Pull over at the Hanapepe Valley Lookout, and it won’t take but a moment to see why this drainage landed among Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park filming locations. It’s a gorgeous vista just past mile marker 14 on Highway 50, within shouting distance of the shops, art galleries, and eateries of Hanapepe itself.
The sightlines sweep over the fertile floor of the Hanapepe Valley, long host to taro cultivation and other farming, and upstream toward a rugged emerald mountainscape. The roughly south-flowing Hanapepe River and its tributaries drain the central Kauai highlands of Mount Waialeale, and it’s breathtaking to peer toward the basin’s wilder, rougher upper reaches. (That region includes the far-flung Manawaiopuna Falls—aka “Jurassic Falls,” featured prominently in Jurassic Park and viewable via helicopter tours.)
From the handsome valley-side bluffs close at hand to those distant interior ridges and peaks, this perch is yet another of the knockout viewpoints the Garden Isle seems to specialize in. No, it’s not quite as staggering as Waimea Canyon a short drive away, but the Hanapepe Valley has a seductive beauty all its own.
-The Hanapepe Valley Lookout is protected by a guardrail. As the warning sign admonishes, stay behind it! In 1980, one of the writers of the hit movie Animal House fell to his death here, so it pays to be cautious.
-If at all possible, aim for a midmorning visit to the Hanapepe Valley Lookout. Clouds tend to build up in the highlands by midday, diminishing the view somewhat. (That said, cloud-wrapped mountains are their own signature Kauai sight.)