11 Best Waterfall Hikes In Kauai, Hawaii

waterfall hikes in kauai

Not for nothing is the primeval wonder of the island of Kaua'i known as the ‘Garden Island’ - the lush, tropical, and verdant space is also home to some of the grandest natural features in all of the Hawaiian Islands. While there are hundreds of features that make Kaua'i special, there is one particular aspect that beats them all - waterfalls. The island is known for its numerous impressive, majestic and glorious cascading waters which are absolutely picture-perfect and postcard-worthy - and a reason why Kaua'i is so spectacular. For ardent trekkers, these best waterfall hikes in Kaua'i, Hawaii will make their holiday a memorable one. Check them out.

Travel Advisory

Trip101 recommends assessing the risks before hitting the hiking and trekking trails. Please be especially aware of the difficulty levels, the locations’ ground conditions, as well as the seasonal risks.

1. Waipo’o Falls

Waipo'o Falls Waimea Canyon Park waterfall Kauai, Hawaii (45365055015)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user dronepicr used under CC BY 2.0

Waipo'o Falls in Northwest Kauai, with a nearly 800-foot-drop (244 metres), is hard to miss. The Waipo'o Falls Trail, a.k.a. the Canyon Trail provides epic views of the textures, colours, and patterns of the stunning Waimea Canyon. 25 minutes into the hike, a 5-minute detour on the right fork in the path will give you an amazing first look of the Waimea Canyon. A huge stretch of red rock, the second viewpoint, overlooks a massive drop into the canyon, while the final stop is a little nook where you can perch and take in the sounds, sights, and smells of the tropical foliage.

Waipo'o Falls Canyon Trail

Address: 779 Kokee Rd, Waimea, Hawaii

Waterfall height: 800 feet (244 meters)

Access: Halemanu-Koke'e Trailhead on Halemanu Drive

Difficulty of hike: 5 miles (1.6 km), Moderate

Time taken: 1 - 1.5 hours one way

2. Hanakapiai Falls

hanakapiai falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user paul bica used under CC BY 2.0

Lace up those hiking boots to walk the Hanakapiai Falls Trail, one of Kauai’s most popular ones. Located near the eponymous Hakakapikai beach, the 4-mile-long (6.4 km) trail’s first stop is 2 miles (3.2 km) at Hanakapiai beach before it heads 2 more miles inward into the jungle along the Hankapiai stream. The inclined, winding trail can be treacherous and is all about gnarled tree roots, boulders, and slippery mud. However, the stunning 300-foot-cascade (91 metres) at the end is worth it, as it seemingly shoots out from the heavens, plunging into the emerald green depths of the pool below. Snap pictures of what will be one of your most memorable times in Hawaii.

Hanakapiai Falls Trail

Address: Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: 300 feet (91 meters)

Access: Kalalau Trailhead

Difficulty of hike: 4 miles (6.4 km), Moderate

Time taken: 2 -2.5 hours one way

3. Ho’opi’i Falls

Ho'opi'i Falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user Kyle Pearce used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The action-packed, highly underrated Ho’oip’i Falls Trail takes you to one of Kauai’s hidden gems of what is actually two waterfalls! Located on Kauai’s eastern shore, the more-than-2-mile (3.2 km) unmarked trail takes you off the beaten path on the Kapaa stream, completely swathed in ferns, vines, trees, and wild Hawaiian foliage. The first waterfall is 20 minutes into the hike, while the stunning main falls are a 600-feet-high (189 metres) wonder at the end of the hike and was even a backdrop in the movie Jurassic Park.

Ho’opi’i Falls Trail

Address: 5944 Kapahi Rd, Kapaʻa, Hawaii

Waterfall height: 600 feet (189 meters)

Access: Ho’opi’i Falls Trailhead

Difficulty of hike: 2.2 miles (3.5 km), Easy to Moderate

Time taken: 1 hour one way

4. Makaleha Falls

If you’re craving a jungle waterfall adventure a la Jurassic Park, then the Makaleha Falls Hike is for you! This 2.6-mile (4.2 km) trail follows a stream almost entirely and will leave you covered in mud but completely exhilarated. Step on mossy rocks and slippery mud, weave in and out of vines and roots, cross innumerable river crossings, wade through the stream water, and boulder across the whole way up to the two-tiered falls. Sit at a spot nestled in a narrow canyon and jump off cliffs into the wonderful pool at the end of the hike.

Makaleha Falls Trail

Address: Kapaʻa, Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: N/A

Access: Makaleha Trailhead

Difficulty of hike: 2.6 miles (4.2 km), Moderate to Difficult

Time taken: 1 - 1.5 hours hour one way

5. Opaeka'a Falls

Source: Photo by Flickr user WiseTim used under CC BY 2.0

Opaeka'a Falls is one of Kauai’s most accessible, and thus most popular waterfalls. Located over the Wailua River, Opaeka'a drops more than 150 feet (45 metres) into the secluded green depths of the pool below. While many travellers view the falls from a distance in the parking lot itself, a steep and difficult trail along the stream leads you to the bottom of the waterfall which is a dramatic vantage point of sorts. Get your camera, hiking shoes, raincoats, water, sodas, and sandwiches, and make a day of it.

Opaeka'a Falls Trail

Address: Kuamoo Rd, Kapaʻa, Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: More than 150 feet (45 metres)

Access: Opaeka'a Falls Vista Parking, Route 580, Kuamoo Rd, Kapaʻa, Hawaii 96746

Difficulty of hike: 1 - 1.3 miles (1.6 - 2 km), Difficult

Time taken: 30 minutes one way

6. Uluwehi Falls

Uluwehi Falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user Brian used under CC BY 2.0

Aptly named as the ‘Secret Falls’, Uluwehi Falls is not easy to get to - unless you’re part of a tour, its a kayak/canoe ride followed by a dense rainforest hike. Located on the Lower Wailua River on the east side of Kauai, the falls’ trailhead is a 50-minute canoe/kayak ride up the Wailua River, and the 30-45-minute hike itself is an extremely slippery and muddy one which you’re better off doing in tabis or sports sandals or even barefoot, rather than hiking boots. Get a little dirty and be amply rewarded by the stunning waterfall at the end.

Uluwehi Falls Trail

Address: Kuamoo Rd, Kapaʻa, Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: 100 feet (30 metres)

Access: Boat Camp, Kuamoo Rd, Kapaʻa

Difficulty of hike: 50-minute kayak/canoe, 30-minute hike; Difficult

Time taken: 2 hours one way

7. Hanakoa Falls

Kalalau Trail, Kauai - Hanakoa Falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user Rick McCharles used under CC BY 2.0

Also located on the stunning and popular Napali Coast, Hanakoa Falls is tucked into the scenic mountains at about the halfway point of the Kalalau Trail. The stunning, nearly 1,000-feet (305 metres) waterfalls are visible only in partial tiers along the trail due to natural obstructions and elevation changes. Get hiking permits before beginning from the Kalalau trailhead near the Ke'e Beach Parking Lot and trekking towards Hanakapiai Beach. Trek onward along the Kalalau Trail for about 4 miles (6.4 km) and cross the Hanakoa Stream to get to the turnoff for the falls. P.S: Bright-coloured ribbons tied to twigs help identify the trail to the falls.

Hanakoa Falls Trail

Address: Kuamoo Rd, Kapaʻa, Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: 1,000 feet (305 metres)

Access: Kalalau trailhead, Kuhio Highway

Difficulty of hike: 6 miles (9.6 km); Difficult

Time taken: 4 - 5 hours one way

8. Hoolea Falls

Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve (Kauai, Hawaii)
Source: Photo by Flickr user Clement Faydi used under CC BY 2.0

The actual pull of Hoolea Falls is its stunning location between Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve and the Na Pali Coast State Park, which is just a stone’s throw away from an amazing beach and resort area. Located east of the Honupu Arch and north of Kālepa Ridge, the waterfalls lie at the end of the 11-mile (18 km) Kalalau trail on Kalalau beach. This makes the falls not only difficult to get to, but it also takes a long time. So, travellers hiking here need to have hiking and camping permits and need to camp at Hanakoa, Na Pali, and the Kalalau Valley. Also, it is okay to go au naturel in the area in which the 200-feet falls (61 metres) are located so be prepared to see people in their birthday suits around.

Hoolea Falls Trail

Address: Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: 200 feet (61 metres)

Access: Kalalau trailhead, Kuhio Highway

Difficulty of hike: 11 miles (18 km); Difficult

Time taken: 1 - 2 days one way (depending on how long and where you camp)

9. Mount Waialeale Falls

Wall of Tears - Wai'ale'ale
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miguel Vieira used under CC BY 2.0

Waialeale translates to ‘rippling waters’ in the native Hawaiian language. The 3,000-feet-high (914 metres) Mount Waialeale traps moisture-rich, warm sea clouds, which rain down on the mountain in a verdant-white cascade called the ‘Wall of Tears’/'Weeping Wall’, falling into the base of Mount Waialeale, a.k.a. the Blue Hole (or locally, Wailua Headwaters). The hike, which features multiple stream crossings, is only for extremely experienced trekkers, beginning from the trail at the Keahua Stream at the end of Highway. 580, Kuamoo Road. Also, since the Blue Hole is sacred to the locals, do a little bit of research and talk to people before attempting this hike. P.S: If your pockets are deep enough, see the falls in a chopper/helicopter.

Mount Waialeale Falls Trail

Address: Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: At least 2,950 feet (900 metres)

Access: Keahua Stream, Highway 580, Kauai or via chopper

Difficulty of hike: NA; Very Difficult

Time taken: Minimum 50 minutes by chopper tour

10. Kalihiwai Falls

Kalihiwai Falls
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jordan Fischer used under CC BY 2.0

The scenic, multi-tiered Kalihiwai Falls lie on Kauai’s north-central cost between Kilihiwai Bay and the town of Princeville and are best accessed via a guided hiking tour from the Princeville Ranch which will offer you an excellent insight into the region’s wildlife, geology, and history, apart from stunning views. Begin at the top of Pu’u O’ Henui with stunning, all-around views of the entire north shore, before hiking into the lowland rainforest and descending a 10-foot (3 metres) rock wall to Kalihiwai Falls. Pack a swimsuit, camera, and a picnic lunch - and have a blast!

Kalihiwai Falls Trail

Address: Hawaii 96746

Waterfall height: 80 feet (24 metres)

Access: Princeville Ranch, 4520 Kapaka St, Princeville, Hawaii 96722

Difficulty of hike: 4 miles (6.4 km); Easy

Time taken: 1.5 hours one way

Captivating Kaua'i

Kalalau Trail, Napali Coast, Kapaa (502888)
Source: Photo by user Robert Linsdell used under CC BY 2.0

If you’re a water baby and a trekking enthusiast, then these amazing and accessible waterfall hikes in Kaua'i, Hawaii are a must-do on your Hawaiian adventure.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Freelance writer. Coffee-lover. An expert at Kopfkino. Loves discussing New Zealand, domino theory, dystopian fiction, & Harry Potter.

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