a beach with a cliff and water with Waipio Valley in the background

Hawaii and tourism are a delicate mix. With the islands now welcoming back visitors sans restrictions, numbers are flowing in at record pace.

On one hand, tourism is absolutely vital to the economy of the islands. On the other hand, any place where nature plays such a large role in the magic is going to struggle with the impact of mass tourism.

The Valley Of The Kings, officially the Waipio Valley is often regarded as one of the most beautiful and untouched places on earth, but in response to a series of issues and worries over mass tourism, the valley has closed to visitors indefinitely.

a large body of water with a cliff and trees with Waipio Valley in the background

Waipio Valley On Big Island Closes To Visitors

Travelers headed to the big island will now see an unpleasant sign ahead on any trips to the Waipio Valley. Visitors are now banned from driving on the Waipio Valley Road.

As mass tourism to the area grew, more and more accidents followed. The roads in and around the valley experience steep gradients and tight squeezes and recent years brought a series of unfortunate incidents.

Even off the treacherous entry road, hikers regularly got lost in the endless jungles, coves and caves that make up the Valley of Kings, creating a strain on local resources.

Residents and home owners are still welcomed to use the road, and gain access to the “Curved Water” beach and stunning caves, but others are not. Unless you know a local, the chance of getting down into the valley and seeing what many have called the most beautiful place are pretty slim.

Hawaii Beach

Instagram Versus Reality

The reality of tourism in 2022 is that inspiration is never more than a swipe away. A single photo on Instagram or other social media can propel a trip forward — and with it, many thousands, if not millions of other eager visitors.

But the reality, is that many of the idyllically beautiful places featured on social media aren’t equipped for mass tourism. In fact, mass tourism has ruined many of the best beaches and natural sights in the world, from Maya Beach to the shores of Hawaii.

The Waipio Valley is absolutely an example of a place that was never prepared for mass consumption. Construction has begun on the road to bring added safety, but even upon completion, there’s no real guarantee that visitors will be welcomed again.

It’s a sad twist for those seeking the thrill of one day standing on one of these hallowed beaches, knowing that opportunity may never come again. Well, at least not without a local “in” to get you down the road. As a consolation, the Waipio overlook is still open.

You never know when travel opportunity may close, potentially forever, and that’s why travel should never be put off on a “one day” bucket list.

HawaiiTravel - Tourism

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I took one of the van tours to the valley and let me tell you, I had white knuckles the entire ride down. We encountered a few trespassing tourists and our driver gave them the buisiness. In this instance, I agree with the ban because that area is so fragile.

    1. I see this at other spots on the Big Island. They leave they’re trash and no respect of land. I would like to visit the town where they are from and thrown my trash the there front lawn

      1. Damm Right. When they are filthy trashy visitors, we can only imagine what their homes look like. Just cause people have money !!! DOES NOT DIFINE CLEANESS. I’m not from Hawaii though I’ve been to Maui Hawaii twice & I Love It. & Respect it very highly. 🤙Malaho. 🏝️🌺😘💖💕💙💝

      2. Ohh stop…. I’ve seen locals leave a ton more trash, destroy the land and desecrate historic sites. It comes down to MORALES and RESPECT! And believe it or not its not common sense because even common sense needs to be thought. So instead of putting blame on someone else be the example someone can learn from.

  2. Simply breathtaking. The road down is absolutely wild. Walking up or down is a real challenge! Malama ‘aina!

  3. Well, that’s Hawaii off my list. I get controlling numbers, charging an entry fee or other crowd limiting ideas, but banning all but locals.

    Bye, Felicia. I’ll take my tourist money where it’s welcome.

    1. Mahalos, the “plan” is already working on saps like you. Please take your stance to social media and spread the word, HI needs MORE of your type.

    2. Mahalo! Those of us who live here understand why it needed to happen. Should have happened years ago!

    3. 😁🙌👏 we don’t want malahini’s with a mentality like yours here anyway. Mahalo

    4. Exactly the people they want to keep out. If you don’t understand this, you don’t deserve Hawaii’s magic. keiki kāne, aloha.

    5. Actually locals are banned too, not just tourist. A lot of that land is private anyway, and people trespass

    6. Mahalo Peter for taking Hawaii off your list. The island doesn’t need people like you anyway.

    7. Good for you, we don’t need YOUR money in Hawaii from the disrespect you show for our islands.

      You have NO respect for our culture nor you show any self respect because we insist on showing us respect for the land we love.

      Hawaii is NOT YOUR vacation spot. It’s where us locals call home.

  4. It’s still funny to me how separated Hawaii acts from the US. So they’re banning tourists, many of whom are citizens of the US haha. Just become your own country already.

    1. Thing is Hawaii is a separate state with its own state and county governments, laws, tax system, etc. like any other state. It’s time for travelers to accept they are in fact visitors and it’s a huge privilege to visit Hawaii. Travelers created these bans so it’s time to shape up and accept it.

      There are tens of thousands of travelers who visit daily, so not having a few dollars from the disrespectful and resentful traveler is a very welcome dream come true!

      1. Why is it a huge privilege to visit Hawaii? Just like you said, it’s a state just like any other. It has it’s beauty just like other states. It’s just funny how I would be considered a tourist just because I’m not from Hawaii. But can I be a tourist in my own country? Lmao. Hawaii locals should be banned from leaving the island. Let your own people supply tourism and hospitality dollars, cause it’s clear y’all don’t need ours. Actually you do, that’s why the mayor dropped covid and couldn’t wait for “tourists” to occupy restaurants, hotels and local establishments. Idiots.

        1. If you don’t understand, then you don’t deserve to be here. When you do, we can talk about it.

          1. Definitely don’t need your approval to do or say anything. But thanks for your concern haha. Stay up playa.

        2. Please DON’T come if you have such an attitudeof entitlement instead of respect for our island!

        3. Alonzo, you can use a little reading into the bull you spew. Do you think the people of Hawaii want you or ever wanted to be a part of the US…?
          I wish onto you the powers of which you will never recover from. Menehunes will Surround you in your grave. From this hoppa to you beach.

        4. Then you shouldn’t visit if you don’t understand the fragility of our island’s environment and resources. Waipio Valley have experienced many visitors trampling through private property and have destroyed food crops in the past. Why do people believe that they are entitled to see things or places that put the local people in jeopardy or threaten their normal way of life? The Waipio road was never meant to have traffic. And because of the onslaught of tourist trying to drive down that precarious road that was only meant for residents, is now closed for repairs and only open to residents and their visitors.
          Hawai’i is known as the endangered species capital of the world. Our native species got a great reprieve from the lack of tourist during the covid shutdown. Hopefully, we can save more, and that’s why tourist come to Hawai’i, right?
          So, yes, if tourist do not want to stay out of places in our islands that we want to save for future generations, then don’t visit. Others are willing to visit our island and abide with our wishes and laws.

      2. Hope this message is seen by the Japanese. They are the biggest tourist sector. No tourist dollars? Guess that means you’re willing to pay more in taxes. What are you going to do about all the homeless sleeping Ala Moana Park?

    2. Learn your history. Hawaii was it own independent nation until U.S. backed businessmen overthrew our government and annexed Hawaii. Some here want our independence back. And not to mention there are some of us here that would love for tourists to stop coming here. Our islands over being overrun by tourists. Hawaii needs to move away from the tourism industry as our main economic driver

    3. Damn. I thought you were joking until I read further. Ffs… they were a kingdom until Americans changed that. .

  5. Oahu needs to ban or limit tourists too. These travelers think they own the island with their mainland attitude. Travelers need to understand that respect is earned. Not given

    1. I agree, I visit often with my husband . Our friend lives at Sunset Beach. I get so infuriated with the people that do not live there and disrespect your island.

      I talk crap to them, like I’m a local. I love your Island and I respect it fully.

  6. Alonso, there’s many locals that choose and need not to travel to the mainland USA there’re Hawaiian/local people that are self sufficient and don’t need tourist to survive in Hawaii. Don’t disrespect the local culture it a fact the people of Waipo Valley don’t need tourists moneys to survive they been there for many decades without mainlanders influence, their land and sea is the grocery store.
    Unfortunately not all but a bunch of visitors that came by boat know by plane for many years destroy Hawaiian lands and seas . For the people that don’t like the idea that visitors are no longer allowed into Waipo Valley go to the Crand Canyon I hear it’s nice in the summertime.

  7. Many years ago I was lucky enough to go down into the valley. It was beautiful and quite mystical the day I went. It was after plenty of rain and it was quite exciting in the horse and buggy on parts of the road. Alas, it was also the land of mossies, which drove us crazy. I can see the need to limit numbers, not sure about a complete ban though

  8. For the special places and sacred sites in Hawaii— and for that matter everywhere —there needs to be education of all the visitors, as well as a limit on the daily numbers of visitors. This problem is happening worldwide. Venice, for instance, is sinking both due to the rising water levels and the sheer weight of tourists.

    Waipio Valley is simply not equipped to handle tourists. It is a beautiful residential and taro farming area serviced by a marginal, narrow, and inadequate (read “nearly vertical”) road.

    For the rest of Hawaii I would like to see a well-done brochure about how to be respectful to sacred sites and special places in Hawaii given to all incoming airline passengers and a timed limit of numbers to the most sacred and special sites.

  9. This is good. I’m not Hawaiian but I lived on the Big Island for years. I agree that tourists ruin and destroy the island. A lot of really dumb humans . I wish more Hawaiians were still self sufficient…they will be soon, with the war coming.

  10. Back in the 60’s, spouse & I lived in Hawaii, for a couple of years, while I was stationed at NAS Barbers Point. Guess that will have to tide us over about NOT visiting again. Too far to fly with a mask on anyway.

    1. A few things – you can still walk down into the valley. And most people probably should not drive down anyway as the road IS dangerous. Walking up is an adventure though… you better be in good shape

      Secondly, not every Hawaii resident is native Hawaiian – there are white, Japanese, Filipino etc etc people who have lived in Hawaii for generations. There are also many of mixed ancestry.

      Lastly, the Hawaiian Kingdom was not created by a peaceful meeting of the rulers of the various islands. Kamehameha united most islands by force and killed hundreds of defenders of Oahu during the invasion

  11. I understand the need to limit tourist access I recently visited Hawaii and a tourist picked up a sea turtle and held it over his head for a photo op. SMH the turtle has been around for several years without being touched by an idiot admire but don’t touch but I guess that’s to much for some privileged people.

  12. All States & Countries have the absolute right & obligation to protect their resource. Even Disney will ban you if you damage property or harm their environment. So, Aloha…Hawaii doesn’t really need or want your participation.

    1. Lmao now I’m definitely going. My tax dollars paved that public road and I will use it if I please. Sorry not sorry!

      1. Let us know date & time we’d love to join you…I’m sure I could get a few more native Hawaiian’s who would love to “show” you around and “educate” you on our sacred places and teach you the true meaning of Haole. E komo mai

  13. having been down there a lot, it would appear biggest impact is dozens of locals set up in picnic formation in their pickups along the creek music blasting. foot traffic not so big a deal. hikers DO pay a price going down and up.

  14. The road is deteriorating from so much extra car traffic over many years, that’s why its closed. For everyones safety! While the road is still drivable for those that live/work in the valley and an environmental study is being done to see how best to shore up the road, the road is closed for unnecessary traffic. I live on the Big Island and have friends who live in the valley so the heading of this article is misleading.

  15. I have lived in Kauai for 4 winters and met a few locals who are wonderful people. Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures. Respect the wildlife as it is their home.
    Excellent decision to ban visitors unless they are accompanied by a local who will protect the natural beauty and respect for their lives. Many people have died as a direct result of both ignorance as well as disrespect. The island has made a significant decision to forego the almighty dollar and preserve the natural wonders of the world.
    Look at Oahu it’s like going to LA.
    AnnMarie Kurtz

  16. We have enjoyed over the years the blessings of having traveled to this sacred and pristine place and applaud the local AHJ for the ban! Though it saddens us that (some of our grandchildren) may never be able to experience the splendor and majesty of this Extraordinary place, we stand in solemn support of the locals and area residents who’ve shared with us on many occasions the gross negligence / disrespect of sacred spaces and places… disrespect that we have seen and casually confronted while there visiting.
    Living minutes from Yosemite National Park (A National Treasure in its own right) we know the disrespect that quite frankly occurs throughout the year that typically is a small % of visitors, that (much like Waipio Valley) can have a disproportionately large impact to the majority of tourist, the environment and residents like ourselves..especially with respect to fire / life safety! Our permitting process in the National Park (limiting traffic) has reduced the environmental impact while improving safety profiles…its no “silver bullet” but is an ongoing process of improvement for ALL concerned thru the “portal” of regulation. Maybe at some future date a version of this “permitting” process can be implemented to reduce impact while providing funds to defray maintenance cost / trespass enforcement. Mahalo

  17. It is banned for everyone that doesn’t live down in Waipi’o, as a matter of fact i know many local surfers that are very sad because they can’t go down there. It is indeed a very sacred place for the people of this island, and beautiful, it is not suited for mass visitation so i understand the restrictions, however , the emotional attachment that some people from this island have to that place should be understood as well and grant them access, tourist can wait while the infrastructure is taken care of and after that tourist should be allowed but only with a tour van.

  18. What about hiking down the road to get to Waipi’O Beach? Article Love Big Island (12/21) says the trail starts at Waipi’O Valley Lookout and is 0.6 miles down the road to the bottom then 10 minute hike to the beach.

    Question-Is the road closed cars and hikers?

  19. Its a shame but wont stop me from coming bzck, i love hawaii and its people, i just did a huidef your and we pivkef ip rubish as we visitef fifferent spots

  20. I have been to the Valley on a tour van. It was breath taking. Families have lived there for generations and they live off the land. Most have no electricity or modern anything. Kids run up that dangerously steep road to catch the school bus. This is their land and they are so lucky to live there. Lots of neighborhood on mainland are gated and dont let anyone in? No different.

  21. I understand people’s frustration of over-tourism from the (rightly) proud locals perspective and also tourists who care for any destination they’ve visited.

    I think to move forward and learn from the past mistakes, we should all combine and help beautiful Hawaii and other destinations to recover from over-tourism, give it some time for peace & quiet, so fauna and flora can flourish once again. And so that our children & grandchildren will also enjoy these destinations’ (that are now struggling) beautiful nature & oceans, corals.. let’ all be kind and respectful to each other & the nature..

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