Just across from Waimea Beach on the famous North Shore is a lush tropical garden tucked into a jungle valley. This park has one of the greatest assortments of Polynesian flora in the world, but it also incorporates other tropical plants from faraway lands. Guam, Madagascar, and the Seychelle Islands have representatives here, and so do dozens of other countries. The mix of local and far-flung flora make this one of the great concentrations of plant species in the world.
There are 5,000 different plants in the Waimea Valley. One such tree, the lau lau tree, was used by Hawaiians to build the roofs of their homes, and they were the only type of palms on the islands when the first humans arrived from the west on outrigger catamarans similar to the hokulea. There is also a seed bank on the property with 2,000 species of plants saved for safekeeping. You can see bird of paradise, torch ginger, ʻōhiʻa lehua, mountain orchid, kalo (also known as taro), breadfruit, guava, mango, banana, plumeria, giant banyan, hibiscus, and countless other beautiful specimens.
Along with other aspects of Hawaiian life, the visitors are taught about the concept of ahupua'a, the ancient idea of watershed, in which pieces of the island are sectioned into self-sufficient provinces that go from the mountains down to the waters offshore. They give the people in that province a chance to maintain their resources from top to bottom, from the rain-soaked mountains down to the giant seawater-fed ponds lined with rock. Known as the Valley of the Priests, this area has many sacred sites that have purposely never been excavated out of respect for the remains. The sacred Waimea Heiau is located north of the valley on a lookout and is the largest on the island.
The valley is three-quarters of a mile deep with a natural swimming pool and waterfall at the end. There are hula performances that are done several times daily. Hula is the ancient Hawaiian dance that involves telling ancient myths and legends through specific movements. After decades of suppression, hula had a renaissance in the 1970s as part of a greater cultural revolution to bring back the old ways. Located just off of the Kamehameha Highway the park was opened in 1973. Open everyday except Christmas and New Year's, admission costs $15 for adults and $7.50 for children and seniors.