You might already have a bucket list of things to do on the Royal coconut Coast of Kauai. While state parks and beaches often top the list, there are some incredible places which most people don’t explore enough.
On Kauai’s coconut coast, away from the city crowd, exists a lush and tranquil forest. It is a serene and rarely crowded spot near the history-rich town of Wailua and is a perfect example the world needs today for the preservation of forests. Yes, as you’ve rightly guessed, it is the Keahua Arboretum.
Keahua arboretum is a part of the Wailua section of 12,500 acre Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve. The reserve was established for the purpose of protecting the watershed areas that were vitally important for the lowland agricultural economy.
The Arboretum is a lush and magical place spread over 30 acres of land. It is home to steady streams, refreshing pools, lush green meadows and intriguing species of birds and trees. Although Rainbow Eucalyptus, Monkeypod and Mango Trees can be seen all over the forest, Keahua Arboretum boasts of more than 20 varieties of rare and exotic species of flora.
The Rainbow Eucalyptus, as you’ve guessed from the name, is a rare specie with a naturally colorful bark. They look absolutely gorgeous under sunlight as the bright palette of colors call for a mystical experience.
To access Keahua Arboretum, follow Highway 580 (Kuamoo Road) mauka for six and a half miles from Wailua. Follow the road all the way until you are in Keahua Arboretum.
The parking lot is reached after crossing a spillway. It is not advisable to cross the spillway during heavy flow or rains, which is why a bridge was built recently for safe access into Keahua Forestry Arboretum.
Following the spillway, the road turns into dirt and leads into the arboretum. It is called the Loop Road. From here on, you will be led through the grove of rainbow eucalyptus trees for about a mile. There are a number of pavilions and picnic tables provided for relaxation in this area. The location and its conditions are ideal for having a fun and distraction-free picnic with your family and friends.
The arboretum has a stream that runs through it, eventually forming two pools, before it goes on to join the Wailua River. Since the temperature here is cooler than on the beaches, the pools are icy and offer a refreshing dip.
The Jurassic Park Gate and Blue Hole Hike (Loop Road)
Kauai is a preferred location for the Jurassic Park movie franchise. The wildly popular Jurassic Park Gate is only a few miles from the Keahua Arboretum and be accessed via a 4WD or by hike. The nasty, yet, driveable pothole-ridden dirt road has turned dangerous in the recent years, owing to the storms and lack of maintenance.
The hike to Jurassic Park Gate is roughly 3.5 miles from the Keahua Arboretum. What remains of the iconic gate today are only the two cement posts. But, the view from the gate is dead gorgeous- just the way we remember it from the movie.
On the way to the gate, you’ll have to cross a second spillway (exercise utmost caution) and a yellow gate. It is advisable to bring a local guide with you as the presence of side-trails along the way increase the possibility of getting lost in the jungle.
A trail beyond the gate leads to the mystical “Blue Hole”, a crater beneath Kauai’s rainiest spot- Mount Waialeale. The path leading to the hole is only for the intrepid hikers out there. It involves crossing streams, jumping over boulders, climbing steep cliffs and coursing through knee deep mud. There are waterfalls converging into pools which you can use to cool off and relax before you are back on foot. Although it’s a highly challenging hike, once you reach the destination, the view is mindblowing. It’s a place where very few people on this earth have stepped foot on.
The Kuilau Ridge Trail
Kuilau Ridge Trail is an easy hike, well suited for those who are short on time. The trailhead is located inside the Keahua Arboretum, just before the park area on the right. The trail turned road, constructed for the purpose of fire-fighting in the area, seems well-maintained.
The trail begins with an introduction of well preserved native and exotic plant life. Keep looking for views of Kawaikini and Mount Waialeale on the west and the Makaleha mountain range on the north, unless it is blocked by the ridge.
One mile into the hike, you will reach a grassy field bordered by an Ohia forest. It has picnic tables and serves as an ideal relaxation point. It helps to pack some food as it’ll be useful for refuelling during the hike. After a short descent and ascent, you can catch glimpse of the Nounou mountain,which is famously known as the Sleeping Giant.
Gradually, you will reach a point where the Kuilau trail intersects with the Moalepe trail. Walk along the trail until you reach a footbridge over the Opaekaa stream. A few minutes after that, you will be greeted by a fork where you’re supposed to take the left and walk between the eucalyptus and fern filled region.
The trail ends with a spectacular view of Kapehua’ala, the highest peak of Makahela mountain range.
One more trail that originates from Keahua Arboretum is the Powerline trail, which we had mentioned in our post on popular north shore hikes in Kauai. This 13-mile trail ends in Princeville, serving hikers as their gateway to Kauai’s north shore.
The presence of a dozen rainbow eucalyptus trees, meditative nature hike, swimming pools and access to the Kuilau Trail and Powerline Trail should be exciting enough for you to visit the Keahua Arboretum. Get your cameras for an insta-worthy shot amidst the stunning Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. Considering the photos, people back home are definitely going to envy you.