The Kuilau trail is truly a hidden treasure. Within only a 100’ or so from where you park your car, you will become deeply immersed within the midst of an area that embodies Kauai’s nickname “The Garden Island”. The speed of this immersion of becoming one with the forest is not unlike jumping into a swimming pool and going from dry to instantly wet. Hopefully it will only be the greenery, though, that surrounds you and not the precipitation. Just be aware, that you are within just a couple of miles of the wettest spot on Earth, Mount Wai’ale’ale. Rain can be somewhat of a constant up here, so be prepared.
This is not a strenuous hike and really, much more of a nice gradual walk, (unless it rains). It’s a gentle and constant incline but should still give your cardio system and legs a nice hello.
As with the previously blogged “Sleeping Giant Hike”, you will start this outing from the East side of the island. This can make it a perfect afternoon hike for visitors staying up North in the Princeville/Hanalei area or down South in Poipu/Lawai. It is virtually in the backyard of those staying along the East side’s Coconut Coast Wailua & Kapaa area.
Take the road, (Kuamo’o) up from Kauai’s #1 premiere destination Hotel, (Coco Palms-albeit prior to Iniki). This will be the light just North of the Wailua River. This Hotel was where Elvis stayed and filmed scenes for his biggest hit movie, “Blue Hawaii”. The fifty year anniversary was just held recently in Poipu. The land that this former “hot spot” is located on along with large areas surrounding the Wailua River was once the home of Hawaiian Royalty and many heiaus are still visible within the area.
If you haven’t stopped at the lookouts a couple minutes up Kuamo’o Road, do so. This is a great spot to absorb the beauty of the serene Opaeka’a Falls. Be careful crossing the street, and you’ll grab a great view of the Wailua River below, too.
As you continue up Kuamo’o you will enter the rural area of the Wailua Homesteads. This area is a hidden gem in itself. The temperature here can frequently be 5-10 degrees cooler here than at the ocean. The views of the majestic mountains that surround these homes are another draw for its lucky residents. The amount of homes lining the road will slowly come to an end, and as you make a ninety degree turn to the left, you will be heading straight into the interior of Kauai. Further up this particular road is where Stephen Spielberg chose to erect and shoot the scene for the gates of Jurassic Park…
It will be quite apparent where to park. If you come to the river, do not drive across it. Back track up the road and just around the corner, you’ll see Kuilau Trail entrance on your left. This is where you will enter the green realm of the Garden Isle. The trail is very well kept up and is easily navigable. Just be aware that with the possibility of rain, the trail can become more like an amateur ski slope in relation to available traction.
As you ascend, (only a total of a little over 600′) you will see what appears to be big toothpicks that make their way up and over the ridge to your left and down into the Princeville area. These are actually massive power lines. They carry electricity over to the North from all the way down in Port Allen, where the main electrical generating plant is located. The immense size of the cliffs behind these structures are what dwarfs their apparent size.
Within a mile and a half, you will reach the Picnic Area, which can make for either a great shelter from the rain or the sun. Watch your step here as frogs like to cruise around up here, too. This spot gives you amazing views inland and can be an incredibly peaceful and rejuvenating spot.
As an option, the trail can be continued further but becomes much more technical, (read narrower and steeper with exposed roots) and will eventually put you on Moalepe Trail and out at the top of Olohena Road. If you do the whole loop, you will need to drop off a car there first and drive to the aforementioned trailhead. It will encompass significantly more distance, (approx. 4.25 miles one-way). My recommendation is to go a little further (about half a mile or so) if you and your party are feeling energetic and adventurous. Great views out to the ocean on one side and the interior on the other will be had. With that said, I would recommend turning around at the bridge. At this point, you are just over 2 miles in and will make for a nice four-miler, roundtrip.
If you are looking to get a great sense of Kauai’s backcountry and not looking for a ten mile slog, then this is probably one of the best on the island. As with any hike into the backcountry, do it with a partner and be prepared with water, snacks and rain-gear.
More info can be found here; http://hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov/trail.php?TrailID=KA+07+002&island=Kauai
For any questions related to this or any other island adventure, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to answer any question presented. My goal is to simply make certain that everyone sees the beauty of this magical island and take home unexpected memories that they will cherish for a lifetime.
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