I got to play tourist for a day on Monday as my niece came to visit and we decided to take that long drive to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park on the westside of Kauai. I know, it is hard to leave the north shore, even for a few hours, but on a clear, sunny day the reward is worth it.
The drive is over two hours long. After leaving the highway in Waimea and heading toward the interior of the island one starts to wonder if you are still on a tropical island. Gone are the palm trees as the elevation begins to climb. Scrub brush turns into trees and pretty soon you are in a forest with hiking trails galore. As you drive the 20 miles from sea level to the last lookout you climb 4,000 feet in elevation. The temperature is 10 – 15 degrees cooler, but on our hot, Hawaiian day it was perfect.
Past the 10 mile mark is the first of the Canyon Lookouts. There you will get your first glimpse of the multi-colored gorge that Mark Twain called “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The canyon is 10 miles long, l mile wide and over 3,600 feet deep. It is spectacular.
Continue driving and pull out at each Lookout for an eyeful. Waipo’o Falls can be seen from several of the vantage points. The amount of water flowing depends on the recent rainfall. There is a walking trail, which I have hiked before, that takes you right to the top of this lengthy waterfall.
Once past the 15 mile marker you will see an open meadow and behind it the Koke’e Museum and the Koke’e Lodge. It is a good place to take a break and the only place to grab a bite to eat. We didn’t stop on Monday as we were anxious to get to the Koke’e Lookout while the sky was clear.
And it was here that we found our reward for leaving the north shore! At the Kalalau Lookout and the Pu’u o Kila Lookout we were treated to one of the greatest views of the Pacific. Looking straight down is the Kalalau Valley, the largest valley on the Na Pali and the end of the eleven mile trail that starts at Ke’e Beach. Clouds are always moving in and out of the valley and it is often so socked in that the visibility is limited. But, not on this day. It was postcard worthy.
Traveling back down the mountain we saw breathtaking views of the coastline and the island of Ni’ihau sitting on the horizon. We certainly picked a great day to show off our island to our niece. By 1:00 we were ready for lunch so we stopped at the Kalaheo Deli for some of the best sandwiches on the island before heading back to our own little slice of Paradise. It was a perfect day on the Garden Island.
For more information about hiking trails in Waimea Canyon and Koke’e go to https://www.hawaii-guide.com/kauai/hiking_trails/kokee_and_waimea_state_park_hiking_trails.
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