This is one of our favorite day trips to the South and West shores.
Start with a full tank of gas and the top of the canyon is usually in the 50's-60's so a windbreaker or
long sleeve comes in handy. You need an early start to get to the top of Waimea Canyon by 9:30. (You
need to get to the lookout by 9:30 because the cloud cover will generally cover the valley before 10:00)
If you are in Princeville it will take about 2 3/4 hours, 1 3/4 hours from Lihue/Kapaa. The road east of
Lihue is HWY 56 and HWY 50 West of Lihue. Continue on HWY 50 until you cross the Waimea River.
Turn right on HWY 550 which is about 1/2 mile after you cross the bridge (Mile Marker #23). Take a
moment to stop at a couple of the pullouts around 2-3 miles after your turn on HWY 550 which overlook
the valley. After you get a couple of good pictures don't stop again until you get to the top. Be sure and
pull out at the other look outs on the WAY DOWN! (Remember the clouds?)The valley at the lookout is
your first priority, you will have time for the Grand Canyon of the Pacific lookouts on the way down.
The road is very twistie. It will take you some time to climb the 4100 feet. You will reach the Koke'e
Museum and State Park past Mile Marker #15. There is a restaurant and bathroom there. It's a good
stopping point on the way back down. The road past the park is pretty bad for 3 miles until you get to
the Kalalau Lookout. Keep going though all the way to the Ku'u o Kila Lookout. It's about 5 miles past
the state park and 2 miles past Kalalau lookout. You are now at the top. Several trails start from this
point. One will take you across the Alakai Swamp, the highest swamp in the world.
Waimea Canyon measures 10 miles long, 1 mile wide, and more than 3,500-feet deep. It was carved
thousands of years ago by rivers and floods that flowed from Mount Waialeale's summit. Numerous
lookouts and hikes offer terrific views of every aspect of this natural wonder. The canyon is protected
by the Koke'e State Park which encompasses 4,345 acres of land and has 45 miles of trails that run
through the canyon and the nearby Alakai Swamp. The Ranger's Station is located at the Koke'e
Museum has hiking maps of the area.
Koke'e and Waimea State Park Map
Hiking Trails and Lookouts
The Pihea Trail starts at the Ku'u o Kila Lookout. This is a great trail to take for the first mile around
the rim of the Kalalau Valley. You will get some great views of the Na Pali Coastline and the Alakai
Be sure and check out the Koke'e Musuem and a cup of coffee at the restaurant. There are several
other trails beginning around the Koke'e Lodge. The best being the Nualolo Trail. The others are the
Honopu Trail, Nualolo Cliffs Trail and the Awaawapuhi Trail.
Nualolo Cliffs Trail
After your visit at the restaurant and museum, start hitting the lookouts on the way down. The first is
the Pu'u Lookout at mile Marker 13.5. The next is the Pu'u Ka Pele Lookout at MM #13. There is also
some small pullovers that will allow you to get some great views of Waipo'o Falls.
Between MM #9 and 8 is a great trail. The Kukui Trail is a must stop. Even if you don't do the trail, at
least do the nature loop. It will take you to the canyon rim. The trail is 2 miles to the bottom of the
canyon all downhill. The hike back is all uphill though! After the stop the road splits. Take HWY 552
(Koke'e Road) back downhill and to HWY 50.
Our favorite restaurant on this side of the island is at the junction of 550 /50. It's where you went up to
the canyon. SHRIMP STATION !!! The fish taco's are a must!!!
Kukui Trail Waimea Canyon
You might want to stop on the way back at the following sites.
First is Salt Pond. It's a nice little beach and also has the salt ponds.
Next is Hanapepe and the Hanapepe swinging bridge. It's a nice little Kauai town. You don't have to
get out unless you need a break. Several art studios.
The Kauai Coffee Plantation is a fun stop and you get to sample many of the coffees.
Once you get to HWY 520 turn back to the ocean to Poipu. You will travel through the tree tunnel. The
road comes into Koloa with several shops and art studios. Keep to the right and follow 520 down to
Poipu. At the split stay right and follow the signs to Spouting Horn. Spounting Horn After Spouting
Horn turn back around and travel along the beach in Poipu down to the Hyatt. Prince Kuhio Park I'd
suggest you get out and explore the Hyatt. It's a great place for a drink.
Finally head back to Lihue and if you haven't stopped by Wailua Falls (HWY 583) , it would be a nice
time to see "Fantasy Island" falls.
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