Visit 10 Spectacular Kauai Waterfalls

Visit 10 Spectacular Kauai Waterfalls

The Garden Island is renowned for many things, among them its flowing beautiful Kauai waterfalls.

1. Wailua Falls.

Located near Lihue and easily reached yet still off the beaten path. The water flow will vary significantly with seasons and rainfall.

These were made famous in part by the opening credits on the television show Fantasy Island. Drive north of Lihue, and travel up Maalo Road about 3 miles. The sunlight meets the falls’ mist, making for an amazing photo opportunity.

The trail to the pool beneath the falls is closed for a good reason. It is extremely dangerous.

See incredible Kauai waterfalls featured in the 1978 Fantasy Island season 2 opening. Spectacular aerial views are simply breathtaking as well as inviting.

2. Uluwehi (Secret) Falls

A 100-foot drop marks these falls that are not entirely well-known. This is not easily accessible the way Wailua Falls is, so do come prepared. It is located on Kauai’s east side and eventually connects to the Wailua River. You need to travel up the river, by kayak or another boat to get there. The adventure is well rewarded, as these are among Kauai’s most scenic, with beautiful views of the Fern Grotto and Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain).

Guided Tours are best for most people and are typically available for a 45 to 60-minute paddle to get there upriver. Once you arrive, you’ll undertake a 20 to 30-minute hike to the falls. However, it is an easy trail, although it can get muddy seasonally. This is for those of you in good shape.

3. Opaekaa Falls.

This is another of the most easily reached Kauai waterfalls. A huge waterfall drops some 150 feet into a pool below. To get there, drive up route 580, starting in Wailua. The falls can be seen from the parking lot and viewing area. There are also restrooms found there. For the more adventuresome, you can hike via the nearby trailhead for up to 1/2 hour for the most spectacular views.

4. Hanakapiai Falls

Also not easily accessible, these are spectacular falls with a several hundred-foot drop.

These falls are located within the Haena State Park, and visitors are required to have difficult-to-obtain reservations for entrance and parking. Then once you’ve secured those, it will still be a challenging four-mile round-trip hike.

We have found the trail can be slippery and dangerous in spots every time we’ve hiked here. It is also subject to flash flooding.

The views of the falls are breathtaking, and the entire journey is one you’ll feel glad you undertook, so long as you are in good shape. The beach nearby is also beautiful but can be very dangerous, and we’ve sadly seen people drown there.

5. Waipoo Falls.

In Waimea Canyon, some of our favorite hikes bring you to above a Kauai waterfall with nearly an 800-foot drop. You will see this driving into the park, and the experience is even better up close.

Stop at any of the viewpoints along the road into Waimea Canyon to get great photos of the falls from across the valley.

Then, take the Canyon Trail to the falls. It is moderate in difficulty, with a lot of ups and downs, and perhaps the more arduous part is getting from the main road to the trailhead and back, as it is quite steep.

One of the best parts of the hike is the view plateau on which you will arrive just before heading down to where you will be standing over the large falls and nearby the smaller ones. There’s a pool nearby where some people swim.

6. Hoopii Falls (read warning notice below).

Located on the east side, near Kapaa, this is another great Kauai waterfall with a 600-foot drop. This, too, is challenging to get to, with more than a 2-mile hike involved. The hike itself isn’t too challenging once you find the trail. Hoopii Falls was used for a photoshoot in Jurassic Park.

Sandy just added, “I live near Hoopii falls. I would not suggest going to this waterfall. People are rescued and airlifted out all of the time. The parking is in a neighborhood and sometimes it is so crowded that the residents can barely get in or out. Also, many times people go off the trail into the private property of a flower farmer who gets super mad….”

7. Mount Waialeale Falls.

Located at the heart of the island, in one of the earth’s wettest spots, these are undoubtedly one of the most spectacular of all. Access here is the most challenging of all, so you’ll be heading there via helicopter to see them up close. It’s worth it, though – you will be astounded by the beauty.

8. Hanakoa Falls.

These Kauai waterfalls are located along the Napali Coast on the north side of Kauai. These falls have close to a 1,000-foot drop, but there is a partial view on the trail. Hiking to the falls itself requires a permit.

9. Hoolea Falls.

Hoolea Falls if found on Kauai’s north shore. They are accessible via a trail found behind Kalalau Beach. At a minimum, a day hiking permit, plus access to the state park, and parking, are all required.

10. Manawaiopuna Falls.

Manawaiopuna Falls, sometimes called Jurassic Falls, is in Hanapepe Valley off Kauai’s south shore. It is on private land and is only accessible via a helicopter tour. We’ve been there, and you can read our review of Manawaiopuna Falls and watch our video. This Kauai waterfall is 400 feet tall and was seen in the opening of Jurassic Park.

Please share with us your Kauai waterfall favorites.

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6 thoughts on “Visit 10 Spectacular Kauai Waterfalls”

  1. Another note: Opaeka’a Falls trailhead is not easily found and has been blocked off with scant parking. There is a way to get there off the Sleeping Giant southern trail (which does have parking), but it’s not a trail; more like a bushwhacking adventure. I would not recommend going to the bottom of Opaekaa Falls without someone who knows what they’re doing and is respectful of private property.

  2. Ho’opi’i Falls is not 600′. There are three falls (the third one is pictured as the top header in this post) and each one is no more than 30-40′. The first one is maybe 15′ and lots of people like to jump off and swim (still be careful). The second is more like 30′ and is cascading… you can’t jump off them but there is a shallow swimming hole at the bottom with a rope swing. Their third is off of a tributary and you have to cross private land to get to it (not recommended but it’s the best of all 3 – about 40′ into a deep and wide amphitheater pool).

    Parking is an issue at certain times, yes, but there are designated spots along the road on the forest side. Stay on the trails and you’ll find your way there.

  3. We’ve seen them all. There’s one other factor. It’s very dependent on how much rainfall Kauai has had and where, some years the falls are magical and other years not so much.

  4. Aloha-I have one correction about Hanakapiai Falls. It is an 8 mile hike round trip. It is a tough hike and as BOH says, you must be aware of the very real possibility of flash floods. At a minimum there are multiple stream crossings. Water shoes for these and the waterfall pool are also a good idea. The falls are amazing and the payoff is well worth it!

  5. I would note that Hanakapiai Falls are an additional 4 mile in and out from Hanakapiai Beach, which is a 3.7 mile out an back hike from the parking/shuttle drop off.

  6. Great waterfalls info. Please emphasize the need to do weather research several days prior to a waterfall hike, since flash flooding often happens many days after heavy rainfall. Lives have been lost to flash flooding in Hawaii. In other words, just because today’s weather is sunny, doesn’t mean it’s safe to hike to base of a waterfall. Sometimes flash flooding includes massive debris and rocks falling. Thank you.

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