Mount Waialeale is a dormant volcano in the center of Kauai and juts up 5,148′ above sea level. Hiking to Mount Waialeale is an arduous trek that rewards adventurers with breathtaking views of waterfalls, towering cliffs, and, if you’re lucky, blue sky. The area is one of the wettest spots on the Earth, so plan on getting wet and muddy!
The hike goes by several names, like Waialeale Blue Hole or Weeping Wall Hike. But before we go into detail about this adventure, we need to discuss some disclaimers.
First, this is not a blue hole like you’d find in the waters of Belize or the Bahamas. Those are natural underwater craters whose deeper waters are blue compared to the Caribbean’s turquoise waters. The blue hole at Waialeale is the exact opposite: a view up 3,000′ cliffs to the blue sky above.
Second, we will only give instructions on how to hike to the dam where the streams divide. From this vantage point, you’ll see the Weeping Wall, aptly named for the myriad waterfalls streaming down the cliffs.
While we’ll briefly discuss hiking to the Weeping Wall, also known as Waialeale Blue Hole, only experienced hikers should attempt it. Many seasoned hikers even suggest hiring a guide.
Now let’s dive into the particulars of hiking to the dam. You’ll need to drive to the Keahua Arboretum at the end of HI 580 (Kuamoo Road.) From here, the hike is about 4.9 miles and climbs 1,5002 feet. Plan on the out-and-back route taking three hours to complete.
Another option at the Keahua Arboretum is to drive your 4×4 to the next parking destination.
However, even with an off-road vehicle, driving is risky. You’ll be crossing streams, navigating rough terrain and deep puddles, and it will be very muddy.
Whichever means you take, you will make your way along the road until it bears right and comes to a fork. Look for the “Hunting Unit C” sign nailed to a tree that marks this location.
If you drive, this is where you’ll park. Take the left fork that winds through dense jungle for 1.5 miles to the actual gate used in the movie Jurassic Park. From this point, you hike an additional half an hour through banana, ginger, and Ti plants to the water diversion. This hand-dug ditch with a concrete weir, or dam, diverts the Wailua River. Here, you’ll see the box canyon of Waialeale, its towering rocky cliffs, and cascading waterfalls.
One reason this area is the wettest spot in the world is because of the unique wind patterns. Low lying and warm trade winds sweep the canyon and mix with cool mountain air. The result is mist and rain, so plan on getting wet and muddy!
For gear, we suggest wearing a water-repellant jacket, carrying a small backpack with provisions and water, hiking poles, and waterproof boots. Some hikers even suggested getting felt-soled boots to help traverse the mud and water. Keep in mind that there is no cell signal in the area, so have an emergency plan before you depart.
Now let’s discuss hiking to Waialeale Blue Hole. We cannot stress enough how strenuous and dangerous this hike is. You’ll be forging rushing streams whose depths vary by rainfall, navigating steep and slippery slopes, and inching along narrow rocky footpaths. Plan on crawling under and over fallen trees along the way.
Hiking from the arboretum parking area to the Weeping Walls is a 13-mile round trip. Even experienced hikers have gotten lost and had to spend the night in the jungle, which is why hiring a guide is wise. You’ll want to depart at the crack of dawn as the hike takes at least eight hours to complete.
Be aware that Hawaiians have become agitated about the increase in hikers going to Waialeale Blue Hole. The basin is a sacred area for them, so if you take the journey, do so with benevolence.
You’ll encounter a fence set up by the forestry department to keep wild pigs from destroying vegetation at the falls. Crossing the fence is easy, but you may need to clean your boots before ensuring you’re not bringing in unwanted flora.
We know you’ll love this challenging trek if you’re seeking adventure, are in good shape, and are an experienced hiker. Whether you opt for the shorter and safer route or risk hiking to Waialeale Blue Hole, you’ll have a lifetime of memories and photos to share!
Be prepared for flash flooding since the rain and mist are constant. On your return, the stream you crossed reaching the weir or Weeping Wall may be a thunderous avalanche of water. Many hikers have been stranded for hours or overnight until the waters recede. Also, emergency rescue is nearly impossible, even by helicopter, due to the remoteness and lack of cell service.