Waimea Canyon: Kauai’s Crown Jewel

By Coco Zickos

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Photo: prayitno.

Waimea Canyon on Kaua‘i is a geographic marvel. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” this glorious gulch contains 3,000-foot tall cliffs with lush green foliage amidst red pops of color, sprinkled with waterfalls. Millions of years ago, volcanic activity as well as the Waimea River, helped carve out this mini canyon. Erosion and rainfall are among the factors that continue to chisel away at this mountainous beauty.

Be Charmed by Native Birds and Discover Endemic Flora

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Photo: Archigeek.

It’s difficult to believe such a gorgeous undeveloped sight exists on Kaua‘i.  Thankfully, there are acres of land that have been left largely undisturbed since the island was formed. Waimea Canyon is one of the only places you can still be charmed by native forest birds that flit from tree to tree, entertaining you with their lovely song, and where you can discover endemic flora such as Ohia Lehua and Koa.

Waimea, which means “reddish water” in Hawaiian, is located on the Westside of the island and contains an easily accessible road, Highway 550, that travels up the canyon for almost 20 miles and culminates at the top of Koke‘e State Park.

Hike Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Photo: keppet.

Miles of maintained trails are available for hiking, trails that range from easy to difficult. Some of the more spectacular scenes are viewed this way – you can even sit atop Waipo‘o Falls from the Cliff Trail that hugs a ridge and greets hikers with out-of-this-world vistas.

Pu‘u O Kila Lookout

Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Photo: Alex Schwab.

You may choose not to venture far from your vehicle. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of places to soak in the scenery, including at the end of Highway 550, which presents a glorious perspective of Kalalau Valley and its fluted peaks. But before you reach Pu‘u O Kila Lookout and its some 4,000-foot elevation capstone, consider stopping at the quaint Koke‘e Natural History Museum where you can gather more information about the area and enjoy the cooler temperatures. You can even have lunch at The Lodge at Koke‘e or savor a picnic in the great lawn adjacent to it.

Visit a Cozy Museum

The Kokee Natural History Museum is a cozy museum located inside the Kokee State Park. This is a great place to plan hikes, get information and find exclusive gift items. Admission is free, but a $3 donation is suggested. Open daily from 9 am - 4 pm, including holidays.

$3 GET DEAL

Camping at Kokee State Park

Campgrounds at Kokee State Park. Photo: Eli Duke.


As long as you have a proper permit, there are places you can camp at Koke‘e State Park. Inexpensive cabins are also available to rent, but they are rustic and require you to bring your own accoutrements.

More Information about Waimea Canyon

Whether you choose to stay in your vehicle or venture out and explore, don’t miss the opportunity to see Waimea Canyon on Kaua‘i.

Visit dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/kauai/kokee-state-park for more information.

Nearby Accommodations: Waimea Plantation Cottages

For a truly unique and authentic Hawaiian experience, enjoy a stay at Waimea Plantation Cottages. These quaint cottages are re-developed plantation homes from the Island’s agricultural era when sugar cane farming was the primary industry. Guests enjoy this relaxing and serene oceanfront experience, which is unlike any other in all of the Hawaiian Islands.

Visit Waimea Plantation Cottages

To explore more cool things to do in Hawaii and to book your activities, please visit www.hawaii.com/things-to-do

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