Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park — Treat Yourself to Spectacular Views and Exciting Adventures
Local Expert's Rating:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Waimea Canyon State Park is the place to go when you want to enjoy stunning views of basalt flows molded by the powerful Waimea River. You can take in the breathtaking sights from the many lookouts or go deep into the park on the many hiking trails. The fishing season offers ample opportunities to take delicious trout home for dinner.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Affectionately known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific,’ Waimea Canyon State Park is a fantastic place to marvel at the sheer power of nature. The canyon cut out by the Waimea River tells the story of the land, giving you a look at what happens when fast-moving water meets ancient lava flows.

As you gaze across the landscape, you can still see the exposed basalt along the cliff walls, now a rich red instead of its original black tones. Beyond that, you can delight in all the Kauai flora and fauna thriving in the 3,600-foot deep canyon, including many threatened and endangered birds.

If you want to see all that beauty up-close, just hike through the park on the well-maintained trails. As you explore, take the time to view the native vegetation and identify all the plants you can, such as the many types of hibiscus flowers along the way. Tread lightly and you might even have a chance to see tropical songbirds and waterfowl up close, including the stunning Hawaiian Moorhen.

Unfortunately, even if you quickly fall in love with the canyon, you’ll have to head back home at the end of the evening. There are no campsites available in this park, although you can find a campground and rental cabins at Kokee State Park nearby.

Most popular hiking trails include:

Kukui Trail
When you simply must stand in the heart of the canyon, you can get there by way of the Kukui Trail. This five-mile trail will take you 2,000 feet down, so you can get an up-close view of the tropical landscape. Although it’s quite a hike, you’ll be well-rewarded for your travels upon reaching the waterfall far below the canyon rim.

Waimea Canyon Lookout
To get a memorable view of the canyon and ocean beyond without the long trek, you just need to visit the Waimea Canyon Lookout Trail. At just 1/10th of a mile, this trail will quickly take you straight to the lookout point and back again before you can even think about breaking a sweat.

Iliau Nature Loop Trail
Looking for a leisurely walk filled with all the best sights and sounds of Kauai? Take a waltz down the Iliau Nature Loop Trail, which is just one-mile round-trip. Beautiful flowers grow at all sides, and you don’t even have to guess at what they are. The informational signs keep you well-informed as long as you’re able to break your gaze away from the wondrous views all around.

The many streams and waterfalls you encounter on your trek could be hiding your next meal: Rainbow trout. Although they’re not as prolific as in the Puu Lua Reservoir, trout still frequent the waterways through the canyon.

As long as you have your freshwater fishing license, ID, and all your fishing gear, you’re free to try to get a bite from June 15th to September 30th. You’ll need to keep your fishing activities between 6 am and 6 pm to stay on the right side of the law, however. Just be sure to heed the 12 trout daily bag limit as well and bring all your fish back with you when it’s time to leave. No catch and release allowed.

Insider Tips:
-As a non-resident, expect to pay for admission to the park plus parking if you bring your own vehicle.  
-While driving along the road to the canyon park, watch for cars pulled off at random spots along the shoulder. It’s best to take it slow, especially since the grueling hill can wreak havoc on your brakes.