Learn about the beautiful Waimea Canyon drive

Waimea Canyon, the biggest canyon in the Pacific, is 10 miles long, one mile broad, and more than 3,500 feet deep. Mark Twain dubbed it “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The Waimea River originates in the canyon, which was carved thousands of years ago by rivers and floods that came from Mount Waialeale’s top. Waimea, which meaning “red waters,” is how the river got its name.  

Numerous natural processes that erode the ancient granite inside the canyon are responsible for the red color. The walls of Waimea Canyon are actually rusting, deteriorating, and being carried out to sea over time, much like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, as a result of weathering, mass wasting, and erosion (by the river). Even the colored runoff entering the ocean can be seen from space. 

Because of its breathtaking scenery, Waimea Canyon is a fantastic travel destination. It provides numerous drive-up lookouts, observation spots, walks, and waterfalls. Waimea Canyon offers a wilderness region with a number of hiking paths. It is a well-known tourist destination on the island and a must-do for your itinerary while in Kauai. International visitors travel to the island particularly to see this geological gem. 

Best Times to Visit 

The walls of Waimea Canyon are significantly greener during the rainy winter months than they are during the hotter, dryer summer ones. The waterfalls also flow more vigorously in the winter. The Park’s trails are drier and less muddy in the summer. Nevertheless, given the magnificence of the canyon, a trip there at any time of year is sure to be memorable. 

How to Get to there

The Waimea Canyon is accessible by car, and there are many other breathtaking scenic locations nearby. You’ll need to either drive to the lookouts or hike a trek to get to it directly. You can choose between two highways: the Waimea Canyon Road, which begins in Waimea Town, and the Kokee Road.

Where to stay 

Just a short distance from the park entrance, Waimea has many pleasant lodging options to suit all tastes and access to activities. 

What to Bring 

The canyon rim may experience colder temperatures than the coast due to its elevation. To ensure your comfort, it is advisable to pack layers, a windbreaker, and a rain jacket. We advise bringing plenty of water and snacks as well. Usually, you can buy these from the lookouts’ sellers, but if they aren’t open, you’ll want to have a backup supply.  There are public bathrooms run by the State Parks at each main overlook.

Food & Drink

At the main Waimea Canyon Lookout, there are often a variety of food carts that sell small snacks, sliced fruit, and water or soft beverages. The Kkee Lodge, a full-service restaurant with a bar, is located in the nearby Kokee State Park. 

Entrance and Fees

All non-Hawaiian residents who visit must pay an admission fee $5 per person and a parking fee $10 per car. These fees are settled at a kiosk upon parking at the destination. No reservations are necessary in advance. 

Tips to keep in mind 

  • Go there early. Views from the lookouts may get clouded as the day goes on since the Canyon region is prone to misting. You may miss out on some of the most memorable travel experiences as a result. 
  • Be ready for winding roads. Make sure to take the essential medication before the journey if you suffer from motion sickness.
  • Gas up. There aren’t any gas stations along the route to Waimea Canyon, which is around 36 miles long both up and down.
  • If you intend to spend the night at the Kokee cottages, bring warm clothing. The area’s temperature drops as a result of the high elevation. 

Waimea Canyon Lookouts 

Although there are numerous lookouts and photo spots along Waimea Canyon Road, the first paved lookout point is situated at mile marker 10. The observation location, known as the Waimea Canyon Lookout, offers us a glimpse of the vastness and aesthetically pleasing color palette of Kauai’s Grand Canyon. 

Mile 13 is where the Puu HinaHina viewpoint is situated. Although it is smaller than the former one, the views are just as impressive. There is a brief part from where you can see the banned island of Niihau in addition to views of the Canyon. 

If you want to continue exploring after Puu Hina Hina, you can either turn around and go back or keep going along Kokee Road. The Kalalau and Puu O Kila Lookouts are located at miles 18 and 19. These lookouts give visitors a peek of the stunning Napali Coast and the Kalalau valley, which are otherwise only accessible by the Kalalau Trail, a distance of 11 miles.

Hiking at Waimea 

Waimea Canyon Drive top view

Through hiking, you can get to know the canyon region better and allow it to have a lasting impression on you. Standing on a cliff and taking in a panoramic view of the Waimea Canyon is the only experience that can compare to the breathtaking views from the lookouts. 

We advise the following hiking paths because they are both short and simple and provide breathtaking views of Waimea Canyon rather than attempting lengthy and challenging hikes on your first visit. 

Cliff Trail

The short and simple Cliff Trail hike provides beautiful views of the vista and canyon and is suitable for families and beginners. The round trip can be finished in under an hour and the whole distance, front and back, is less than 0.5 miles. You can find the trailhead by deviating from Highway 550 (between mileposts 14 and 15) via the Halemanu dirt road, and then continuing for an additional 0.75 kilometers to the parking area. The path ascends steeply from here and finally splits, with Canyon Trail heading left and Cliff Trail heading right.

Canyon Trail to Waipoo falls

 Waipoo falls trail is another name for Canyon trail. This trail is somewhat more difficult because there are a few steep spots. The hike can be done in two to three hours, depending on your speed. There is an observation area with breathtaking views of the Waimea Canyon near the end. Most people are unaware that Waipoo Falls is not truly visible from the Waipoo Falls Trail. From the viewing point, the last part of the journey will lead you to Waipoo Falls’ summit rather than its base. 

Kokee State Park  

You can travel to Kokee State Park and spend the night in one of its comfortable cabins with a wood-burning fireplace after spending an interesting and exciting day at the Waimea Canyon. If you enjoy camping and have a camping permit, Kokee boasts well-kept camping areas that are surrounded by a stand of redwoods. 

Kokee is also the location of some of Kauai’s most difficult hiking paths, which lead to equally stunning views at their end. You may get details on the hiking routes as well as an explanation of the geology and history of the Waimea Canyon at the Kokee Natural History Museum. Whatever your purpose for visiting, make sure to always leave just your footprints behind and to take the best memories with you so you may cherish them for the rest of your life.