Hiking to Waipo’o Falls on Kauai

Trail Name: Waipo’o Falls Trail

Distance (roundtrip): 5.1km

Time (roundtrip): 1.5 to 2 hours

Elevation: 369 metres

Waipo’o Falls is a 250 metre high waterfall in Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. We got our first glimpse of the waterfall and canyon when we took a helicopter tour of Kauai with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which was the highlight of our week in Kauai. Some of the best views of the falls were on the cliffside drive through Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and the dry, barren landscape on the west side of Kauai felt like a completely different island compared with the rest of Kauai. The canyon is not nearly as big as the Grand Canyon in Arizona but it is still impressive at 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 feet deep. It was formed by erosion from the Waimea River and there are several lookouts to capture the amazing views of the red rock canyon and waterfalls. 

The top of Waipo’o Falls can be reached by an easy 2 mile hike on the Waipo’o Falls Trail. We started our adventures near the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout which is has panoramic views of the canyon and a small parking lot to leave our rental car. The trail starts out as the “New Spur Trail” before splitting into the Cliff Trail and the Waipo’o Falls Trail. The Cliff Trail (on the right) is a very short trail that is worth the detour to another beautiful lookout point. Continuing back to the Waipo’o Falls Trail will take you through lush forests before you reach a wide open view of the canyon. This trail is all about the views of the canyon and red cliffs since you don’t actually get a close up view of Waipo’o Falls.

Although the trail does not provide a close-up view of the 250 metre falls, you can reach a small waterfall and swimming hole at the top of the falls as well as unparalleled views of Waimea Canyon. If you walk across the small pool just behind the main waterfall, you will notice the scent of wild ginger which grows next to the stream. Just past this little pool you can follow a small path that takes you to the very top of the 250 metre falls. The waterfall itself can be better seen from the viewpoints along the road.

Chickens are found all over the island of Kauai, even on the Waipoo Falls Trail

Getting There:

  • By Car – I would highly recommend renting a car while in Kauai to fully experience everything the island has to offer. The trail can be reached by car by turning off highway 50 in the town of Waimea onto highway 550 on the west side of the island. It is more than an hour drive from the Lihue airport to the trailhead.

Facilities: There is a small parking lot for about 20 cars at the Pu’u Hinahina lookout where the trail begins. There is also drinking water and toilets available at this lookout point. There are no other toilet facilities along the trail.

View from Kalalau Lookout

Nearby:

  • Paco’s Tacos – A fish taco from Paco’s Tacos was the perfect snack after a hike to Waipo’o Falls.
  • Kalalau Lookout – An incredible panorama view of the western edge of the Napali Coast which can be reached at the very end of the road past Waimea Canyon in Kokee State Park.
Paco’s Tacos – Great for a post hike fish taco

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