Kauai is known worldwide for being home to so many waterfalls. So what makes Red Dirt Falls worth visiting? Unlike the other falls on the island in lush jungles, Red Dirt Falls looks more like something from another world. Most visitors associate it with the red planet, Mars. You may imagine it being “fire engine red,” but it has the hue of reddish-brown rust or clay.
Red Dirt Falls is an ideal hike for those with children or who don’t consider themselves avid hikers. Although there isn’t a marked trail, the falls are visible from the road and a short hike from your car. There aren’t food or drink stands at Red Dirt Falls, so pack your snacks and water or purchase them from shops in the surrounding area. Red Dirt Falls, also known as Red Sand Falls, is near Waimea Canyon. To get there, take the Waimea Canyon Road (Route 550), and at milepost 23, you’ll spot the red Martian-like landscape on your left. There isn’t a parking lot, so you’ll have to pull over onto the right shoulder. Traffic can be dangerous, so be careful crossing the road and hopping over the guardrail. The falls are a short hike away.
The reason the ground is red is that the area is composed of iron-rich basalt. When exposed to oxygen, basalt turns red. And since this region is dry, vegetation can’t grow, which further makes Red Dirt Falls look alien. The red dirt is prominent on the western side of Kauai and is the island’s signature. The word “Waimea” translates from the Hawaiian language into “reddish water.” Companies like the Original Red Dirt Shirt Company in Eleele have figured out how to profit from the soil. They use the dirt to stain their shirts. Hawaiian Salt or Red Alaea Salt also gets its color from the oxidized basalt.
Red Dirt Falls consists of a series of cascading falls that aren’t very big or wide. What makes them alluring is that they roll down and over the hardened red ground. The white water against the reddish backdrop makes for great pictures. Water flow will vary, depending on the season and the amount of rainfall. Hiking and exploring the falls doesn’t require much exertion or a lot of time. Red Dirt Falls is relatively safe, which appeals to those hiking with children. When conditions are right, hikers and children enjoy hopping over the narrow, fast-moving stream. The only time to exercise caution is in wet conditions when the clay ground becomes slick.
The pools at the falls are small, and the water is frigid. We didn’t find any resources confirming or denying that hikers could wade into the pools. We advise against getting in the water because it’s contaminated with insoluble iron and aluminum oxides. By no means jump in; the pools are too shallow. Also, the bottoms are rocky, which could lead to injuries.
We believe you’ll enjoy exploring Red Dirt Falls and its out-of-this-world landscape.
The red soil is known for staining clothes and shoes, so wear appropriate attire. Flip-flops are a “no-no” unless you want the bottom of your feet stained.