Hiking in Kauai
Hiking in Kauai can provide you with one of the most intimate island experiences available. Whether you are looking for a brief jaunt or an overnight adventure, you can find it on Kauai. Travel through tunnels and see the native foliage or get up close to Kauai’s waterfalls and feel their spray as a culmination to your hike. Combine your Kauai hiking with other outdoor activities such as horse back riding.
With so many choices, we’ve found a place that lists the best hikes on the island.
Na Pali Coast
The Na’Pali coast – traversable only by water, air, or hike – offers one of the most strenuous and rewarding hikes on the island. Hikers can walk the trail for any distance desirable, but landmarks are located at .25, .5, 2, 4, 6, and 11 miles. Experienced hikers may wish to go the entire distance to Kalalau Beach (11 miles one-way), a feat for which they are greatly rewarded with a peaceful, secluded beach. Though the abrupt cliffs and intermittent waterfalls provide stunning views and breathtaking topography, this trail is not a nature walk. Hikers should prepare well with durable hiking shoes and plenty of water. Hazards include falling rocks and steep drop offs. Hikers may also want to make it a two-day affair and bring camping gear to stay overnight on Kalalau Beach. Most however, take the 8 mile round trip to Hanakapi’ai Beach – only available during summer months – to make exploring the coast an enjoyable, challenging day trip.
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
- Distance: .25-11 miles (one-way)
- Distance from Villas at Poipu Kai: 50 miles
- Trailhead: Ke’e Beach
Secret Falls / Uluwehi Falls
For explorers wanting a multi-dimensional experience, this hike is ideal. The trailhead for the Secret Falls hike is reached by a two mile kayak excursion through the Wailua River (rented or guided). After wading through the river, and reaching the trailhead, the hike is a mild 1.8 miles, about 45 minutes each way. Because the trail follows the river, it can be slippery and muddy, so prepare accordingly. Hikers meet lush greenery and exotic wildlife en route to the 100 falls rising 100 feet in the air – a gorgeous view at the end of an enjoyable hike. In all, one should plan on 4-5 hours to thoroughly experience the adventure. Note: this is a very popular hike so, at peak times in the year, hikers can plan on crowds.
- Level of Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 2 miles (one-way)
- Distance from Villas at Poipu Kai: 19 miles
- Trailhead: Wailua River (reached by kayak)
Canyon Trail at Waimea State Park
While many hikes lay between Waimea and Kokee State Parks, the Canyon Trail is the most popular. This moderately strenuous hike takes visitors up the heart of Waimea Canyon providing uniquely beautiful vistas of the island not found anywhere else. The trail itself is dry and compact. Hazards may include loose gravel and steep drop offs created by erosion. Though not considered a “waterfall hike”, the trail does take hikers past small waterfalls and pools – ideal for cooling off. Those who finish the hike are rewarded with a stunning view from the Kumuwela look-out. With no fog, this view cross-cuts the island of Kauai granting an unobstructed vista that includes the canyon’s breadth and ocean’s endless expanse. Truly, this is the best way to experience what Mark Twain called “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It is magnificent.
- Level of Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 3.6 miles (round trip)
- Distance from Villas at Poipu Kai: 30 miles
- Trailhead: Halemanu Road, after the kukui trail
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail is a great coastal hike that takes you from the south east corner of Shipwreck Beach Keonela Bay along sand-dune cliffs, Kiawe trees, limestone formations and rocky inlets that are an occasional safe haven for marine life, such as sea turtles and the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal. Mahaulepu Beach is remote and rugged and the ocean here is usually rough and more suited for whale watching, beach combing and hiking. This is a sacred sanctuary that needs to be preserved. Tread lightly and leave only footprints behind.
- Level of Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: up to 2 miles (one-way)
- Distance from Villas at Poipu Kai: 1 mile
- Trailhead: Shipwreck Beach