The Aloha State may be known for its stunning beaches, but an infinite number of other natural wonders can be found in the heart of its eight main islands. Among these are the countless waterfalls that dot its glimmering coastline and interiors, which have attracted a multitude of visitors needing nature’s mesmerizing charm.
A particular waterfall found in Hawaii’s Garden Isle, Kauai, maybe unlike anything you’ve seen before. Carved into the island’s iconic Waimea Canyon, this relatively small waterfall is surrounded by gorgeous red soil and the canyon’s lush vegetation.
Waterfalls are usually found cascading down into crystal clear waters, but Kauai’s Red Dirt Waterfall is truly a unique sight to behold – out of the ordinary, but just as magical.
The carefree nature of the Red Dirt Waterfalls scenery is greatly reflected in its fascinating history. Seemingly man-made, the red soil that surrounds Waimea Canyon is actually a product of Mother Nature herself.
The red soil is a natural byproduct of the dark, iron-rich basalt rock that surrounds Waimea Canyon. These rocks have oxidized over time, giving the soil various shades of red. In fact, it may be these rocks that gave Waimea Canyon its name. The word “waimea” means “reddish water” in Hawaiian, which is in reference to the reddish hue of the soil and the heavy rainfalls that Kauai is usually known for.
Being actually dead and depleted, locals and experts prefer to call it Hawaiian Red Dirt instead of categorizing it as soil. It can be found all over Hawaii due to the state’s warm weather.
With the red soil’s abundance in Kauai, it would be a shame if the locals didn’t find any use for it. But surely enough, with the Hawaiian’s natural resourcefulness, they give dirt a second life by gathering it from Waimea and mixing with crystallized salt from ponds to make Red Alaea Salt or Hawaiian Salt.
The Red Dirt Waterfalls is considered a seasonal attraction because the amount of water flow depends on the amount of rain the island gets. In order to get there, one must take the Waimea Canyon Drive, also known as Route 550 from Waimea Town. The falls can be found on the left side of the road near the 23-mile marker.
The attraction is surrounded by various shops selling food, souvenirs, and hiking gear, and might be a little crowded during the summer. One special souvenir you can get is a shirt painted with the red soil found all over the canyon. That’s a stained shirt you won’t get anywhere else!
From photos, it may look like one has to go lengths to see the Red Dirt Waterfalls. However, sightseers can actually experience the magnificent landscape of the Red Dirt Waterfalls without having to go through much trouble.
The water freely flows through the Waimea Canyon for everyone to see by the roadside. If you’re bringing a car, you can find a parking spot and already be able to take it all in. For a closer look, you can walk down the red dirt when it has little flow and enjoy how peaceful it is by the waterfall’s small pools.
Because you can experience its breathtaking atmosphere without having to go through a difficult hike, a trip to the Red Dirt Waterfalls is perfect for families, even those planning to bring kids along. Just one important thing to keep in mind is that the water beneath the falls is extremely shallow. Jumping into the water is heavily discouraged to prevent any injuries.
Expect slippery paths, so also remember to wear appropriate hiking gear during your visit. Visitors should also refrain from drinking the water as it may be contaminated – from oxidation, red dirt is left with high levels of insoluble iron and aluminum oxides which can be extremely harmful when ingested.
The Red Dirt Waterfalls is only a small part of Waimea Canyon, and it won’t take much time to traverse it from top to bottom. It’s worth seeing, but as a last tip, treat a visit to the falls just as a short side trip you can take. Many neighboring spots such as the Hanakapiai Falls and Wailua Falls will take more effort to find and should be prioritized in planning if your time on the island will be limited.
Kauai is definitely blessed with seemingly infinite natural wonders. With its majestic, towering waterfalls, to the little, unique ones like the Red Dirt Waterfalls, it’s no surprise that adventurous individuals from all over the world have chosen to visit the Garden Isle to satisfy their wanderlust.
The Red Dirt Waterfalls is not only a testament to Kauai’s natural beauty, but is also reflective of how well the people of Kauai have taken care of the resources given to them. Without their protection, small wonders like the Red Dirt Waterfalls may have been lost to modern construction.
If you’re planning to visit Kauai, don’t miss the unique sight that is the Red Dirt Waterfalls. Don’t forget to include checking rainfall when planning for your trip, as the falls can look very different during the dry season.
Despite Kauai being popularly known as the wettest island in Hawaii, visitors should be wary of its occasionally unpredictable dry seasons and periods. You’ll want to see this unique wonder when the dirt is soft and its flow is strong – the stark contrast between the red soil, lush vegetation, and the white from the rush of water can make for a picturesque setting for a group photo, or simply for your eyes’ enjoyment.
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