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Kauai’s south shore: Best eight-day itinerary, part 4

Fantastic rock formations seen from Canyon Trail in Waimea Canyon
Fantastic rock formations seen from Canyon Trail in Waimea Canyon
Photo by Thomas A. Wohlmut

Day 5: Explore Waimea Canyon

At the end of the road on the western side of Kauai, overlooking Kalalau Valley
Photo by Ernest McGray, Jr./Flickr

Legend has it that Mark Twain once called Waimea Canyon “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” So instead of desert yellow and red, think tropical green and red. Located on the west shore, the canyon is 10 miles long, one mile deep and more than 3,600 feet deep.

As early as possible, make a bee-line all the way to the end of the road for one of the most iconic views in the entire Pacific. For now, ignore the canyon as you make the one-plus hour drive from Poipu, ascending through Koke’e State Park, to get to the viewpoint overlooking the Kalalau Valley. Drive past the “Kalalau Lookout” to get to the superior Pu’u o Kila Lookout. This aerie at 4,000 feet elevation looks down on sharp green ridges descending into the largest valley on Na Pali with the blue Pacific beyond. Not one man-made structure is in sight. A few days ago you were looking up at this view on your catamaran tour. Now you’re looking down.

The earlier you get there, the better for fewer clouds. If it’s cloudy when you get there, you might wait for a bit. Clouds can form fast but then just as quickly dissipate.

When you can tear yourself away from the stupendous view, retrace your drive, stopping at various lookouts, especially the Waimea Canyon Lookout.

This area teems with more good hiking trails than anywhere else in Hawaii. Among the choices are:

  • Pihea Trail (stroll as far as you want from the Pu’u o Kila Lookout, skirting the Kalalau Valley; can be as long as eight miles round trip to Alaka’i Swamp and back)
  • Alaka’i Swamp Trail (need 4WD or mountain bike to get to the trailhead of Mohihi-Camp 10 Road; 4.6 miles round trip)
  • Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls (trailhead at Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, four miles round trip, moderately strenuous, best light starting around 3 p.m.)

On the way back to Poipu, a fun shopping stop is Aunty Lilikoi in the town of Waimea (near Big Save). Lilikoi is the Hawaiian word for passion fruit. Stock up on all things passion fruit, made right on the premises.

Dinner at Keoki’s Paradise.

Continue reading this itinerary with day 6.

Check out day 1, day 2 and days 3-4 of this itinerary.

More information:

Recommended dining:
Keoki’s Paradise

Sights and hiking:
Waimea Canyon

Aunty Lilikoi

Want to learn more about hiking in Waimea Canyon? Check out Kokee and Waimea State Park Hiking Trails.

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