Kauai And Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park offer vistas of all kinds — coastal, canyon, and koa forest. Mark Twain dubbed Waimea Canyon the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and the title’s stuck – for good reason.

Eons of time, wind and rain carved this 3,567-foot deep, 14-mile long, one mile wide canyon into Kaua’i. It’s not nearly as grand as the Grand Canyon but it is pretty amazing to see – not just the novelty of a scene out of the Southwest on a tropical island, but the colorful, rugged beauty in itself. Shades of muted red, orange, green and purple appear at different times of day, much like the mainland version.

Waimea in Hawaiian means red waters. The streams of Waimea on Kauai (there’s also a Waimea on the Big Island) get their reddish hues from the red soil. A stream winds through the sunny and dry canyon and waterfalls trickle and tumble down the steep canyon walls. All that’s missing are the mules (although you will find mule rides on Molokai!).

Driving the Canyon Rim

The road follows the canyon rim, and along with the lookouts along the road, there’s an nice viewing area and parking lot. For the most sweeping view of the canyon, drive a little past the 10-mile marker on Highway 550. For a view of Waipio`o Falls, continue up 550 about 3/4 mile past the 12-mile marker. The viewing area isn’t marked, but it’s right across the street from a cluster of picnic pavilions and a comfort station.

Driving further up the road to where it ends at 4,000 feet, there’s a lookout that offers a glimpse into Kalalau Valley, literally the other side of the island where the Na Pali Coast can only be accessed only by an 11-mile hike. Often a foggy mist hangs over the cliffs, but don’t leave just yet. Every minute or so it clears revealing the the cliffs and ocean beyond. Then the mist returns, like a blanket in a game of peek a boo. There are times when you can’t get much of a peek though – early mornings are your best bet.

From the top, at Koke’e State Park, there are 28-miles of hiking trails, including excellent birdwatching trails. Magestic koa trees are among the main attractions at this Hawaii State Park.

Hiking Waimea Canyon

A popular scenic trail is the 1.8-mile Canyon Trail, which hugs the canyon’s rim and crosses Koke’e Stream.

Before you set out, stop by the Koke`e Museum, a treasure trove of information about the weather, plants and birds of Koke`e State Park and Wildlife Refuge. Their website also has tons of information about the State Park and its wildlife, as well as about Waimea Canyon. They offer guided hikes in the summer ($3 donation).

Waimea Canyon Climate

The upland terrain (3200 to 4200 feet) is cooler with occasional frost. Day temperatures vary from a 45°F average in January to 68°F in July. Annual rainfall is 70 inches with rainy periods from October to May.

Facilities

After your hike (or sight seeing), warm up in the cozy, Koke’e Lodge and enjoy a hot drink or meal. And if you want to stay overnight, there are the cabins and campgrounds detailed earlier in this guide.