The name “Opaekaa” means “rolling shrimp”, which were earlier found abundantly swimming and rolling in the stream. Opaekaa Falls is a 151 ft tall and 40 ft wide waterfall located on the east side of Kauai in Wailua Valley. It is located just two miles up Route 580 (Kuamoo Road, from highway 56) and the sign boards pointing to Opaekaa Falls lookout on the roadside are easy to spot.
Opaekaa falls is one of the most easily accessible and best viewable waterfalls on Kauai — thanks to the neatly paved pathway and safety rails that start from the parking lot. The viewing area is perfect and does justice to one of the most sought after waterfalls on the island. Availability of restrooms and picnic tables makes it more convenient for tourists to spend ample time savoring this natural beauty.
You can walk uphill from Opaekaa falls lookout and cross the Kuamoo road for a scenic view of the Wailua River- The only navigable river in Kauai. From this vantage point, you can’t help but gasp at the magnitude of Wailua River Valley. Both the lookouts are photo opportunities not to be missed.
Depending on the flow, the waterfall can sometimes be a single stream or can branch out into two Milky streams of slowly cascading waterfalls, separated by dark green bushes that line the boulders. The falls cascade into a small pool underneath, which remains hidden from the viewing area. The pool can be accessed via a hidden trail, which remains hidden for a reason.
Opaekaa Falls Hike (CLOSED for Public Safety)
While most people prefer to watch the falls from a distance, the distant view may not suffice when the flow is weak, causing visitors to yearn for more. Although watching Opaekaa Falls from the lookout is a safe option, it may not be enough for the adrenaline loving folks out there. The second option is for people who have a desire to experience the falls intimately and have an appetite for danger. It is the Opaekaa Falls Hike.
The trial starts from the parking lot and leads all the way to the pool underneath the falls. The level of difficulty is high as it’s a steep and unmaintained trail. Figuring its origin is challenging as it is hidden by fences and branches following the two deaths that occurred above the falls many years ago. While some oddballs still jump over the fence railing to get on the trail, it is highly risky and not advisable. This trail is a downhill hike which will take you to the top of the falls. The next segment of the trail, which leads to the pool underneath, is treacherous, slippery and highly dangerous.
The reason we don’t recommend this trail is because it is blocked off by a steel fence for a reason. The State hasn’t officially sanctioned the hike, which means it is not maintained. In addition to it, there are warning signs at the trailhead that warn people against the rocky, dangerous path ahead. Worst case, you may be fined for violation or may even have to go to jail for trespassing.
Top Things To Do Near Opaekaa Falls
Journey to Secret Falls
As the name suggests, this is one of Kauai’s best hidden treasures. It is accessible through an unconventional route, only to the intrepid travellers out there. Secret Falls is located about 30 minutes from Wailua River mouth. For a shorter trip, you can launch from the Kamokila Village boat ramp.
Kayak up the Wailua River for half a mile until you see a tributary branching to the right under a bridge. Follow the stream till the end and secure your kayak. From here, the journey is to be done on foot. Follow the short trail, followed by a stream bed, until you reach the base of the falls and enjoy the magnificent setting. This adventurous journey is a combination of kayaking, hiking, swimming and sightseeing.
Visit The Kamokila Hawaiian Village
Do you want to walk the grounds of a traditional, century old hawaiian village? The ancient natural habitats and the ambience has been recreated at the Kamokila Village for visitors. They offer Canoe rentals which are great for taking a tour of nearby attractions.
Follow the Kuamoo Road opposite Opaekaa Falls for half a mile until you reach the village. You can also rent a kayak elsewhere and paddle-in as it is located on the banks of Wailua River.
Hike The Sleeping Giant Trail
Sleeping Giant hike is a must-do if you are anywhere near Wailua state Park. Although the West side trail (Kuamoo trail) originates from highway 580, the east side trail is preferred for its dryness, even during rainy times, and for the magnificent ocean view that backs hikers. This is a challenging hike with steep elevation, but, is definitely doable.
If you manage to scramble to the top of the summit, you’ll be welcomed with a 360 degree view of the island- mainly the Pacific Ocean, entire east side of Kauai and the Mount Waialeale crater (if it’s not surrounded by clouds.) If you love hiking and lack time, this is your best option on the island.
Pray at The Poli’ahu Heiau
Located just across the road from Opaekaa Falls is one of Kauai’s most legendary structures and ancient places of worship. The Wailua River bank has held a sacred place in the hearts of people of Kauai since the origin of civilization. Poliahu Heiau is one of the seven heiaus that stretch along the Wailua river from the ocean to the origin point of the river on Mount Waialeale.