When it comes to tropical destinations, the Hawaiian Islands have plenty to offer. Most nature-loving travellers tend to seek out and explore waterfalls, and Kauai has an abundance of them!
So in the interest of all those who enjoy chasing waterfalls, we have made it our mission to present to you some of the top-rated waterfalls in Kauai – read on to discover these places and what to expect when visiting them.
Top Rated Waterfalls In Kauai
1. Wailua Falls
(North of Līhuʻe – Līhuʻe Wailua River State Park)
Wailua Waterfalls is one of the first waterfalls you’ll ever get recommended to visit. It’s a picture-perfect waterfall, with verdant mountains surrounding it, creating a basin-like pool where the water falls.
However, it’s not an easy trip. The path can be slippery – so be careful. This double-tiered waterfall is 53 metres tall, and it even can be viewed as you drive by.
If you visit at a time the sun hits the water just right, you are bound to be greeted by a lovely rainbow at the foot!
2. Waipo’o Falls
The trail to the waterfalls is slightly long (nearly 6km in and back out) and tricky.
We are talking about steep slopes and twisted trails with slippery areas. Wearing loose footwear during this hike would be a super bad idea.
The route altogether is quite beautiful but otherworldly. It is because the waterfalls are nestled in Waimea canyon. The waters flow down from a height of approx. 244 meters, and with the canyon background setting, this waterfall becomes a thing of true beauty.
It’s definitely worth a visit – if you’re fit for the journey. Plenty of parking is available as well.
3. Mount Waialeale Falls
(Wai’ale’ale, peak, central Kauai Island)
Falling from a height of approx. 910 meters, this group of waterfalls look magnificent as the water flows down, consuming the area with beauty (and noise).
You just have to visit Mount Waialeale to witness this magnificence. It’s recorded as the 2nd highest peak in Kauai and is considered one of the wettest spots on Earth (mind out of the gutter please).
It’s also known as the Weeping Waterfalls, for obvious reasons. If you are heading towards Mount Waialeale by vehicle, there is parking available, but parked, you have an 8-kilometre hike out and back.
4. Hanakapiai Falls
This 12.5-kilometre waterfall trail always ends up being one of the best experiences of Kauai for those who have taken it. The trail consists of a beach visit and a somewhat slippery yet enchantingly scenic waterfall trail.
If you are enjoying sceneries along the way, it might take about a good 7 hours for you to complete the journey.
The actual waterfall itself is also a sight to behold. Cascading to a cooling pool of water from a 91-meter height while being surrounded by tropical verdant beauty is bound to mesmerize anyone!
5. Uluwehi Falls
(Wailua River State Park)
Despite being famously known as the Secret Falls, it’s very popular, and that’s for a good reason. From most of the above-mentioned waterfalls, this one is very different. The waters cascading from a height of 100 meters create a whimsical curtain surrounding it.
However, to get to the waterfall, you will need transport via water while many choose kayaking. But you can’t kayak all the way to the waterfall. There is a bit of walking to do. The walk en route to the waterfalls is quite scenic. It’s as you’d expect a nature trail to be.
Once you reach the destination, cool yourself by plunging into the clear pool beneath the waterfall.
6. Opaeka’a Falls
(Wailua River State Park on the eastern side)
Flowing through Wailua – the land of Kings, this majestic waterfall is definitely breathtaking. Falling from an approx. 46-meter height, its cascading beauty can be safely viewed from the side of a small, neatly built sidewalk – and there’s plenty of parking.
The waterfall never runs dry during any part of the year. If you like enjoying waterfalls without the challenging trekking journey, then this has to be one of the best options Kauai can offer.
Fun fact: Opaeka’a translates to rolling shrimp (we’re still trying to figure that out).
7. Hanakoa Falls
(Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park)
This is one waterfall hike you’ll never forget. You do need a hiking or camping permit to get to the falls because you’ll be trekking beyond Hanakapi’ai Beach.
The trail is steep and narrow. The sheer breathtaking sceneries are mesmerising, but be mindful don’t let the sceneries distract your footing. When you reach the waterfall, you’ll only see just 90 -100 meters of the 305-meter-tall waterfall.
Some travellers do a helicopter tour to watch the waterfall from a different vantage point, but being so close to its foot certainly is an equally mind-blowing experience.
Note – If you are getting a camping permit – you’ll need to book about 6 months in advance.
8. Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurassic Park Falls)
If you loved Jurassic Park, then you will want to visit Manawaiopuna Falls. This scenic waterfall was featured in some of the background movie shots of Jurassic Park.
As the waterfall is flowing through a privately owned property, the only way you can visit this waterfall is by using a helicopter.
Definitely not your usual method for waterfall hiking, but it’s so stunning to see even from such a high angle. In fact, it might even bring some memories of the movie back. Falling from a height of 122 meters, it’s quite a sight to see.
9. Kalihiwai Falls
(Kalihiwai River, on the north-central coast of Kauai)
It’s another enchanting, two-tiered waterfall on the Kalihiwai River, nestled between Princeville and Kilihiwai Bay. You can start your hike to the waterfalls from Princeville Ranch.
Some travellers even travel by horseback to the falls. You might even catch a wedding happening in the area. It’s because this waterfall destination is sort of famous for that as well.
10. Ho’opi’i Falls
(Near Kapahi Road, town of Kapa)
Like the waterfall itself, the trail is not that lengthy (3.5 kilometres). The water cascades from a height of 6 meters and flows into a cool plunging pool that can be surprisingly deep.
Cliff jumping is not really possible here, but there is a big pool to dip in. The trail alone is quite slippery and muddy (obviously), so be cautious.
Fascinatingly enough, the surrounding area also happens to be visiting grounds for a variety of vibrant-looking tropical birds – which adds to the scenic experience.
Helpful Safety Tips When Engaging In Waterfall Hiking:
- Ensure you wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
- Avoid going on waterfall trails after a heavy rain season – flash floods are not uncommon.
- Don’t stray off the trail or the observation deck looking for shortcuts.
- Be cautious when climbing the rocks around the waterfall as they tend to be very slippery.
- Avoid jumping off waterfalls or diving into the plunge pools, especially if the water current is strong.
- Pay attention to the sign boards and the warning signs in place.
Frequently Asked Questions About Kauai Waterfalls
What’s the best time to go waterfall hiking in Kauai?
Early spring, like March, April and May
Are there any dangerous waterfalls in Kauai?
Kipu Falls has earned a reputation for being dangerous. In fact, it has claimed 5 lives. If you heading there, we request you take the highest precautions and avoid doing anything risky.
Can flash floods occur at waterfalls?
Yes especially during the rainy season. We highly recommend not visiting any waterfalls during this time – even for thrills.