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Exploring the Majestic Waimea Canyon With the Best Hikes

If you’re looking for adventure in the Aloha State, you don’t have to search far. From paddling and mountain biking to boating and hiking, Hawaii is an outdoor playground. The Waimea Canyon is a place you’ll absolutely want to visit while on the island of Kauai. There are five Waimea Canyon hikes providing stunning vistas of this unique landscape. Let’s take a look so you can explore the majesty of the Grand Canyon of the Pacific!

Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls Trail, a Popular Hike in Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

Where Is the Waimea Canyon?

On Kauai Island in Hawaii, Waimea Canyon is in Waimea Canyon State Park. It’s on the island’s western half. Forest preserves surround this picturesque canyon. It’s about a 25-minute drive from Barking Sands Airport along the west coastline. Even from across the island, it only takes about 75 minutes to get to Waimea Canyon State Park from Wailua River State Park.

Rainbow over Waimea Canyon
Head to Waimea Canyon State Park for some epic scenery and amazing hikes.

How Big Is Waimea Canyon?

Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon, is about 10 miles long and 3,600 feet deep at the deepest point. Erosion shapes the canyon, originating from the tremendous amount of rainfall that flows down from the island’s central peak, Mount Waiʻaleʻale. The collapse of the volcano that created Kauaʻi also helped form the canyon.

Pro Tip: Continue up the road to Kokeʻe State Park for the views that look out toward the ocean.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Waimea Canyon State Park?

Waimea Canyon State Park encompasses about 1,800 acres. Visitors must pay an entrance fee and parking fee to access the park. The entrance fee is waived for Hawaii residents but costs non-residents $5 per person. There’s also no charge for residents to park, while non-residents must pay a $10 per vehicle fee. Commercial vehicles cost $25-90, depending on the number of passengers.

Pro Tip: Get the best views of Kauai from the sky on one of these 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours for Breathtaking Views.

Enjoy the views at the Waimea Canyon Lookout.

The 5 Best Waimea Canyon Hikes

There are five Waimea Canyon hikes within the state park with elevation gains from 9-3,838 feet. There are no moderately rated trails, so you must choose an easy walk or a strenuous hike. No matter which trails you choose, you’re guaranteed to have stunning views.

1. Waimea Canyon Lookout

Rated as easy on AllTrails hikes, the Waimea Canyon Lookout is an easy 0.1-mile loop trail. There’s barely an elevation change. From the parking lot, you’ll see a sign for the lookout. The course is paved and wheelchair accessible. It’s rated 4.6/5 stars for the beautiful views of Waimea Canyon.

2. Iliau Nature Loop Trail

Another easy hike is the 0.4-mile loop Iliau Nature Loop Trail. There’s a 52-foot elevation gain. You can access this loop trail from the Kukui Trailhead. It’s another short trail with beautiful views of Waimea Canyon and Waialae Canyon. Kid-friendly, this trail is 4.4/5 stars on AllTrails.

3. Waimea Canyon River Trail

The next hike on our list is the first of three more challenging trails. The Waimea Canyon River Trail is a 10.4-mile out-and-back hike with a 3,795-foot elevation gain. The first two miles are very steep as you reach the river. This also means the last two miles are a grueling incline as you head to the parking lot. Bring plenty of water and pay attention to the water levels before setting out. The Waimea Canyon River Trail is one of the highest-rated trails in Waimea Canyon State Park, with 4.6/5 stars.

Caitlin from Mortons on the Move in Waimea Canyon
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced hiker, there is a trail for everyone in Waimea Canyon.

4. Kukui Trail

Another challenging trail is the Kukui Trail, a 5.0-mile out-and-back hike with a 2,162-foot elevation gain. It drops to the canyon floor. Along the way, you’ll travel through a forest of Kukui and have breathtaking viewpoints of the canyon and distant waterfalls. Most hikers recommend trekking poles on this hike to help you get down the canyon and back up again. The Kukui Trail is 4.5/5 stars on AllTrails.

5. Waimea Canyon Trail

Finally, the last of our best hikes in Waimea Canyon is the Waimea Canyon Trail. It’s another more strenuous trail with a 3,838-foot elevation gain, the highest on this list. The 12.9-mile out-and-back trail goes into the town of Waimea and through the canyon floor. The trail is steep as you journey through dense woods and ten river crossings. Experts recommend trekking poles for this trail. Its rating is 4.2/5 stars.

Looking for waterfall hikes? Try these waterfall hikes on Kauai that will leave you speechless.

Hiking Waimea Canyon
Leave your furry friends at home if you plan on hiking in Waimea Canyon State Park.

Can I Bring My Dog On My Hikes?

Unfortunately, you cannot bring dogs to your hikes at Waimea Canyon State Park. There are also no camping, rock climbing, or motorized vehicles/ATVs. They prohibit launching drones and the use or possession of alcoholic beverages.

Does Waimea Canyon Have Waterfalls?

Yes! Dozens of waterfalls grace the edges of Waimea Canyon. The most famous is Waipoo Falls, which you can hike to from within Koke’e State Park just a little further up the road from Waimea Canyon State Park. It is 800 feet tall and takes a 2-hour, 3-mile out-and-back hike to get to it.

When Is the Best Time for a Waimea Canyon Hike?

April to May and September to October are the least crowded months at Waimea. These are the off-season months. If you want to avoid meeting too many people on the trails, you’ll want to visit the island during these months. You’ll also have more enjoyable weather with fewer clouds and rain. The trails in Waimea Canyon can get very muddy after heavy rain.

We recommend planning to spend at least 2 hours in Waimea Canyon, especially if you’re going to continue on to Koke’e State Park beyond. Mornings are best to get a fresh start, beat the crowds, and score some amazing views as sunlight fills the east-facing canyon.

Pro Tip: Use our complete guide on How to Go Camping on Kauai to make finding your perfect campsite quick and easy.

Mortons on the Move inWaimea Canyon
If you plan to hike in Waimea Canyon, wear good hiking boots, pack plenty of water, and be prepared for lots of sun exposure and high temperatures.

Hawaii is a rainforest. It’s often wet and muddy. You’ll want a good pair of hiking boots, and bring an extra pair of tennis shoes once the hike ends. Mud may cover your boots during your hikes to Waimea Canyon. To protect your skin from the sun, wear light-colored clothing with UV protection and a sun hat. You’ll want everything to be a breathable fabric.

In addition, bring sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit, and other items you typically bring along for a hike. Hawaii is hot, so pack plenty of water. Hikers who have traveled the more challenging trails also recommend trekking poles.

Hawaii Hiking Tip: If you fly into Oahu first, there are some amazing waterfall hikes there, too!

21 Things to Do Around Kauai, Hawaii | Two residents share their favorite things to do on Kauai

Hawaii Isn’t Just a Land of Volcanoes, Enjoy the Beauty of Waimea Canyon on Your Next Visit

When you think of Hawaii, you might think of volcanoes, waterfalls, dense forests, and beaches. But the Aloha State is more than that. Don’t skip out on hiking the Waimea Canyon on your visit. Whether you choose a simple or a challenging hike, the spectacular vistas will be worth the effort!

What hike are you looking forward to completing in Waimea Canyon State Park? Tell us in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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