Mount Waialeale: One of the Wettest Spots on Earth

By Hawaii.com Team

Wai’ale’ale, Kauai without much cloud cover. Photo: WiseTim.


Mount Wai‘ale‘ale on the gorgeous island of Kaua‘i is often referred to as the wettest spot on earth. While the more than 5,000-foot tall mountain that’s often enshrouded in clouds does receive a tremendous amount of rainfall each year, it’s more accurately “one of” the wettest spots on earth. The average annual rainfall is around 500 inches but some spots on the planet, such as “Big Bog” on Maui, typically acquire even more moisture.

Legend Has It

Road to Waialeale Basin, Kauai. Photo: Bryce Edwards.


Many legends surround this mystical peak that include native inhabitants climbing to the top to make offerings to the Hawaiian god, Kane. Remains of a heiau (place of worship constructed from rocks) at the summit confirm that some kind of ancient activity took place here, even though getting to the water-logged location seems nearly impossible.

Wai‘ale‘ale, which is actually a dormant shield volcano, means “rippling or overflowing water” in Hawaiian. Consider yourself lucky if you capture a glimpse of the top of the sky-high summit during your vacation. The best opportunity is during crisp, early mornings before clouds form. But you also need to be in the proper location – Līhu‘e, Kapa‘a and Wailua offer some of the best vantage points for Wai‘ale‘ale.

As Seen From Kuilau Ridge

Views of Mount Waialeale from Kuilau Ridge, Kauai. Photo: Martin Bravenboer.


To get even closer to the second highest peak on the island you can traverse the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Wailua, located near the end of Kuamo‘o Road. About midway through the easy 2-mile roundtrip hike is a great spot for viewing the mountain.

Weeping Wall

Mount Waialeale “Wall of Tears” from the air. Photo: FH.


Further down the road and well beyond the paved portion is another hike that takes daring souls to the basin of Wai‘ale‘ale called the “Weeping Wall” where numerous ribbons of waterfalls cascade from the summit. But don’t even consider this adventure unless you’re accompanied by an experienced local guide, as you can easily get lost since there is no maintained trail and there is always a high risk for flash flooding that creates dangerous encounters with rushing water.

Views from the Alakai Swamp Trail

Kilohana Overlook of Hanalei Bay. Photo: Hawaii Savvy.


That said, there is another safer way to get close to this magical mountain – via the Alaka‘i Swamp Trail located in Koke‘e State Park. The difficult hike is about 8 miles roundtrip and you must start out extremely early to get to the midway point in time to see the vista before fog settles in. But those who see Wai‘ale‘ale uncovered at this prime vantage point, along with Hanalei Bay below, are in for a tremendous treat.

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