Waimea Canyon rests at the end of a long, curvy and slowly ascending road up Highway 552-Kokee Road, ending at Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Parks. At 10 miles long, a mile wide and over 3,600 feet deep, this mammoth chasm features four-million-year-old lava rock and displays variegated hues of red, purple, green and blue, depending on the weather and time of day. From vantage lookout points, you may get a glimpse of neighboring Niihau, Waipoo Falls, Kalalau Valley and the Napali Coast.
Some of the island’s best hikes are accessible from the park ranging from starter trails perfect for families, to longer, more strenuous trails for experienced hikers. Since much of Kauai is not accessible by road, this is truly the way to see some of the island’s endemic plants and wildlife, as well as commanding views of Waimea Canyon. Hikers are advised to check weather conditions before heading out. Kokee forest is a rainforest, after all, so be prepared for rain and lots of mud. As with any hike, you should take the necessary precautions. Hike with a buddy, bring plenty of water and snacks, and always stay on the trail. You may want to bring a jacket, too—temperatures range from 50-70 degrees fahrenheit in the fall.
If you’re in the mood to stay a while, campgrounds are available at Kokee State Park, in addition to a host of other amenities including restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic areas.
To learn about some of the island’s native plants and animals, stop by Kokee Natural History Museum. Ask the staff about seasonal activities, and what hike is best for your group. If you want to be sure about their hours before heading out, call 808-335-9975.
WAIMEA CANYON STATE PARK TRAILS:
• Iliau Nature Loop – Easy roadside nature trail with sweeping views of Wai‘alae and Waimea Canyons; 0.25 miles.
KOKEE STATE PARK TRAILS:
• Kawakoi Stream Trail – One of the most scenic mountain streamside trails in Hawaii. Easy pedestrian trail; 1.75 miles.
• Poomau Canyon Lookout – A short, scenic trail leading to a grand view of Poomau and Waimea Canyons; 0.3 miles.
• Awaawapouhi Trail – Strenuous trail with spectacular view into steep-sided Nualolo and Awaawapuhi Valleys, with mesic and dryland native plants. Return climb of 1,620 feet; 3.25 miles.
• Pihea Trail – Moderate trail with scenic views, observing Kauai’s native forest birds and sampling Alakai Wilderness’ terrain and vegetation; 3.8 miles.