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As one of the wettest places on Earth, the Hawaiian island of Kauai is teeming with lush landscapes full of dramatic mountains, verdant valleys, and breathtaking waterfalls. There are a number of waterfalls on the island that are accessible, no matter if you’d like to view one from a roadside lookout or hiking trail. However, many more waterfalls are in remote locations that are best viewed on a helicopter tour. The waterfalls on this list are not only the most popular falls to visit but also the most accessible. Make your Hawaii trip unforgettable when you visit one of these top waterfalls in Kauai.
This 151-foot waterfall is located near Wailua River State Park, which is just a short drive outside of Lihue. This is one of the most popular waterfalls on the island due to its accessibility. Visitors can take a paved pathway to a vista point or simply catch a view from the roadside overlook that is located along Kuamoo Road/Route 580. Opaekaa means “rolling shrimp,” named after the shrimp that live in the pool below the falls. The trek down to the falls is a treacherous one and is only accessible through an unmaintained footpath. So the best way to soak in Opaekaa Falls is simply by the overlook. If you’re hoping for a waterfall hike, there are plenty of other options to consider on this list.
Head to Waimea Canyon to experience this waterfall along one of the best hikes in Kauai. Waipo’o Falls is an 800-foot waterfall that can be seen from Highway 550, but there is a hike to the top of the waterfall through the Waipo’o Falls Trail. This 3.2-mile out-and-back trail is a popular hike that offers a moderate trek that is kid friendly. This waterfall is best viewed during the rainy season. There is no trail to the bottom of the falls. However, if you’d like a close-up glimpse of Waipo’o Falls, consider booking a helicopter tour of Waimea Canyon.
Although the hike to Hanakapiai Falls is a difficult one, it’s a popular challenge for adventurous hikers. You’ll want to take the coastal Hanakapiai Trail from Ke’e Beach, which will lead you through switchbacks with rugged rocks and slippery mud to Hanakapiai Beach. The beach is rugged and offers rough waves, so often noted as being too dangerous to swim in. From the beach, the trek to the falls will be an additional two miles. The path follows the Hanakapiai stream, eventually leading you to the emerald pool below this 300-foot waterfall. After this trek, enjoy a freshwater swim in the natural pool. Since this Napali Coast hike is a popular option, try to get an early start at the trailhead.
Another easily accessible waterfall is Wailua Falls, which is north of Lihue. This double waterfall is often called the “Fantasy Island” waterfall, as it was featured on the opening credits of the 80’s show. Enjoy views of the falls from the parking lot, or take a short yet steep walk to catch a closer look. The falls result from the Wailua River splitting in two and then taking a 100-foot plunge. View this waterfall any time of year. However, the best time to catch a rainbow at the falls is during the morning, as the sun’s rays are at the perfect spot to create a rainbow in the fall’s mist.
Found along the Napali Coast, Honokoa Falls is reached by foot on the Kalalau Trail. This waterfall has a 1,000-foot drop that cascades down multiple tiers along the mountainside, so hikers won’t be able to see its entire stream at once, but the portions seen from the trail are still worth the six-mile trek. Since it’s located about halfway through the Kalalau Trail, this waterfall is at a remote location that is often visited by experienced hikers. Hikers planning on visiting Hanakoa Falls need to obtain a day-use permit through the government office in Lihue.
Ho’opi’i Falls, found on Kauai’s eastern shore near the town of Kapaa, is actually two waterfalls, the Upper Ho’opi’i Falls and the Lower Ho’opi’i Falls. Offering a short hike through Kauai’s canopy forest, the trek to these falls is a popular option for newcomers to the island. Ho’opi’i Falls still offers a dramatic and rewarding view after the short hike, which is two miles round trip. For those hoping to swim in a waterfall pool, visit Upper Ho’opi’i Falls, which offers a great swimming hole and cliff jumping spot. Lower Ho’opi’i Falls is still worth a visit, as this 30-foot-long cascading waterfall was featured in the 90’s hit movie “Jurassic Park.”
Also referred to as Secret Falls, Uluwehi Falls is located in the Wailua River Basin on the east side of Kauai. The trek to Uluwehi Falls is a more adventurous journey compared to the other accessible waterfalls on this list, as you’ll have to start by paddling up the Wailua River. Since reaching Uluwehi Falls can be treacherous, there are guided tours available. After kayaking about two miles, the hike is relatively easy to reach the falls but expect muddy conditions. This 100-foot waterfall is well worth the 50-minute paddle and 30-minute hike. Although Uluwehi Falls is also called “Secret Falls,” don’t expect to be in complete solitude, as this is a popular hike on the island.
The breathtaking waterfalls that make up Mount Waialeale Falls are the least accessible falls on this list. These falls are located on the island’s tallest mountain, which is also one of the wettest spots in the world. The easiest way to see these falls is by helicopter. However, there is a difficult trail that leads to a waterfall pool known as the Waialeale Blue Hole Falls Trail. If you intend to hike the waterfall trail, expect wet and muddy conditions. The Blue Hole hike, a 4.9-mile trail, leads hikers to the Weeping Wall Falls, a lush, verdant mountain wall with numerous falls cascading down it.