Must-See Waterfalls in Kauai: Hike, Drive, or Kayak to the Island’s Cascading Beauties

If you’ve disregarded the iconic TLC lyrics and decided to go chasing waterfalls, you’ll adore the cascades that abound throughout the island of Kauai. Some are easily accessible and others require a lot of hiking — but all are sure to leave you in awe.

Waipoo Falls

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Plunging an impressive 800 feet, Waipoo Falls is among the tallest waterfalls you’ll find on Kauai and beyond. When viewing them, it’s easy to see why their home base (the Waimea Canyon) is so often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Still, we’d argue that the Waipoo Falls give the Waimea Canyon a leg up. Unfortunately, getting close to the falls can be tricky, although you can take the Canyon Trail to see them from an unexpected vantage point. In most cases, however, a helicopter tour is the best solution for viewing these super-tall falls up close.

Opaekaa Falls

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Cascading 150 feet and spanning 40 feet, the majestic Opaekaa Falls flows over basalt, which was formed via volcanic reactions. They’re found within the Wailua River State Park and can be viewed after driving a short few miles to a lookout. They are some of the most easily accessible waterfalls on the island. Making them a great option for anyone with limited hiking abilities. Safety rails, picnic tables, and other amenities make viewing the falls extra convenient. For an even better view, walk up the hill and cross the road. You’ll be astounded by the natural beauty of the Wailua River Valley. 

Mount Waialeale

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Sometimes referred to as the Weeping Walls, the falls at Mount Waialeale are prolific. These are best observed while tackling the Blue Hole Hike, which, while challenging, is well worth the effort. Bring high-quality shoes and any other gear necessary for navigating all the mud and bamboo. The trail isn’t particularly well-marked, so many visitors rely on guides to keep them on track. The total distance out and backrest at just under five miles, but some visitors report that the journey feels far longer.

After a strenuous trek, you’ll arrive at a stunning area known as the Blue Hole. This deep canyon is formed by steep walls that stretch over 3,000 feet, encircling it to create a jaw-dropping effect. If the scenery seems familiar, it’s possible that you viewed it in Jurassic Park. If you want to witness this awe-inspiring view but aren’t up for the hike, a helicopter tour may be a worthwhile alternative; this is a top destination for many of the island’s air-based adventures. 

Red Dirt Waterfalls

Red Dirt Waterfall in Waimea

These are by no means the tallest waterfalls on the island, but this unique option is definitely worth visiting if you’d like to build a little contrast into your itinerary. This is not where you go for lush greenery or huge cascades, but rather, to observe the vibrant red soil of the Waimea Canyon. Some people even compare the area to waterfalls on mars.

Multiple cascades exist, with each spanning just a few feet. They’re fun to check out for a moment or two, but don’t plan to spend more than fifteen minutes at this offroad attraction. Rather, it should be just one more point of interest during a jam-packed day of exploring Waimea. 

Uluwehi Falls

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They may be commonly referred to as Secret Falls, but there’s nothing truly secret about Uluwehi Falls. These are some of the most notorious falls on the entire island, although they’re not always easy to reach. Most visitors rely on tour guides to lead the way, as a kayaking expedition is required. This is all part of the fun, however, and adventurers feel a strong sense of pride upon completing this journey. 

Exploring the falls alone is possible but can be risky, especially as the conditions can be dicey. Tours provide valuable peace of mind, as well as intriguing details about the many fascinating sites along the way: Fern Grotto and Kamokila Hawaiian Village, to name a few. At long last, kayakers arrive to view the falls cascading well over 100 feet into a small pool. This is a great spot to enjoy a picnic lunch and take a refreshing dip. 

Ho’ole’a Falls

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It takes a lot of time and physical exertion to reach the stunning Hoolea Falls, so most Kauai visitors will never make it there. If, however, you love hiking and can handle an 11-mile trek, you’ll be rewarded with a pristine view of majestic waterfalls that cascade an impressive 200 feet. The location is arguably just as exciting as the falls themselves; they’re idyllically situated between the famed Na Pali Coast State Park and the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve. 

Kipu Falls

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Most visitors won’t (and arguably, shouldn’t) visit Kipu Falls, but this once-bustling attraction still deserves a mention. These are certainly not the tallest on Kauai, but they’re beloved because they tumble into an iconic swimming hole. This spot is notoriously dangerous, as many people have died while swimming here. Some locals suspect that a whirlpool is responsible for these tragedies. Locals now go to great lengths to block visitors from accessing these falls, so you’re better off focusing your efforts on the other, more accessible (and less contentious) spots on this list.

Kalihiwai Falls

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A popular wedding spot and a great view while driving near the Princeville Ranch, the multi-tiered marvel known as Kalihiwai Falls may only draw a quick glimpse as you navigate this pristine part of the island. While it’s possible to access the falls up close, you’ll need to book a tour. Princeville Ranch offers an excellent hiking expedition, introducing you to the local flora and fauna and, of course, the 80-foot falls that so many passersby are yearning to see. Some visitors have also been able to take guided horseback rides to see the falls from a unique perspective.

Kauai’s waterfalls aren’t always easy to access, but they’re certainly memorable. Whether you gaze at them during a leisurely drive or hike miles to get a glimpse, you’ll be glad you chased the remarkable waterfalls of Kauai.