Known as the Garden Island for its lush tropical landscape, Kauai is also home to countless waterfalls that complement other spectacular sites around the island including Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast. A few of these gorgeous falls are easy to get to, and others take a bit of effort to experience. Here is our top 5!
Waipoo Falls is a glorious 800-foot waterfall in Waimea Canyon. You can see the falls from various lookout points along Highway 550, the road that takes you up to the museum and park. You can also snap magnificent pictures of the canyon from the Waipoo Falls Trail hike, a 3.2-mile roundtrip hike, which is located just off the highway between mile markers 14 and 15. While you will not see the falls up close in their splendor, this easy and popular hike will take you through rain forests and canyon rims ending at the top of the waterfall in a Awaawapuhi Ginger lined stream. The trail is considered easy/moderate, and is kid friendly for children that enjoy a great adventure outdoors.
By far the most difficult to get to, the Hanakapiai Falls hike is impressive. After driving to the end of the road on Highway 56, park in the lot fronting Kee Beach and head out on the 2-mile Hanakapiai Trail. This is a very popular trek on the island so we suggest going early in the morning. For the first 2 miles you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Na Pali Coast as you traverse on switchbacks along the coastline. Once you arrive at Hanakapiai Beach, it is an additional 2 miles upstream to the falls. The trail can be rough in spots, but the 300+ foot waterfall at the end of the tramp is definitely worth the adventure. This experience is not recommended for small children due to the terrain and difficulty of the hike.
You can leave your hiking boots behind for this breathtaking display of Mother Nature. Wailua Falls, a double-tiered waterfall, is located just north of Lihue and is the most easily accessible on Kauai. Head north from Lihue on Highway 56 and take a left on Maalo Road in Hanamaulu. After traveling uphill for approximately 3 miles, the road ends at the parking lot of the falls. You may recognize the prestige of these falls as they were used in the opening credits of the 80’s hit show, Fantasy Island. This adventure is definitely recommended for families with small children as there is no hiking involved. The views are just a short walk from the parking lot.
Named Uluwehi Falls, but known to locals and visitors as Secret Falls, are an extremely popular adventure on the east side of the Garden Island. The trailhead to the falls is located up the Wailua River and requires water transport to get there. You can travel via kayak or canoe and there are several companies in the area that you can rent from, or you can always book a guided adventure. Once you land your boat at the entrance to the trailhead, you hike up to the falls on a trail that can be extremely muddy and slippery. Hiking boots are not recommended. We suggest either going barefoot, using sport sandals or tabis. If you travel at a relaxed pace, it takes about 45 minutes each way. The is a great family friendly adventure for children that don’t mind paddling up the river and getting a little dirty on the trail.
Opaekaa means, “rolling shrimp!” Supposedly the stream was full of shrimp and so they aptly named the dazzling waterfalls after them. Like Wailua Falls, this majestic site is easily accessible and requires no hiking. Simply turn up Kuamoo Road (580) from highway 56 and travel up the hill to the lookout that is located adjacent to the parking lot on the right hand side. There are many photo ops from this location, as well as from across the street where you are treated with views of the Wailua River Valley. Families with children all ages would enjoy Opaekaa Falls as the views can be seen from a brief walk from the parking area.
So pack up the car, choose your destination and you will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the Garden Island. And don’t forget to take pictures and post them on Facebook at Poipu Beach Resort Association and on instagram at @poipubeachkauai!