When we were planning our trip to Kauai, we weren’t sure if it would be worth it to visit Waimea Canyon. It looked so arid from the photos, and that just wasn’t what we were envisioning for our tropical Hawaiian trip.
But we’re both so glad we changed our minds and went.
To get to Waimea Canyon from just about anywhere in Kauai, you just hop on the only true highway they have and head to the southwest corner of the island (that whole road is basically a ‘U’ tipped on its side, so it’s not exactly a tough island to navigate).
The drive in was really cool all by itself, with expansive views overlooking the canyon and vibrant red soils that make even the dirt photogenic. There is so much oxidized iron jam-packed into the earth here that the soil can be used to dye clothing (these guys built a whole business out of just that).
We followed this main road all the way to its end, which is composed of two overlooks: Kalalau Lookout and Pu’u O Kila Lookout. The first looks out over Kauai’s western, Napali Coast and the second faces more towards the center of the island, to Mount Wai’ale’ale. They both are pretty rainy places, but Mount Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest places on Earth, averaging more that 452 inches of rain per year. It was (surprise!) rainy when we stopped in, so we got some really prime photos of fog 🙂
After staring into the gloomy abyss for a bit, we got back in the car and drove back down to the trailhead for Canyon Trail. We picked this trail because it had a lot of great ratings online and would take us right to the top of the big, iconic waterfall we could see from some canyon overlooks.
The tricky thing about hiking into canyons is that the trek in, which is mostly downhill, tends to be so much easier than the trek back out. We passed a lot of sweaty and breathless vacationers on our way in, but took it as a positive sign that some were able to puff out an ‘It was worth it’ our way before pressing on.
Most of the hike was through the woods and over root-laden soil, with a little climbing over rocks and up dried mud steps. It was exciting every time we got a break in the vegetation that allowed for a peak out into the canyon.
Then, right near the end, the trail opened wide onto a big hill with one side almost completely empty of visual blocks, just big panoramic views of the canyon that get even better as you come over and back down a hill in the path. At the bottom of the hill, you can hear the waterfall but the trail seems to end.
But by pushing on just a bit further along a partially developed trail through some dense vegetation, you can get go to either a pool with a small waterfall or, further down the river, the head of the big waterfall.
It was pretty crowded when we got there but, as we found with a number places in Kauai, most people are just looking to take a couple quick photos and be on their way. So we stuck around for a bit and were able to have the whole area to ourselves for a little while.
Do you have a favorite hike in Kauai? An experience you thought you’d skip, but are so glad you didn’t? Share in the comments below so we don’t miss out! 🙂