Waimea Canyon: The Grand Canyon of Hawaii.

Often referred to as “the Grand Canyon of Hawaii or the Pacific“, Waimea Canyon is a sight to behold. Located at Waimea Canyon State Park, on the western side of the island of Kauai, it’s approximately 10 miles (16 km) long and 3,000 feet (900 meters) deep, encompassing about 1,866 acres. It was formed when the volcano that created Kauai collapsed, creating a deep depression in the ground.  The rainwater from Mount Waiʻaleʻale eroded Waimea Canyon into what it is today. 

Waimea Canyon differs from its nickname desert counterpart because it’s in one of the wettest places on earth – Kauai, Hawaii – making it a very lush canyon filled with tropical trees, abundant plant life, and beautiful rivers and waterfalls. From the lookout point, and other various turnoffs, you can see the 800-foot waterfall called Waipo’o Falls, a prominent feature of Waimea Canyon. The word “Waimea” means “red dirt” in Hawaiian, which is plentiful around and within the canyon.

Waipo’o Falls as seen from the Waimea Canyon Lookout Point.

We drove to the Waimea Canyon Lookout Point from the bottom of the island, about a 30-minute drive. It’s a steady incline, bringing you past various turnoffs, lush vegetation, and, as mentioned, tons of red dirt. Eventually, you will reach a Y, at which you go right, leading to a large parking lot. You must pay to park and enter (credit card only – no cash). Two attendants were seated outside, right next to the ticket machine and entrance, supervising, and ensuring that nobody snuck through. For non-Hawaiian residents, it costs $10 per vehicle, plus an additional $5 per person (for residents of Hawaii with proper I.D., both are free). So, for our out-of-state party of 6, it was $40. It’s a bit pricey, but absolutely worth it. The lookout point is up a slight, wheelchair accessible ramp, and is not a hard or steep climb.

There are also two hiking trails within the state park – Iliau Nature Loop, a short roadside 0.3-mile loop that’s rated as “easy”, and Kukui Trail, which is 2.5 miles one way, rated as “difficult”, that leads to Waipo’o Falls. Important note: no camping or pets allowed.

Naturally, there was a rooster, even 3,400 feet above sea level. 🐓

Overall, everyone who visits the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii must also visit Waimea Canyon and the lookout point! While not as deep or wide as the Grand Canyon in Arizona (Grand Canyon National Park (it’s really grand).), Waimea Canyon is still impressive, magical, and breathtaking all on its own. Come and see the Grand Canyon of the Pacific yourself!

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