On an island where daily showers give birth to countless waterfalls, the towering plumes of Opaeka`a Falls stand out. Emerging from the thick jungle and forests of the east Kaua’i foothills above Wailua, the falls flow over a shelf of volcanic basalt from an ancient eruption before tumbling 151 feet to the roiling stream below. With a span of 40 feet, these large falls are easily visible from the roadside scenic lookout on Kuamo`o Road (Hwy 580) and are among the more accessible falls on Kaua’i.
Oapaeka`a Falls: Power and Fury
The Opaeka`a Falls draws their name from the Hawaiian word for “shrimp” (opae) and “rolling” (ka`a), a reference to the formerly abundant shrimp that inhabited the streams and tributaries of the North Folk of the Wailua River. Fueled by the abundant rains (over 400″ annually) that fall on the slopes of Mt. Waialeale, the falls are visible year-round. For the best viewing, we recommend visiting in the late morning when the sun lights up the cascades and casts dazzling rainbows in vibrant halos above the pool below.
Viewing the Falls
To get to Opaeka`a is an easy drive from Līhu’e. From the north bank of the Wailua River in Wailua town, turn off of Kuhio Highway (Hwy 56) onto Kuamo`o Road (Hwy 580). Follow the road along the Opaeka`a Stream (on your right) and North Folk of the Wailua River (on your left) until you reach the well signed viewing area and parking lot on your right, just before mile marker 2. While you won’t be up close and personal, the Opaeka`a Falls are readily visible even at a distance (NOTE: The trail to the falls is dangerous and unmaintained, and has been closed since 2 fatalities in 2006; the lookout is completely safe, however). Picnic tables offer a pleasant spot for a late breakfast or early lunch, and public restrooms are available.
Across the street and slightly up the hill from the overlook is another scenic spot, this one offering views of the Wailua River Valley and emerald green fields of central Kaua’i. You might even recognize the view from such films as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and Outbreak.
Centrally located, these easily accessible falls are second only to Wailua Falls in popularity. Plan on an hour drive from Princeville, 20 minutes from Līhu’e, and 45 minutes to an hour if you are coming from Poipu. Ready to explore this slice of paradise? Book your stay in one of our luxurious Kauai vacation rentals today and don’t hesitate to contact us with questions about the best attractions, activities and events on the island.
By Bob Linsdell, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59532847