Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore has had its ups and downs over the years.
As a visitor attraction, Waimea Falls Park was known primarily for its spectacular cliff diving exhibitions, ancient Hawaiian games and hula performances. Later, under new management, the park added ATV rides, horseback riding and other recreational activities, but the results were the same. The park was losing money.
Waimea Valley Adventures Park was put up for sale in August 2000, and the City & County of Honolulu agreed to purchase the 1,875-acre site for $5.2 million. “The city intends to preserve and protect the historical, cultural and environmental assets of the park,” said Mayor Jeremy Harris.
Enter the National Audubon Society, an organization whose stated mission is to conserve and restore national ecosystems, with an emphasis on birds and other wildlife. Waimea Valley is home to 36 botanical gardens and about 6,000 rare species of plants. In ancient times, the valley was a thriving area for taro farmers. Archaeological excavations uncovered many house foundations and several large heiau (sacred temples).
The Waimea Valley Audubon Center
The Waimea Valley Audubon Center opened to the public on June 28, 2003 with a “Community Volunteer Work Day.” More than 300 volunteers joined with National Audubon Society staff members to clean the area. Said Audubon President John Flicker, “Perhaps the most gratifying part of the event has been the response we are receiving from the community…the overwhelming turnout of volunteers was more than we ever expected.”
Today, the valley is as beautiful as ever. Visitors can enjoy a 3.5-mile self-guided nature walk to the park’s focal attraction: 40-foot Waimea Falls. On warm days, nothing is more refreshing than a cool dip in the pool below the falls.
Located above the world-famous Waimea Bay, Waimea Valley is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day).