Whether you’re an avid hiker or a nature lover, you don’t want to pass up the opportunity to enjoy waterfall hikes in Kauai. We love all the Hawaiian Islands, but for pure natural beauty and waterfalls, Kauai is our favorite. From the massive Hanakapiai Falls to the hidden Uluwehi Falls, each walk offers a unique and unforgettable experience.
Some of these hikes are more challenging than others, but plenty of family-friendly options are suitable for all skill levels. With so many possibilities, you should find one that meets your needs.
Today, we’re sharing eight unforgettable waterfall hikes in Kauai that will leave you speechless.
So grab your hiking boots and prepare to embark on an adventure that will take your breath away!
How Many Waterfalls Are on the Island of Kauai?
The “Garden Isle,” or Kauai, is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands. It sits nearly 2,500 miles southwest of the mainland United States and has a reputation for its lush, tropical landscapes and pristine beaches.
One of the island’s most exciting and captivating features is its stunning waterfalls. With one of the highest annual rainfall of anywhere on earth, Mt. Waialeale on Kauai provides plenty of water for hundreds of waterfalls around the island. Many of these are not named and are only accessible by aircraft, but some 30 or so are accessible and named falls.
What Is the Easiest Hike to a Waterfall in Kauai?
While many of the waterfalls in Kauai require you to hike to them, it doesn’t mean it’s strenuous. For example, the hike to Opaekaa Falls in Kapaa is short and easy. Accessing this 150 feet tall waterfall surrounded by lush green vegetation only requires a 10-minute hike. With no steep or challenging sections along the trail, it’s perfect for families or inexperienced hikers.
However, Opaeka’a Falls isn’t the only manageable waterfall in Kauai. One of the most iconic waterfalls on the Island of Kauai is near the town of Lihue where a drive takes you to an overlook to enjoy all 173 feet of Wailua Falls. There is almost no hike at all as long as there is parking and the view is excellent.
What Gear Do You Need for Kauai Waterfall Hiking?
Ensure you have the proper gear if you plan to hike to waterfalls in Kauai. Wearing sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with quality traction and carrying poles is crucial. You’ll be walking in a rainforest, so the terrain is typically slippery and uneven. You don’t want to slip and fall and injure yourself.
You will also need to be prepared to get wet. Rainstorms break off the mountain frequently and could unexpectedly drench you. This can also make the trails very muddy.
Additionally, it would be best to carry a backpack with essential items like a water bottle, sunscreen, insect repellent, and snacks. Don’t forget to pack a rain jacket or poncho, as the weather in Kauai can change quickly, and you don’t want to be in the rain without protection.
If you plan to dip in the water during your hike, you’ll want to wear your swimsuit. However, you should know that many waterfalls in Hawaii prohibit swimming due to unsafe conditions. Check the rules and regulations specific to the location before you dive into the water.
Pro Tip: Pack your hiking gear in one of these 10 Best Daypacks Your Hiking Essentials.
6 Unforgettable Waterfall Hikes in Kauai That Will Leave You Speechless
Kauai is famous for its stunning waterfalls, which attract visitors from all over the world. No trip to Kauai is complete without the opportunity to hike to some of the island’s most breathtaking waterfalls. Here are eight of our favorite waterfall hikes in Kauai that will leave you speechless.
Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail
The Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail is a challenging trail near Hanalei. The trail begins at the end of the Na Pali Coast and follows the Hanakapi’ai Stream through lush jungle vegetation, crossing the stream several times. It is a round-trip hike that spans approximately 7.5 miles and gains over 2000 feet in elevation, depending on your hiking experience and fitness level, can take four to eight hours to complete.
Those who reach the turn-around point can find an incredible view of the 300-foot Hanakapi’ai Falls. Take a quick dip to cool off, but be aware that no lifeguards are on duty.
This is not a hike for the faint of heart. Several sections are very steep, slippery, and rocky. You’ll need plenty of water, solid hiking boots, and to dress appropriately.
You’ll need to acquire a permit to access the park once they become available a month before. Unfortunately, they go quickly, and you’ll need to plan to be awake at midnight Hawaii time. They’ll sell out in less than a minute, and your only option will be to apply for a less-convenient shuttle permit.
Don’t let the first two miles of this hike to Kauai waterfalls fool you; it gets much more challenging. After passing Hanakapi’ai Beach, it’s a strenuous couple of miles to the falls. Grab a walking stick at the trailhead because you’ll need it.
Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls
The Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls near Kekaha is a three-mile out-and-back trail with an elevation gain of just over 1,000 feet. The track is trendy for those who enjoy birding, running, and hiking to waterfalls in Kauai. It’s a prevalent trail, and the best time to visit is between October and February.
To access the trail, visit Koke’e State Park and park just off HI 550. Ensure you use the pay station before heading to the trailhead. You’ll need to hike up Halemanu Road to access the Canyon Trailhead.
If you enjoy canyon views and spotting an 800-foot waterfall from multiple angles, this hike is for you. However, it will require getting a little muddy, especially if it has rained recently. The trek provides many swimming opportunities, including at the waterfall’s base. However, any mud you wash off will reappear when hiking back to the parking area.
Pro Tip: See Kauai from the sky on one of these 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours for Breathtaking Views.
Hoopii Falls Trail
Hoopii Falls Trail is a moderately difficult two-mile out-and-back hike near Kapaʻa. To access this trail, you’ll want to park approximately halfway down Kapahi Road. There’s a gravel parking area near the trailhead, which is outside of a residential neighborhood. Respect the residents and be mindful of your speed.
While Hoopii Falls may only be a 20-foot waterfall, it’s still worth experiencing. It can have a rather heavy flow, especially after a storm or other rain event. The hike takes you through lush tropical vegetation, including forests of bamboo and guava trees. If you need a break, there are opportunities to rest or take in the view.
Unfortunately, due to old residential septic tanks, swimming or drinking the water in this area is unsafe. The water has tested positive for harmful and dangerous bacteria. While it may be tempting to go for a dip, and you’ll likely see others ignoring the warnings, we don’t recommend it.
Na Pali Coast (Kalalau) Trail
The Na Pali Coast Trail, near Hanalei, is an intense 22-mile out-and-back trail with plenty of streams and waterfalls. It features an elevation gain of over 6,000 feet and is a favorite for backpacking, camping, or hiking. However, access to the trail requires a reservation. Parking for the hike to these waterfalls in Kauai is at Ke’e beach inside Ha’ena State Park.
If you want to experience a lush jungle along the Na Pali coastline, this is your chance. You’ll enjoy plenty of views of the Pacific Ocean and get an authentic taste of this incredible island. The first two miles are open for hiking, but the remaining nine require a camping permit and are for experienced hikers. Do not attempt it if you’re not experienced or do not have the appropriate gear.
Those who brave the slippery, muddy, and dangerous trails to reach the falls can cool off and go for a swim. While the course is challenging, it offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those up for the adventure.
Uluwehi Secret Falls via Wailua River
Hiking to Uluwehi Secret Falls via Wailua River includes a 6.1-mile out-and-back trail with an elevation gain of 465 feet. This hidden gem of a hike starts at Wailua River State Park. It requires users to paddle up the Wailua River for approximately two miles, where you’ll see a traditional Hawaiian village and dense vegetation.
After beaching your kayak, you’ll walk approximately a third of a mile before crossing the North Fork Wailua River. Stabilize yourself with the yellow rope running across the tributary. Follow the path along the river, and you’ll eventually come to a relatively steep and muddy embankment. Once you conquer this hill, it’s a short walk to the approximately 120-foot waterfall called Secret Falls.
Since there are several water crossings, wearing water shoes is a practical idea. This will help protect your feet and help you avoid falling on slippery rocks. There are plenty of opportunities to swim, so take your time and enjoy the adventure.
If you’re up for a challenge, hiking Nu’alolo Trail is one option. This 7.5-mile out-and-back trail is along the island’s northern shore and features an elevation gain (actually loss) of more than 2,500 feet downhill. The first mile or two are the muddiest, and then it gets better. Either way, bring waterproof boots and poles to avoid falling.
Parking is available at the Koke’e Museum but can fill up fast on busy days. The first few miles of the hike are relatively dense with trees, which makes it very difficult to see much of anything. However, once you clear the trees, you’ll walk along the water and enjoy beautiful views. The trail has several hidden waterfalls, especially once inside the Nu’alolo Valley.
This trail offers lots of different landscapes and keeps it interesting but like many of the Kauai trails, be prepared for rain, mud and challenging conditions. While no major stream crossings exist here, it can be pretty wet because of the location.
Pro Tip: Use our guide on How to Go Camping on Kauai to make your Hawaiian experience an amazing adventure.
You’ll Never Forget the Waterfall Hikes in Kauai
If you decide to go chasing waterfalls while hiking in Kauai, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. Do yourself a favor and prepare physically for any adventures you have planned. Also, ensure you have the correct equipment and gear to complete the hike. Setting out unprepared for any hike won’t make it easy for you to enjoy the experience. However, if you do, you’ll never forget this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Which of these waterfalls in Kauai are you most excited to see? Tell us in the comments!
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