Why you should care
Because there are no snakes in Hawaii. Right?
We’re walking through a pitch-black irrigation tunnel in a jungle-covered mountain, shin-deep in murky water, and my friend Kelly is reciting her new mantra: “There are no snakes in Hawaii. There are no snakes in Hawaii.” But then her mind wanders.… “Shit, who told me that?” she says. “I hope they’re right.” Kelly is my adventure buddy and we’re hiking high above the Big Island’s Waipio Valley in search of Hawaii’s hidden waterslide.
We have no idea how far our destination is, or whether we’ve already missed it. The White Road hike, as it’s unofficially called, isn’t exactly mapped out since it’s technically off-limits. We found it by chance, really. Earlier in the day we had asked a friendly member of the hotel staff, a woman about our age, for a hike recommendation, something adventurous and perhaps a little unknown. She suggested the hike to the hidden flume.
The hike is practically in the clouds …
Kelly and I hop over a fence and bypass a handful of No Trespassing signs — some warn us of the hazardous cliffs and the potential for the earth to slide out beneath us thanks to earthquakes. It isn’t hard to imagine that possibility after we emerge from a bamboo forest and are forced along a tiny path, just 2 feet wide at some parts, with the massive valley stretching out far below us. But every death-defying step is worth it for the jaw-dropping views of the lush valley with thousand-foot waterfalls dotting the vista.
When we finally reach our destination, after clutching onto ginger plants protruding from the side of the mountain, extreme giddiness quickly supplants nervousness. The 35-foot “waterslide” is situated in the forest like a child’s Swiss Family Robinson dream, Hawaii-style. The waterslide is actually part of a complex stone irrigation system; to reach the top you have to climb up using a slimy old rope, the same way you’ll come down. It takes strength — the incline combined with the water rushing by is no joke. The only other people Kelly and I encounter laugh at the sheer joy (read: terror) on our faces as we plunge into the water below. They also ask us how we found out about the hike — one of the island’s best-kept secrets.
Excitement aside, the hike is dangerous, and again, not legal. Accordingly, it doesn’t exactly attract droves of visitors and is definitely not suitable for children or anyone who isn’t confident in their hiking abilities. And because the hike is practically in the clouds, if you attempt it on a wet or foggy day you’ll miss out on the beautiful views. Consider yourself warned.
For us, though, the heart-pounding moments were worth it. It was, Kelly says, “hands down” one of her best memories of being in the great outdoors. I couldn’t agree more.