Hiking on Kauai

Hanakapiai Falls Hike

This hike is worth the many stream crossings and the up-and-down terrain. Start your adventure at the end of the road on the North Shore at Kee Beach, to hike the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail. The trail will climb steadily for the first mile to an elevation of 400 feet. Do not let this discourage you, as soon as you reach the first half-mile vista, you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Napali Coastline and an aerial view of Kee Beach. As you continue on the trail, switching from ocean views to scenic valley beauty, you will see wonderful little waterfalls and all the beauty nature offers. In the final descent to the beach. your muddy, tired, and hot feet will be very happy to see the Hanakapiai Stream that is fed from the waterfall 2 miles up. Wade across the stream to the beach, but before you continue on to the falls make sure to enjoy Hanakapiai Beach for a few moments, best spent sitting in the cold stream cooling down before the next portion of your journey. Note that the ocean here isn`t suggested for swimming. Even when it looks calm there is quite a current and shore break.

For those that continue on to the falls be ready for a 760-foot elevation gain from the beach. You will switch back and forth over the stream as the trail winds through bamboo forests, mountain apple trees, and vines which are scattered throughout. Be careful towards the end when you get closer to the falls. There are slippery spots that are narrow and can be slightly dangerous if you`re not paying attention. When you arrive you are rewarded with a breathtaking 300-foot waterfall with a wonderful swimming area below, which is fantastic to cool off in after your hard work. Make sure to bring lunch and some water so you can spend some time enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime view. When you are all ready to head back to the real world, just return back the way you came. The total trip is 8 miles and takes around 5 hours so make sure you give yourselves enough time on the day you choose to do this hike. Also, be aware of the weather as if it`s raining the stream will rise very quickly and this is how some get stuck in the valley and have to be airlifted out.

Location: Haena (52.1 miles from Poipu)

Waipo’o Falls Hike

Waipo`o Falls is an 800-foot waterfall on Kokee Stream dropping in two tiers. It is located in the heart of Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

The falls can be seen from various lookouts along the canyon road. Your first glimpse of the falls is at the Waimea Canyon Overlook, past mile marker 10 on Highway 550. There is a second (and much better) viewpoint a couple of miles up the road at the unsigned Pu`u Ka Pele Lookout, a roadside turnout just before mile marker 13. Although still quite a distance away from the waterfall, it feels much closer.

You won`t be disappointed by this lovely hike that starts off amongst the forested bird lands on the rim of Halemanu Canyon. This is a popular hike for families and is considered one of the outstanding hikes on all of Kauai. The hike to the top of the falls begins between the 14 and 15-mile markers. The beginning of this trail will take you from Highway 550 and along Halemanu Road for .75 miles to the trailhead of the canyon trail and Waipoo Falls Trail. The only downside is that once you reach the end of the hike, you can`t really see the falls beneath you; however, the Canyon views are phenomenal. This beautiful hike will lead you along the canyon`s rim giving you a unique vantage point of the canyon and Kokee Rain Forest.

The flow rate of the falls depends on precipitation like most falls on the islands. During the summer months, there will not be much flow at all and it may even be dry. But, if you are fortunate enough to see it in the winter or after a lot of rain, it is really quite impressive.

Location: Kokee overlooking Waimea Canyon (33.6 miles from Poipu)

Sleeping Giant Hike

The Nounou Kuamoo Trail, Sleeping Giant, is a popular hike that leads you over the Opaekaa Stream on a wooden bridge and through a forest of strawberry guavas. For a quick hike and a nice place for a picnic, you can stop at the covered picnic table at .75 mile. This valley vista will reward you with views of Kalepa Ridge and upper Wailua Homestead. The Nounou Trail continues along the west side of Nounou Mountain and meets up with the west side trail at about 1.8 miles.

Past a grove of large bamboo, the Kuamoo Trail joins the Nounou West Trail in the beautiful cathedral forest of Cook Pines planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. At this intersection head up the mountain through the trail of Cook Pines. As you make your way to the top you will find yourself surrounded by large pines, fragrant strawberry guava, wild orchids, and eucalyptus trees.

The top of the trail rewards you with sweeping views of Mt. Waialeale, Anaholas Kong mountain, Wailua River Valley, and the coastline from Kealia to Kalapaki. The picnic table at the top is a great rest spot for a picnic and shelter. You can continue on along the ridge toward the giant`s head, but the trail becomes more difficult and requires some climbing to traverse. At the end of this spectacular hike, you will be treated to a 360-degree view of the East side of Kauai.

The reason for the name Sleeping Giant Trail is that you will hike across the chest of the giant’s profile that is easily seen from the ocean side or Kapaa side of the mountain.

Location: Wailua (20.6 miles from Poipu)

Pihea Trail

Pihea Trail starts at the Puu O Kila Lookout over Kalalau Valley in Kokee State Park. The beginning of the trail travels high along a narrow back ridge and offers truly lovely views into the Kalalau Valley as the clouds permit. Witness a grand reveal in the gaps of passing clouds of lush green valley and the blue Pacific flanked by towering peaks and cliffs. The trail passes through a forest of Ohia trees, ferns, koa, and other native vegetation. After the first mile, the Pihea Trail is covered mostly with a boardwalk of long wood planks covered in chicken wire for traction.

After approximately two miles there is a junction between the Pihea Trail and the Alakai Swamp Trail. Turn left and continue along the Alakai Swamp Trail to Kilohana Lookout. Descend a steep set of wooden stairs to a place where you cross Kawaikoi Stream. From there the trail ascends and follows a few narrow ridges that lead out onto a high plateau. Continue along the boardwalk as it hovers over a continuous series of little bogs. In foggy weather, the visibility up here can be limited to 10 feet or less. After traversing the plateau, there are a couple of small dips in the trail after which you break free onto the western edge of Wainiha Pali at Kilohana for a Panoramic view of the entire North Shore from Wainiha Valley to the horseshoe-shaped Hanallei Bay.

Location: Kokee overlooking Waimea Canyon (37.9 miles from Poipu)

Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail is a stunning hiking trail located on Kauai. This challenging trail is known for its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, lush greenery, and scenic waterfalls. However, in order to hike the Kalalau Trail, you need to obtain a permit. Here`s everything you need to know about getting permits for the Kalalau Trail: How to Get Permits: There are a limited number of permits available for the Kalalau Trail each day. These permits can be obtained through the Hawaii State Parks website or by calling the park office. Permits can be purchased up to 14 days in advance of the start date of your hike. Cost of Permits: The cost of a single-night camping permit is $20 per person, while the cost of a multi-night permit is $40 per person. Hawaii residents can obtain a discount on their permit fees.

When to Apply for Permits: Because there are a limited number of permits available each day and they tend to sell out quickly, it`s recommended that you apply for your permit as soon as possible. If you plan to hike the Kalalau Trail during peak hiking season (May-September), it`s recommended that you apply for your permit at least several months in advance to have the best chance of securing a permit for your desired dates.

Things to Keep in Mind While Hiking the Kalalau Trail: The Kalalau Trail is a challenging hike that requires a good amount of physical fitness and experience. Hikers should be prepared for steep and strenuous terrain, as well as extreme weather conditions. Additionally, hikers should adhere to proper Leave No Trace principles and respect the natural beauty of the trail.

In Conclusion: The Kalalau Trail is a breathtaking hiking trail that is worth the effort to obtain a permit to hike it. By planning ahead and being prepared, hikers can experience the beauty of Kauai`s rugged coastline in a unique and unforgettable way.

Location: Haena (52.1 miles from Poipu)

Mahaulepu Coast Trail

The Mahaulepu Coast Trail is a picturesque hiking trail located in Poipu This stunning trail offers breathtaking views of the ocean, rugged lava rock formations, and lush coastal vegetation. The Mahaulepu Coast Trail is a 4-mile round-trip hike that is suitable for hikers of all skill levels. The trail is well-marked, and hikers can easily navigate their way through the terrain. Along the way, hikers will encounter a variety of unique features, such as secluded beaches, blowholes, and ancient Hawaiian cultural sites.

One of the highlights of the Mahaulepu Coast Trail is the breathtaking view of the Makauwahi Cave, which is the largest limestone cave in Hawaii. Hikers can explore the cave and observe the unique and fragile ecosystem inside the cave. The cave is home to a variety of rare and endangered species, and hikers are advised to stay on designated trails and not disturb the delicate environment.

In addition to the natural beauty of the Mahaulepu Coast Trail, hikers can also learn about the fascinating history of Kauai. The trail is home to many ancient Hawaiian cultural sites, such as heiaus and burial mounds. These historic landmarks provide a glimpse into the island`s rich history and culture. The Mahaulepu Coast Trail is open to the public year-round and is a popular destination for hikers, nature lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, the Mahaulepu Coast Trail is a must-visit attraction on the island of Kauai.

Location: Poipu

Nualolo Trail

The Nualolo Trail is a picturesque hiking trail. This trail is known for its breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, majestic cliffs, and lush vegetation. This trail, which is 4.5 miles long, starts at the Koke`e State Park and descends towards the Nualolo Valley. The trail is rated as moderately difficult because of its steep hill sections and uneven terrain. Hikers should wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water for the journey. As hikers descend along the trail, they will pass through different ecological zones including the Koa and Ohia forest, which is home to a variety of plant and animal species found only in Hawaii. The view from the Nualolo Ridge is breathtaking. You can see both the Nāpali Coast and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. The trail continues through the Nualolo Valley, where hikers can see the ruins of an ancient Hawaiian fishing village, which is evidence of the indigenous culture that once thrived in the area. The Nualolo Trail is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Kauai who loves hiking and nature. The views are truly unrivaled and the trail offers a unique opportunity to connect with the natural beauty of the Hawaiian Islands.

Location: Poipu

Awaawapuhi Trail

The Awaawapuhi Trail is a picturesque hiking trail located in Kokee. This trail offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience for outdoor enthusiasts, taking them through some of Hawaii`s most breathtaking scenery. The Awaawapuhi Trail is approximately 6.2 miles round-trip and presents hikers with varying degrees of incline and terrain, making it a thrilling adventure for those looking to explore Kauai`s natural beauty. The trail begins at the Kokee State Park Headquarters and takes hikers on a journey through lush forests, and stunning canyon views, and ends with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean at the Awaawapuhi Lookout. At the Awaawapuhi Lookout, hikers will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Napali Coast, one of Hawaii`s most beautiful coastlines. The view is especially breathtaking just before sunset when the sun casts a warm, golden light over the rugged coastline. While the Awaawapuhi Trail requires a bit of stamina and a hiking experience, the panoramic views and natural beauty make it one of Kauai`s most memorable hikes.

Location: Kokee (35.8 miles from Poipu)