Kokee State Park

Koke'e State Park — Where to Experience All the Tropical Wonders of Kauai
Local Expert's Rating:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

If you’ve ever wanted to picnic, hike, or camp out in a tropical wonderland, Kokee State Park is definitely calling your name. With 19 hiking trails to explore, you can go on a deep dive into this lush landscape and even find waterfalls along the way. Prefer to go camping? You can either stay in a tent site at the campground, get a room at the lodge, or rent a cabin near the Kokee Natural History Museum.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

When you simply want to immerse yourself in all the wonders of paradise, Kokee State Park answers the call quite well. With its gorgeous views of the Kalalau Valley and the ocean beyond, this park serves as an excellent place to get it away from it all while enjoying the beauty of Kauai. And how you want to enjoy the natural landscape is entirely up to you.

You’re welcome to zoom up here for a leisurely picnic or spend the entire day hiking any of its 19 trails. Or if you are unable to rip yourself away from this tropical wonderland, you can camp out for the weekend or longer at the campgrounds or in a rental cabin.  

The trails range from beginner to advanced treks, spanning anywhere from one to eight miles round-trip. The most popular hike is the Canyon Trail, a 4-mile round-trip that takes you across the Kokee Stream and straight to the Waipoo Falls. Birdwatchers often forgo that trek in favor of either the Pihea Trail or Alakai Swamp Trail, both of which lead them through native bird habitats of all kinds. 

As you travel down the trails, you can delight in all the spectacular native vegetation, including koa trees and hibiscus flowers galore. Also, watch for signs of rare and endangered birds, like the iiwi, puaiohi, and akekee, plus plenty of wild chickens and Nene geese. Just be sure not to feed the chickens or geese — no matter how much they might beg — since they’re becoming quite prolific and need to forage for their own food.  

As you fall in love with the parklands, you’ll undoubtedly end up wanting to stay for the weekend or longer. You’re welcome to do so after getting a camping permit through the online reservation system for the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. You can then get a tent site at the Kokee State Park Campground for a rugged camping experience. If you’d prefer to skip the permit, go for a more luxe stay in a rental cabin.  

Whether you choose the tent or cabin, plan to visit the Kokee Museum during your stay. Located in the Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow, this museum gives you an in-depth look at the nearby hiking trails, vegetation, and wildlife. If you’re curious about the condition of any particular hiking trails, just ask the staff and they’ll give you the inside scoop.

The museum also features a gift shop full of crafts, artwork, jewelry, and other gifts made by local artisans. You can even get handcrafted hiking sticks to help keep you steady on your upcoming treks. After visiting the museum, you can zip on over to the lodge for a hot meal if you’d like to take a break from campfire meals for a minute.

Whether you spend a few hours or several days at Kokee State Park, you’re sure to walk away smitten. Thankfully, you can come back any time of the year for another visit, although it’s best enjoyed during the spring and summer months.

Insider Tips:
-Many of the trails end up slippery and rather muddy all throughout the year, so wear a good pair of hiking shoes to maintain a steady grip. It’s also wise to bring binoculars, protein-rich snacks, and plenty of water along on your hike.
-Although museum admission is technically free, they greatly appreciate donations of at least $1 per visit.
-You can only request a camping permit up to 30 days in advance at this time. The rules may change in the future to allow more time for planning your trip.
-The dirt road up to the campsite has a lot of potholes, so drive carefully as you make your way there.