Wailua was a prominent center in Kauai, much before the westerners arrived. Even to this day, many tourists flock to Kauai’s Royal Coconut Coast to explore Wailua and the famous Wailua River State Park.
Wailua River State Park has more than just the river. It also boasts of breathtaking waterfalls, a romantic hideout, and an ancient village, which collectively offers an all-round experience.
In this blog post, we’ll run you through 5 interesting things to do at Wailua River State Park and make the most of your time here.
5 Things to do at Wailua River State Park
1. Wailua River Kayak and Hike to Secret Falls
The lush Wailua Valley and rainforest is best explored by a boat or kayak. The calm and easily navigable Wailua River offers a much better kayaking experience oversea kayaking.
Kayak rentals are available inside the park for the purpose. After 2.5 miles of paddling through the serene rainforest, you will reach the Secret Falls trailhead (Make sure you follow the right river fork). The trailhead is easily noticeable as you can spot other kayaks lining up in the area.
The half-mile hike to Secret Falls (also called Uluwehi falls) is simple, yet blissful. It barely takes 20 minutes to reach the 100-ft ‘not-so-secret’ waterfall where you can have a playful time in the pool. You can click amazing photos and enjoy nature before heading back to the docks.
2. Opaekaa and Wailua Falls
The names might look familiar if you have read our post on 7+ easy-to-view waterfalls in Kauai.
You have probably seen Wailua Falls even if you’ve never been to Kauai! We say that because this twin tiered waterfall was featured in the opening credits of the TV series ‘Fantasy Island’. The south fork of Wailua River turns into the 173-ft, often gushing, waterfall easily seen from the viewing area near the parking lot.
It’s a similar experience watching Opaekaa Falls gloriously rolling down the tall volcanic basalt rocks. The waterfall is easily viewable from the Highway. But the best view is on the sidewalk beside the parking lot.
3. Kamokila Hawaiian Village
This is not an actual village but a park. Lush greenery surrounds the Kamokila village which highlights a prehistoric setting. The 4-acre area has thatched-roof structures, canoe, and birthing houses that will take you back in time. Also, the place is rich in flora and fauna.
It would be a surprise if this place hadn’t graced the big screen. Kamokila village was one of the filming locations for the 1995 movie ‘Outbreak’. You can still see the movie sets on your trip.
Visit Kamokila village for an educational tour of ancient Hawaii and its people. You can head there after your visit to Opaekaa Falls, as it is just across from Opaekaa Falls lookout.
4. Wailua Complex of Heiau
This historical site was once the center of chiefly power on the island. In those days, Kauai was under the rule of ali’i ai moku (chief of the island) and Wailua used to be their social, religious, and political center.
The series of Heiau include places of worship, places of refuge, prehistoric rock carvings, and birthstones. Each Heiau is structurally different and served a specific purpose as detailed hereunder:
- Hikinaakala, Holoholoku, Malae, and Poliahu Heiau: Places of Worship
- Hauola pu’uhonua: Place of refuge and sanctuary during times of war.
- Pohaku Ho’ohanau: Royal birthstone
- Wailua Bellstone: To announce important events and royal births
The complex of Heiau played a huge role in shaping the Hawaiian culture and tradition on the island. Today, the site is a National Historic Landmark.
Starting with Hikinaakala Heiau near Lydgate beach park, you can access the series of Heiau along Highway 56 and Kuamoo road.
5. Fern Grotto Tour
Fern grotto is a fern-fringed lava rock grotto along the south fork of Wailua River. While fern grotto is not the densely ferned lava hill it used to be, it still is a popular tourist attraction in Kauai.
Fern Grotto is considered a romantic spot and appeals to couples looking for a romantic wedding venue. Following safety concerns, the original venue (inside the grotto) is now shifted to the observation deck.
You can access fern grotto via a boat tour along Wailua River followed by a brief nature walk.
Very few places offer a variety of experiences at one location. At Wailua state park, you can take a boat or kayak tour, hike, swim underneath waterfalls and truly savor nature at its best. Visiting Wailua State Park is, undoubtedly, the best thing you can do on Kauai’s east shore.