Hike time: 30 mins. Waipi’o Valley used to be home to ancient Hawaiian royalty, but is now mainly taro farmers. Sheltered by high cliffs on either side, Waipi’o valley is only about 1 mile long with a stream flowing into the ocean from the privately owned Hiilawe Falls towering 1,400 ft above, making it the highest waterfall on the island. To get there from Hilo, take Route 19 north and turn right onto Route 240 to Waipi’o Valley. There is a car park at the top with a lookout and although there is a paved road allowing access to the valley, it is very steep with a 25% grade and only accessible by 4-wheel-drive. A walk down is usually your only option to access the valley, but well worth the trek. Though many locals use this beach as a surf spot, the current can still be quite strong and it’s best to swim only when the water is calm. It is especially dangerous in the winter months, though still worth the trip because this is the best time for whale watching. You have to be wary of the waves crashing in, I went from knee-deep to waist deep in a matter of seconds and damaged my camera that was (stupidly) in my pocket, another silly mistake of mine. For another excellent view of the valley, cross the river and cross all the way to the opposite side of the beach and head up the steep Muliwai switchback trail leading to Waimanu Valley (an excellent but long hike for the more adventurous). The third switchback is the best photo opportunity with little to no tourists getting in your way, it only takes about half an hour to get this far.