Hiking The Muliwai Trail to Waimanu Valley

Hiking The Muliwai Trail to Waimanu Valley

The Island of Hawaii is the largest and third most visited of the Hawaiian Islands, behind Oahu and Maui, with 1.4 million visitors a year. It is less developed than its neighbor island of Maui. If you enjoy the outdoors, raw nature, and of course volcanoes, the “Big Island” is a great place to visit.

There are many hikes and Waimanu Valley is one of the best. The rugged part of the north coast of Hawaii offers solitude, challenging hiking, and an exceptional reward. Waimanu Valley has stunning views, a gorgeous black sand beach, and the third tallest continuous waterfall in Hawaii and the thirteenth highest in the World at 2,600 feet, the Waihīlau Falls.

Content and photographs provided by Yana Kogan and Timon.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).


Hike Details: Waipi’o Valley

Waimanu Valley Hike
Stunning views of Waipi’o Valley

Distance: 16 miles round trip
Time: 5 hours each way
Difficulty: moderate

Like this post?! How about...
The 25 Best Things to do on Hawaii’s Big Island

The Hike: Waipi’o Valley to Waimanu Valley

Waimanu Valley Hikes
The hike starts from Waipi’o beach

The Muliwai Trail is an in-and-out hike starting from Waipi’o Beach. The hike begins with a river crossing at the Waipi’o stream. Head to the end of the beach, where there are trail signs designating the start of the trail. From here, there is a steep trail called the Z Trail, all the way to the top of the mountain. This 1,200-foot ascent is fully exposed.

From the top, the next 5-6 miles is through forested land that enters 12 smaller gulches. There are several small water streams to cross while hiking on the high trail. These streams are typically small and easy to cross; however, with heavy rains, it can become very slippery and difficult to manage.

Waipio Valley Trail
Beginning of the trailhead at Waipi’o

The last mile and a half is a very steep descent of 1,300 feet into Waimanu Valley. It is more challenging than the Z trail up from Waipi’o Valley. This section is minimally maintained and eroded in places. Due to lots of rainfall in the area, it is commonly very muddy and slippery. Use caution when descending into the valley.

Muliwai Trail: Water
Plenty of water sources, but don’t forget to filter!

At the bottom of the valley, there is one last river crossing, which is typically the deepest crossing, between 2-3 feet. Campsites are clearly marked along the beach with trails connecting each site.

Waimanu Valley Hike: View
The Waimanu Valley

How to Get to Waipi’o Valley

Waimanu Valley Hike: Beach
Enjoy time at Waimanu’s black sand beach

The hike starts from Waipi’o Valley, a 90-minute drive from Kona. Overnight car parking is near the overlook at Waipi’o Valley Artwork. Parking costs $20 per day (i.e. $40 for an overnight hike). From the overlook, there is a 4×4 required road which is extremely steep and descends down into Waipi’o Valley. Hitch a ride down to the beach or walk down, roughly a mile and a half.


Permits

Waipio Valley Hike: View
View from the Z Trail down to Waipi’o

Permits are required to camp overnight at one of the nine Waimanu campsites. Each site can hold a different amount of campers, with three small, two medium, and four large campsites.

Like this post?! How about...
12 Cool Boutique Hotels on Hawaii's Big Island

Permit Costs for Waimanu Campsites

Waipio Valley Trail: Overlook
After the hike, looking back down at Waipi’o from the overlook
  • Hawaii resident cost is $12 per site (max of 6 people)
  • Non-resident cost is $18 per site (max of 6 people)
  • If a campsite can accommodate more than 6, it is an extra $3 per person up to the max accommodation

For more on reservations and permit information, go to Hawaii Camping & Wiki Permits.


What to Bring on the Hike

Muliwai Trail Campsite
Campsite 3

Stay two nights at Waimanu beach, giving an off-day between the hike in and the hike out. Here is what we recommend to bring on the hike:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pads
  • Water filter (critical as there is Leptospirosis in the water)
  • Sunblock
  • Bug spray
  • Cooking stove & fuel
  • Cookware
  • Bathing suit
  • Small utility rope to hang clothes
  • Hiking shoes
  • Headlamps
  • Light waterproof jacket
  • Pack rain cover
  • Lighter
  • Dry bag (not necessary but could be handy for any valuables/electronics if the water level is high during river crossings)
Like this post?! How about...
12 Incredible Airbnbs on the Big Island, Hawaii

Hiking Tips

Muliwai Trail: River
Be prepared for river crossings and potential rain
  • Check weather reports before attempting this hike. Rainfall exceeds 100 inches annually on this part of the island.
  • Be careful at all water crossings, flash floods occur. Crossings can be fatal.
  • The trail is not maintained well and can get very muddy and slippery especially when wet. Bring proper footwear.
  • Bring enough water to start the hike. Replenish at one of the several water crossings.
  • There are two proper river crossings, one in Waipi’o and one in Waimanu. Good strap sandals may help.
  • There is minimal cell phone coverage after the lookout.
  • ALWAYS filter and treat water!

That’s it – have a wonderful time hiking the Muliwai trail to the Waimanu Valley of Hawaii!


Planning a trip to Hawaii? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Uliama Dixon
Uliama Dixon
1 month ago

STOP! DON’T COME!
HAWAI’I DOES NOT NEED OR WANT YOU….
ESPECIALLY IN OUR SACRED VALLEYS!
STAY AWAY!
GO POLLUTE YOUR OWN CHURCH…
LEAVE US AND OUR SACRED VALLEY’S ALONE!
GO TO HONOLULU!

Valerie Wheatley
Admin
Valerie Wheatley
29 days ago
Reply to  Uliama Dixon

What a sweet comment! Thanks for reading!

Scroll to Top
0 Shares
Share
Pin
Tweet