Kuamoo Nounou Trail

The Kuamoo Nounou Trail: The Western Approach to East Kauai's Mighty Sleeping Giant
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The Kuamoo Nounou Trail serves as the western of three hiking routes accessing the summit of the Sleeping Giant, aka Nounou Mountain, in eastern Kauai. It doesn’t have the same scenery quotient as the Nounou East Trail on the other side but compensates with lovely shady forest and more solitude. The trail meets the Nounou West Trail, which you can take to the top of the Sleeping Giant for stunning panoramas.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

The moderate, 2.5-mile (one-way) Kuamoo Nounou Trail is one of three trails climbing up the slopes of Nounou Mountain: aka the Sleeping Giant, a defining landmark of East Kauai’s Coconut Coast. It doesn’t pack in as many long-range views as the more popular Nounou East Trail on the opposite, eastern side of the Giant. But you can use the Kuamoo Nounou Trail to get to the top of the mountain, with plenty of scenery to feast on, and furthermore, it offers its own entrancing ambiance.

The Kuamoo Nounou Trail heads at Kuamoo Road and proceeds northeastward along the western flanks of the Sleeping Giant. Nounou Mountain earns this name for the resemblance of its ridgetop profile to a comatose human figure. Hawaiian legends suggest this is the body of a giant tricked into scarfing down stones during a party feast, then getting irresistibly drowsy. He’s been snoozing away peacefully as the backdrop of Wailua ever since. The ridge crest—with its fairly easy-to-see nose, chin, and belly—rises in isolation between the Konohiki Stream and the Wailua River.

Word to the wise: Consider having some insect repellant on hand. The slopeside forest through which the Kuamoo Nounou Trail passes can have quite a healthy contingent of mosquitoes.

After crossing the Opaekaa Stream on a photogenic wooden footbridge, the Kuamoo Nounou Trail proper offers its nicest views about three-quarters of a mile in. Here you’ll find a picnic shelter with prospects of the Wailua Homesteads to the west and the Kalepa Ridge to the south, across the Wailua River.

Compared to the rather sun-blasted Nounou East Trail, the Kuamoo Nounou Trail keeps you in the welcome (and atmospheric) shade for the most part. This includes a nice stand of bamboo. And where the trail intersects with the Nounou West Trail, you’ll be immersed in a vaulting forest of Cook pine. These handsome trees were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930s. 

Some hikers choose to turn around at this trail intersection (or, if they want just a short jaunt, at the picnic shelter). If you want more impressive views, though—not to mention the thrill of standing atop the Sleeping Giant—hang a right on the Nounou West Trail. This switchbacks you up through Cook pines, strawberry guavas, eucalyptus, and other mainly non-native trees to the ridgetop.

Near where the Nounou West and Nounou East trails meet up on the ridgeline, you’ll find a picnic shelter with beautiful sightlines. While it’s possible to proceed southward along the body of the Sleeping Giant—hitting up the Chest, Chin, and Nose vantages—the trail gets sketchier and poorly maintained.

The picnic shelter is a worthy lookout, though, and very much a rewarding turnaround point. You’ll have views northwestward to the Makaleha Mountains, south to the Hoary Head Mountains, and westward to the crown of Kauai: Mount Waialeale. (It may well be swaddled with cloud, but that’s part of the character of one of the world’s wettest places.) Eastward, of course, yawns the mighty Pacific Ocean. Linger amid this tropical grandeur as long as you like, then head back down into the forest.

Insider Tips:
-Be prepared for muddy conditions along the trail if it’s rained at all recently.
-Parking is on the shoulder of the road when you put it into your GPS.
-If you’ve arranged a shuttle, it can be especially rewarding to combine the Kuamoo Nounou Trail with the Nounou East Trail, doing a complete traverse of the Sleeping Giant.