Surfin’ Safari

Yesterday, we drove past Hilo up the northeast coast of the Big Island to the Waipi‘o Valley. There’s a lookout point that has a beautiful view from a vantage point about 2,000 feet above the valley floor:

But our mission was to get to the surfing beach at the bottom. There is a paved road down from the overlook, but very few tourists drive it because it is restricted to 4-wheel drive vehicles that are able to use low gear due to the steepness of the road. The road drops 800 vertical feet over a track of 0.6 miles at a 25% average grade, with steeper grades in sections. According to Wikipedia, if the road was classified as a public road, “it would be the steepest road of its length in the United States and possibly the world.”

It didn’t look too step at the top, as we followed a local in his pick-up truck down…

…but the road was just one lane wide, with only a few pullouts for passing, and downhill traffic had to yield to uphill vehicles:

The view from the road down was magnificent:

Near the bottom, at the end of the paved road, the road turned into a dirt and mud track through the rainforest.

As we drove along to the beach, we passed this alarming sight, the remains of somebody who either didn’t heed the warnings or had faulty brakes or some other vehicle malfunction:

Arriving at Waipi‘o Beach, we looked up the valley. There are supposedly numerous waterfalls up there that feed the stream that flows down the valley to the ocean.

We walked up to get a better look and discovered several people kayaking; we also saw quite a few long-term backpackers coming back from their adventures in the wild.

Where the stream flowed out into the ocean…

…there was a nice surf break. We sat and looked up and down the beach…

…waiting for the next set to come in. There was a lone girl surfing. She was pretty good.

And she was joined not long after by some belly-boarding friends.

While we sat, it was almost as if all the seasons of the year cycled through. First it would rain, then the sun would come out, then it would get cold, then hot, but there was always a pretty strong wind blowing in from offshore.

After about an hour, we started the drive back up, in low gear, of course.

The sign was right; a regular automobile would not have been able to make this drive.

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