Hawaii Highways road photos -- Waipio Valley

(Big Island part 5 of 6 -- other Big Island parts: Saddle Road ·
Observatories Roads · Lava Closures · Red Road · Other Big Island)

These nine photos cover the notoriously steep access road from the Waipio Overlook at the western end of Honokaa-Waipio Road (state route 240), down into the Waipio Valley. While the road is now paved and only about ¾ mile long, the 25% average grade (said to be up to 45% at some points), taking the road about 900 feet down to the valley floor, is steep enough to destroy brakes on the way down, and stall engines on the way up. The road is therefore restricted to 4x4s (which you'll need anyway to navigate the unpaved roads on the valley floor), and hikers with strong legs.

NOTE: In case you want more detail, clicking some of the photos below (for now, just some from my 2001 trip) will call up enlarged, higher-quality (less .jpg compression) versions. Those alternate versions have larger file sizes, so please be patient while they download.

Warnings: As the signs below note, non-4x4 vehicles are prohibited on this road, even though it is paved. Vehicles must descend in first gear, low range, to avoid brake failure. Driving non-4x4 vehicles into the valley can be, and has been, fatal. Survivors may also be unable to get their non-4x4 vehicles out of the valley without an extremely expensive tow. If you don't have a 4x4, there are tours that will take you into the valley and back, or you can hike on the road (a popular option, at least for the young and healthy).

Also, downhill and pedestrian traffic must yield to uphill traffic (at one of several pullouts, such as the one shown below), so the uphill traffic can maintain momentum to make it back to the top of the hill.

25% grade warning on road down to Waipio Valley Other warnings on road down to Waipio Valley
Two warning signs at the top of the incredibly steep and narrow Waipio Valley access road. The road is paved, but 4x4 with low range is a must, else you'll likely burn up your brakes on the way down.  Even if you reach the bottom in one piece, you likely won't have enough power to climb back out again. The one tow company on the Big Island with a truck powerful enough to tow cars out of the valley will charge you a small fortune, and your AAA card won't be worth diddly-squat for those tow charges. (Both photos October 1999)
Two views into the valley to the west from the Waipio Overlook. (Photo below October 1999; photo to right November 2001)

Waipio Valley, from top of access road

Two of several bottlenecks, where the road is barely one lane wide, and descending vehicles must wait for those climbing uphill. (Both photos November 2001)



One of the pullouts for downhill vehicles to wait for vehicles climbing uphill. The pullout shoulder is rough, with lots of horizontal grooves, to increase traction for downhill vehicles to hold their position on the steep pullout. (November 2001) 

The Waipio Valley, viewed to the west from the bottom of the access road. (October 1999)
Waipio Valley, from bottom of access road
A look back from the west side of the valley at the Waipio Overlook and the access road on the other side. (October 1999, courtesy of Mark and Sue Pelletier)

Go to the previous or next parts of the Hawaii Highways road photos collection:

Link to go back to Red Road page
to Red Road (Big Island part 4)
Link to continue to Other Big Island page
to Other Big Island (Big Island part 6)
or directly to other parts:

Overview · Introduction · Interstate H-3 · Interstate H-1 · Other Freeways
Other Oahu South · Other Oahu West · Other Oahu East · Kuhio Highway
Other Kauai · Hana Highway · Piilani Highway · Kahekili Highway
Other Maui · Lanai/Molokai · Kalawao County · Saddle Road
Observatories Roads · Lava Closures

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© 1999-2004 Oscar Voss.