Waipoo falls is an 800 foot waterfall located on the west side of Kauai, near Waimea. The Waipoo falls trail is a popular hike in Kauai, famous for birdwatching, wildlife, rainforests and splendid views. Waipoo falls marks the end of the Waimea Canyon trail.
Waipoo falls is broken into two parts. In the beginning, it has a short fall. It then flows down a steep terrain for some distance before the final plunge that forms the main drop.
This slow turgid waterfall can either be viewed from one of the lookouts along the Waimea Canyon road or can be experienced more closely by hiking the trail all the way to the top.
As mentioned, the Waipoo falls trail leads to the top of the falls where you’ll be able to witness only the initial 25 foot portion of the waterfall. Nevertheless, do the hike as it has a lot of surprises in store for you.
View from the Lookouts
The first lookout (Waimea canyon overlook) is along Highway 550, a little past mile marker 10. The next one (Puu Ka Pele lookout) is past mile marker 13 and has a closer view of the falls and canyon. This is the best viewpoint of the two. Both lookout points are great photo opportunities not to be missed at any cost.
From the lookouts you’ll see why Waipoo falls gets a special mention among the waterfalls in Kauai. This is quite unlike the swelling and misty falls you see elsewhere on the island. The warm climate and the bright red rocks of the Waimea canyon are in stark contrast to the lush green forests separated by the milky strip of Waipoo falls.
Make sure you visit during the cooler months to witness good flow as the falls run dry during summer.
Waipoo Falls Trail
The Waipoo Falls trail ends at the top of Waipoo falls, which means you cannot view the cascading waterfall in its entirety. This is not a trail that will land you under the massive 800 foot waterfall. What you see here is not the falls you saw from the lookouts along the Waimea canyon road.
If this is the case, then why is this one of the most popular hikes in Kauai? Remember, it is not the destination but the journey that counts.
Located in Kokee State Park, the Waipoo falls trail is an exciting adventure because it takes you into the Halemanu valley and along the rim of Waimea Canyon, that offers a perfect vantage point to view the falls amidst the massive terrain. This is an easy 4 mile family hike and is great for people on both ends of the hiking spectrum.
Note: While this trail is geared towards families, keep in mind that younger kids might not find this trail suitable.
There are different starting points to the trail but all end at our desired destination- The Waipoo Falls. The Waimea Canyon trail is the most scenic hike and can be accessed through a spur trail originating from the Puu hinahina lookout parking lot, that gradually joins the canyon and Waipoo falls trail.
The trail is 3.6 miles round trip and of moderate difficulty. It will treat you with two splendid Waimea Canyon viewpoints and a memorable hike through the forest.
Though this is an easy hike, the hardest portion is finding the trailhead (though the area is well signed). To access the Canyon trail or Waipoo falls trail-head, drive up Highway 550 northward into Kokee state park. Continue after the Waimea Canyon lookout for a little over 4 miles and keep looking for a dirt road towards the right that leads down to the Waimea Canyon, past mile marker 14. Once you are on this dirt road, look for a dirt parking spot on the left. This is where the trail head is located.
The lookouts along this trail (the first one is accessible after a short detour), offer a mind-blowing view of the Waimea Canyon which will remind you why exactly it is referred to as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’.
There are some diversions along the trail. Pay attention to the signboards as they’ll help you stay on track without adding unnecessary mileage to your trek. The hike starts with a setting of red soil, which is the characteristic colour of Waimea Canyon, and short trees lining the path. After a short distance the setting soon changes to a small zigzag section where you’ve to squeeze through small boulders.
A few minutes from here, you’ll reach an open ridge that provides a fantastic view of the Waimea Canyon and one cannot help but awe at its vastness. However, be careful when you pose for photos as there is a danger of slipping and falling to death. Some hikers have met such misfortune.
As you continue along the trail you’ll be greeted by a small waterfall and pool located above Waipoo falls. From here you’ve to continue trekking downhill to reach the Waipoo falls head. Exercise special caution during wet weather as the downhill trail can be slippery and dangerous.
At the end of the trail you’ll find yourself in the picturesque forest setting where you can relax on the rocks beside the flowing stream that will eventually plunge down several hundred feet forming the popular Waterfall. Embrace the moment, bask in the success of having made it to the top of the falls, and once you’re done, head your way back to complete the hike.
Do this hike for the varying terrains, splendid views of the canyon and to literally feel ‘on top of the world’ by climbing to the top of Waipoo falls.
As this is a 4 mile easy hike, marked by an adventurous journey, Waipoo falls trail is easily the best hike anyone can experience in Kauai
However, many sections of this trail are muddy and slippery. So, exercise extreme caution and wear a pair of good hiking shoes for a safe hike.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 13 January 2019. It’s been regularly updated since then for freshness and relevance.