Cascading Opaekaa Falls, Kauai

By Coco Zickos
opaekaa waterfall kauai

Photo: WiseTim.

Kaua‘i’s lush landscape drips with waterfalls. The island is home to one of the wettest locations on earth, Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, so it’s no wonder cascading water decorates its mountainsides. While some waterfalls require nothing short of an outdoor adventure to see, others are easy to find. One of the most accessible on the island is ‘Ōpaeka‘a Falls in Wailua.

How to Get to Opaekaa Falls, Wailua, Kauai

Opaekaa Falls on Wailua River. Photo: RDPixelShop

This east side waterfall is situated in the Wailua River State Park on Kuamo‘o Road. From Kuhio Hwy., turn at the intersection where the former Coco Palms Resort resides, across from Wailua Beach, and head up the hill for a short distance until a large parking lot comes into view on the right. Park here and a two-minute walk from your car will take you to a lookout where you can safely admire this gem of a waterfall plunging some 150-feet to the ground below.

‘Ōpaeka‘a translates to “rolling shrimp,” named after the native creatures that were once abundant here and could be seen tumbling with the water as it fell to the bottom of the falls.

Wailua River Valley

wailua river valley kauai

Photo: duluoz cats.

Unless it’s been raining heavily, in which case you’ll see a torrent of raging brown water, the water is segmented, descending into two or three falls flowing against a large lava rock wall. This picture-worthy setting, where nature is represented in all its glory, is part of an area that was—and still is—considered sacred. In fact, the entire Wailua River valley served as one of the early Hawaiian settlements and is commonly referred to as the “land of the ali‘i” or royalty. You’ll find evidence of this highly revered land right across the street from the falls where Poli‘ahu is found, one of several Wailua heiau (place of worship).

Please Exercise Caution When Visiting Opaekaa Falls

opaekaa waterfall kauai

Photo: Scott Ingram.

Although it may be tempting to venture to the stream below and dip your feet in the water, please do not attempt to find your way to the bottom of this waterfall. No safe, maintained trail exists and visitors have run into trouble trying to climb down, as it’s extremely dangerous and slippery.

Being able to view this gorgeous waterfall safely and with such ease is what makes this site so charming. If you don’t have the time or energy to traverse great distances to encounter such beautiful wonders, ‘Ōpaeka‘a Falls is the perfect example of the island’s natural artistry you can admire without any difficulty.

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