trails with dirt paths, but you could easily take a stroller all the way to the falls and back.
Time: It took us 50 minutes walking up-slope (I hesitate to say "uphill" because it wasn't steep) to the falls, and it took us 35 minutes walking back down-slope back to the car.
Facilities: There were plenty, nothing super-fancy, mind you, but suitable for most needs nonetheless.
- At the welcome center is the Waimea Valley Grill (see menu above - $7 sandwiches / $10 plates). It was NOT your standard grease-pit hamburgers, hotdogs, and chicken nuggets. They had a variety of Hawaiian-type things like kalua pork and ahi, etc.
- The bathrooms at the visitor center were old, but clean and had a diaper-changing station. Along the path, there were port-a-potties periodically.
- There is a small snack bar farther out along the path not far from the falls with shaved ice, snacks, and drinks.
- Out at the falls, there are "changing booths" to change into your bathing suits if you wish. These were really just wooden shacks with concrete floors - no bench, no lights, nothing. In fact, if you close the door, you won't be able to see ANYTHING because it's PITCH BLACK inside. So I stood guard at the door with the door open for light while the boys changed into their bathing suits.
- When the pool at the bottom of the falls is open for swimming, they have a lifeguard posted there. Note children under the age of 12 are required to wear a life jacket, and they provide the life jackets for free. The lifeguards are really friendly and will take pictures for you - bring a few bucks to drop in their tip jar. Note that if it's been raining heavily, they will not let you swim due to debris coming over the waterfall.