Whether staying on the North or South Shore of Kauai, you cannot miss taking a drive to Waimea Canyon. With the accolade of being the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it is epic. And, you won’t truly believe it until you see it with your own eyes and experience its grandeur. The palate of colors is absolutely majestic with reds, oranges, browns, and deep greens, not to mention the ever-alluring peaks of the Napali Coast along the West.
Although the drive is absolutely wonderful, it is so much more personal to view Waimea Canyon’s beauty out on foot. My two favorite hikes are the Canyon Trail and the Awa’awapuhi Trail. The Canyon Trail is a moderate, 3.4-mile hike on the North Rim with wonderful views of the canyon stretching all the way to the blue ocean; whereas, the Awa’awapuhi Trail is a moderately difficult, 7-mile hike. It begins with a lot of canopy cover and a downhill trail ending at a 2,500 ft overlook of the Napoli Coast (seen below).
Hiking in Kauai
In either case, you will come back with red, dusty hiking boots, dirty socks, and perhaps a muddy rear-end if it is wet out. However, it wouldn’t be a good time or good story without some authentic red dirt apparel that you didn’t have to buy at one of the red dirt shirt shops.
I will warn you that hiking in Kauai is challenging regardless of the level of the trails. When the trails are dry, they are slick. When they are wet, they are like slip-n-slides. Always go with someone else and with plenty of water. It is wise to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Cell service can be hit or miss in the Waimea Canyon.
Do NOT Miss the Kalalau Lookout
After your hike, there is one DO NOT miss overlook, the Kalalau Lookout, which is at the 18-mile marker. There are tables, restrooms, and let’s just say the best postcard shot on the entire island. As you can see from the picture above, the peaks just jet out of the ocean like pinnacles. They are raw with jungle-like vegetation covering every available square inch and NOT a house in sight. In fact, if you are listening well, you will hear the cries of goats. They are the only ones that venture on these steep cliffs.
Once you have enjoyed the view and have had your fill of the natural beauty of the Waimea Canyon, I’d say head to Hanapepe, especially on a Friday night. Every Friday night, the small, tranquil town turns into a people-watching extravaganza and feast with food, live music, and what Hanapepe is famous for art, art, and more art. The festivities start at 6 pm and wind down around 9 pm. Here you can refuel your hiking tank with "grinds" from numerous cafes as well as any one of the food trucks. Don't leave without experiencing the swinging bridge, which is located just off the main drag.
Here’s to more good times and good stories.