“Culture is sacred, not secret.” —Greg Solatorio
Our recent trip to Molokai was one I will never forget. I had wanted to visit the Friendly Isle for over four years, and the time had finally come! One of the things I was most excited about was the Halawa Valley Cultural Hike. I do love a good waterfall hike, and Hawaii has no shortage of them, but this one is on private property and can only be accessed by private tour.
The whole experience was wonderful, starting with the drive there! But before I get ahead of myself, here’s everything you need to know before you go!
Reserve Your Spot
You will need to book your tour in advance, as this is private property and it’s illegal to hike it yourself. You can select your date and purchase your tickets on the Halawa Valley Falls Cultural Hike website. Tickets are $60 per person, with a minimum of two people for the tour to take place. Tours are scheduled once a day, from 9:00am-1:30pm, though our hike lasted until closer to 2:00pm. There are no tours on Sundays, and the private residents can choose not to give tours any day they want, which will be noted on the website calendar.
How to Get There
If you’re staying in Kaunakakai town, plan for the 28-mile drive to take you about one hour. I’ll be completely honest with you, the drive is beautiful! There are no roadside waterfalls like you’d see on the Road to Hana on Maui, but the views from the road are unparalleled! There are beaches to explore and have all to yourself, scenic overlooks to enjoy, and the best part: it is very uncrowded!
We stopped off for breakfast at Mana’e Goods n’ Grindz on the way. Just make sure you leave about 40 minutes to get to Halawa from there!
Directions and a map are available on the Halawa Valley website. You’ll meet your guide Greg at 9:00am at Halawa Beach Park at the end of the road. There’s only one road, so that makes it easy! The road becomes one lane for the last 8 miles, but it is paved all the way, so you won’t need four wheel drive to get there!
What to Expect on the Tour
The hike itself is 3.4 miles round-trip, and it’s a intermediate or advanced level. But it’s more than just a hike, it’s a whole cultural experience. This is the longest-occupied place in the Hawaiian Islands—people have been living here since the year 650 A.D.! This is also private property, and the kind people who live here are welcoming you as their guest. Please be respectful, and take the opportunity to really enjoy and marvel at this preserved piece of Hawaii.
Greg will be your guide and will greet you at the parking lot of Halawa Beach Park. You may see this sign, but don’t worry! Greg and his father, brother, sons, or other guides will meet you to confirm whether or not your tour will go, according to the threat of flash floods. Even if your tour doesn’t go, you will still have the beautiful drive to and from the site, and you’ll have a chance to talk with Greg or a member of his family!
***Pro Tip: Schedule your tour early in the week. If your tour is cancelled, you will be refunded your money, or you can come back another day. We originally scheduled for Monday, but the tour that day was cancelled. Greg and his father and brother still came to talk with us for about 45 minutes, however, and we came back for the Wednesday tour instead!
We walked up an unpaved road to Greg’s home. He’ll tell you all about how his family is the last of the original families of the Valley, and how they keep their history and traditions alive. When you arrive at his home, you’ll have the opportunity to partake in a Hawaiian greeting ceremony, including an offering to thank the family for taking you on the hike, as well as a Hawaiian greeting with all the hikers!
Before continuing on with the hike, we were led into a room outside where we were offered bananas and coconut! We learned about the 1946 tsunami in which—miraculously—no one from Halawa Valley was killed! Greg’s father is the last remaining person alive who was also alive during the tsunami. He showed us pictures of before and after, as well as historic photos of the Valley through the years.
Incidently, all participants have to sign a waiver for insurance purposes to participate in the hike because of the tsunami and flash flood risk. But don’t worry! It’s just a formality, and warning systems for tsunamis have improved very much since 1946.
From there, Greg lead us to Mo’oula Falls, pointing out plantlife, historic sites, and more! He showed us wild-growing taro plants, ginger root, and one of the worst-smelling things I’ve ever smelled: noni! It’s a cure-all, hair-grower, and very stinky fruit.
***Pro Tip: You will be treading through at least one river of knee-deep water. Be prepared and dress accordingly!
The last little bit of the hike will include some scrambling over large rocks, but once you get to the Falls, you can relax, eat what you brought with you, or take a swim if you like!
What to Bring with You
Even the lightest of packers will need a few things for this hike. This is the list from the Halawa Valley website, with a few other suggestions from me:
Steve and I bring reusable water bottles with us wherever we go, and sometimes two for a long hike!
Food for snacks or a light lunch
You have to be careful about what foods you bring into Hawaii, but protein bars and pre-packaged foods are usually fair game. It’s usually better to purchase sandwiches and the like at a grocery store once you get to the islands, rather than take the chance on having your food confiscated once you land!
You will definitely want to capture your memories from this hike! I use my iPhone for all my photos, and when there’s a chance I might go in the water (like here at the falls!), I always pack my waterproof phone case.
Hawaii has banned the sale of all sunscreens that are not deemed “reef safe.” Of course you can bring whatever you like, but eventually it all goes down a drain and into the ocean, so if you can bring reef safe sunscreen with you, all the better!
Bug Repellent (Especially for Mosquitos)
Hawaii is paradise, but it’s not perfect. Mosquitos and other bugs call it home! There have been cases of Dengue fever in the islands, so always wear bug repellent, especially in the lush places. Always apply sunscreen first, then bug repellent!
Poncho or Rain Jacket
It might rain, but you can’t let that stop you! You’ll be thankful for a waterproof layer no matter which islands you visit!
Visitors wearing flip flops or “slippahs” will not be allowed to hike, and your feet will get wet! So please wear hiking shoes and tennis shoes suitable for hiking.
If you plan to swim at the falls (or if you think you might need a layer between you and the rental car seat afterward!), you should certainly bring a quick-drying towel.
Also if you want to swim, be sure to wear a swimsuit under your clothes. There’s no place to change, so try to dry off a bit before the hike back!
You will definitely want a day bag for this hike to keep all this stuff in. I love my waterproof bag from Sak Gear!
Are you ready to take a hike? Have you been to Halawa Valley with Greg? Tell me below!
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