The rugged wilderness of Kaua’i’s mountainous interior is never more apparent than at Waimea Canyon State Park. Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” (though no one knows who coined the phrase), Waimea Canyon is a natural wonder, a 14-mile long canyon up to a mile across at its widest point. The canyon drops to a depth of over 3,600 feet, its colorful walls revealing the source if its name (“red earth”) and displaying a dizzying array of vibrant colors in strata that tell the story of the island’s volcanic birth. Over the centuries the canyon was carved by the ever-changing track of the Waimea River, fed by the heavy rainfalls on Mt. Waialeale, and the ancient collapse of the volcano that birthed the island.
Visiting the Waimea Canyon
Located in western Kaua’i on a high plateau, Waimea Canyon State Park is accessed from the town of Waimea (90 minutes from Princeville, 45-60 minutes from Līhu’e) by Waimea Canyon Road. This winding and scenic 18-mile drive hugs the canyon rim and brings visitors to two scenic lookouts and various trail heads that descend into the canyon and the forest preserve, before ending at Kokee State Park. Both parks are open daily during daylight hours, and are free to the public.
Scenic Views and Beautiful Waimea Canyon Hikes
Attracting thousands of visitors every year, the lower lookout and the Waimea Canyon Overlook afford breathtaking, panoramic views of Kaua’i’s rugged interior. Here you can see for miles, with the emerald heights of Mt. Waialeale above and the red, yellow, and brown stripes of the canyon splayed out before you. A well maintained series of hiking trails descend from the rim into the wildlife preserve within the canyon, passing through marshes, forests, and high desert zones. The Cliff Trail is a popular and relatively easy walk along the canyon rim. Wild goats might join you for portions of this hour-long, 1.8-mile hike, taking in the stunning views right alongside you.
More advanced hikers will want to detour on the Canyon Trail (4 miles) which follows the North Rim to Kumuwela Lookout. At the halfway point you can picnic at the base of Waipo`o Falls, enjoying beautiful views of the canyon crisscrossing the Kaua’i landscape all along the way. (An alternative trail goes to the top of the falls). Longer, more difficult trails include the Kukui Trail (a 5-mile, 2,000-foot descent to the canyon floor) and the 11.5-mile Waimea Canyon Trail from the canyon floor to Waimea town.
Whether you go for a morning of incredible vistas or a day of exhilarating hiking, Waimea Canyon is a must see. If you venture on to the stunning views of the Na Pali Coast at Kokee State Park, be sure to bring a light jacket as temperatures drop quickly at elevation, even in Hawai’i. Start planning your trip today and book your Kauai vacation rental home from Arrived Now! For more information on attractions, activities and events, don’t hesitate to contact our team!
By Kyle Pearce – originally posted to Flickr as Waimea Canyon HDR, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10606800