Explore Kauai's Natural Wonder – Waimea Canyon

November 24, 2014

When you vacation in Kauai, a visit to Waimea Canyon is an absolute must.  Described as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” it is a dramatic sight to behold.  Stretching about 10 miles in length, one mile wide and 3,600 feet deep, the Waimea Canyon area offers numerous lookouts and hikes touting the beauty of this natural wonder.  Ready to find out more about one of Kauai’s most scenic spots?  Read on.  

aerial view of rainbow over Waimea Canyon State Park in Kauai, Hawaii, USA

To get to Waimea Canyon State Park, take Highway 50 from Hanapepe toward Waimea.  Waimea Canyon Drive is on the right just past Mile Marker # 23.  Driving along the rim road, you’ll see brilliant reds, greens and browns as the canyon colors begin to emerge.  You’ll also see several lookouts and scenic stops, but my advice is to head to the top of the Canyon first and stop at the other lookouts on your way back down the canyon.  The reason for this is cloud banks tend to move in later in the day, and if there is a cloud bank moving in from the ocean, it usually lasts indefinitely.  You don’t want those clouds to put a damper on your sightseeing.  So, head to Kalalau Lookout first.

Kalalau Lookout is located near the end of the road at Mile Marker #18 and offers stunning views of the Na Pali Coast.  The emerald green of the sea cliffs and bright blues of the ocean create quite a sight.  You can get even closer to the Na Pali Coast by tackling the 11-mile Kalalau Trail, which provides the only land access to this part of the rugged coast. The trail traverses five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach.  It is a strenuous hike though, and it will take all day to complete.  However, the natural scenery found on the hike makes it well worth it if you have the time.

After visiting the peak of Waimea Canyon, begin the drive back down.  Recommended scenic stops include the Puu Hina Hina Lookout, between Mile Markers #13 and #14.  From this lookout you can see all the way down to the Pacific Ocean from atop the Canyon walls. The rugged cliffs of the canyon are painted brilliant reds, greens and brown, and the Waimea river continues to cut deeper and wider into the gorge of the canyon.  Try to arrive as early as possible to miss the afternoon mist, and on a clear day you can see privately owned Niihau Island seventeen miles away.

Another good vantage point is the aptly named Waimea Canyon Lookout, located between Mile Markers #10 and #11.  Take a moment to gaze at the wonder of Waimea.  As the sun traipses across the jagged cliffs and ridges of the canyon, the colors change and the dynamic of this natural wonder really becomes evident.  Majestic in its beauty and size, Waimea Canyon takes ones breath away.  The reds of the canyon really pop, too, which is why the canyon was named Waimea, which means “reddish water” in Hawaiian.  The red dirt from Waimea is so rich in color it is used to make Red Dirt Shirts, dyed purely from red dirt from canyon.  They make a great souvenir.  (I know I had to have one.) 

There are a variety of other sights to see and scenic lookouts to stop at during a visit to Waimea.  Make note, though, to fill up the tank with gas before heading out as no gas stations are located on the 40-mile round trip drive along Waimea Canyon Road.  Also, bring a light jacket as temperatures can be a good 15-20 degrees cooler in the higher elevations of the canyon.  More than anything, though, simply makes plans to see this stunning sight.  The ever-changing colors of this natural wonder create one of the most picturesque canyons in America. 

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