Enjoy Spectacular Coastal and Canyon Views
Koke‘e State Park in southwestern Kauai has about 45 miles (72 km) of hiking trails including rainforests, high elevation swamps, canyon trails and narrow ridges with spectacular ocean views. The park is reached by following Waimea Canyon Drive (Hwy. 550) near the town of Waimea up along the rim of Waimea Canyon.
Perched atop Koke‘e’s coastal cliffs is the spectacular Kalalau Lookout, and 1.6 miles farther is the Pu‘u-o-Kila Lookout. Both of these viewpoints provide stunning views of Kauai’s hidden treasure, the western shore’s fabled Na Pali Coast where steep green ramparts laced with waterfalls rise up from the ocean into steep spires and castle-like turrets that stand watch over the remote Kalalau Valley.
The Alakai Swamp is the world’s highest swampland and home to a rich wonderland of rare and endangered native plant and bird species. The Alakai is located in an ancient crater where the acidic soil produces a variety of strange and stunted vegetation. Mature ohia lehua trees in the Alakai Swamp may be just 2 feet tall when in normal soil they might be more than 40 feet tall.
Here is a brief description of some of the trails that lead to the edges of the Na Pali Coast, down into Waimea Canyon and other interesting areas of Koke‘e State Park. Before going hiking on Kauai make sure and plan well and follow the proper Kauai Hiking Safety Tips.
Cliff Canyon and Black Pipe Trail—3.6 miles round trip
This is a popular family hike along a ridge-top trail that provides great views of Waimea Canyon. The hike can be fairly strenuous including some significant climbs and descents along the canyon rim.
While the shorter Cliff Trail is .4 miles round trip, the Canyon Trail leads .8 miles to the two-tiered Waipo‘o Falls which drops about 800 feet down the canyon wall. The trail down to Waipo‘o Falls is moderately difficult and leads to the top of the falls. Just upstream from the Waipo‘o Falls is a small pool surrounded by yellow ginger and this is a great place for a refreshing swim.
Halemanu Valley – Koke‘e Trail – 2.5 mile loop
This trail climbs about 300 feet in elevation and goes through a koa forest, along the top of a ridge and then down into Halemanu Valley where there are some cabins.
Pu‘u Ka ‘Ohelo / Berry Flat Trail—2.2 miles
The Berry Flat Trail goes uphill through a variety of forest types including a mix of introduced and native trees. After passing through a grove of strawberry guava trees you will come to a junction where going right leads you to a koa forest that is a great place to see native birds. Then you will go through a grove of sugi pine followed by groves of California redwoods and eucalyptus trees.
Awa‘awapuhi–Nualolo Loop Trail—10.3 miles
Awa‘awapuhi Trail is 6.5 miles round trip. Nualolo Loop Trail is 8.7 miles, and then 1.6 miles more on the main road to get back to your car. Of all the great Kauai hikes, one of the most awesome views is seen from atop a narrow ridge at the end of the Awa‘awapuhi Trail where the land narrows to a ridge just a couple of feet wide providing dizzying views on both sides where the cliffs drop straight down for thousands of feet in both directions.
On one side is Awa‘awapuhi Valley, and on the other side is Nualolo Valley. Both of these verdant valleys wind their way down to the cobalt blue Pacific Ocean.
Nualolo Trail winds its way through native forest and along the canyon edge overlooking the Na Pali Coast. The first ¼-mile (.4 km) of the Nualolo trail is relatively steep and then continues to steadily descend as it enters a wetter forest area and travels along a ridge.
This part of the trail is known as Nualolo Bench Trail. Around the 3-mile (4.8-km) mark, the trail intersects with Nualolo Cliff Trail, which connects with Awa‘awapuhi Trail. Following further along the Nualolo Trail leads to Lolo Vista Point, which provides great views of Nualolo Valley.
Spectacular views make the Awa‘awapuhi–Nualolo Loop Trail one of Koke‘e State Park’s most popular trails even though it is quite strenuous.
Kaluapuhi Trail—2.5 miles round trip
Kaluapuhi Trail a relatively flat trail, making it a fairly easy hike. The trail climbs only about 120 feet in all as it passes through nicely forested areas.
The end of Kaluapuhi Trail is on the main road about one-third of a mile past the Kalalau Lookout, which is about one mile from the trailhead. If you don’t want to walk back on the road you can simply walk back along the trail.
Pihea-Alakai Swamp Trail – 8.6 miles
Panoramic views of Kalalau Valley are seen along Pihea Trail which follows along the valley’s upper rim to a viewpoint that offers amazing panoramic views. Pihea Trail starts at the end of the road in Koke‘e State Park near Pu‘u-o-Kila Lookout, which is 3.8 miles from the Koke‘e Museum.
Pihea Trail can also be used to link up with the Alakai Swamp Trail to go to the Kilohana Lookout which provides spectacular views of Wainiha Valley, Lumaha‘i Valley, Hanalei Bay, the lush and tropical north shore and the ocean beyond.
The beginning of Pihea Trail follows the scar of a 1954 attempt by Hawai‘i’s Territorial Government (using prison labor) to build a road along the valley rim and then down to Hā‘ena on Kauai’s north shore.
A section of boardwalk has been constructed beginning at about 1.6 miles. If you continue to the right at the Alakai Swamp Trail junction on the boardwalk, it will lead you to a small bog called Lehua Maka Noe.
If you turn left on the Alakai Trail, the boardwalk continues downhill and eventually crosses Kawaikoi Stream. The total distance on Pihea Trail one way to Kawaikoi Stream is 3.7 miles.
The trail then goes up a ridge and across boggy forestlands to Kilohana Overlook. This spectacular overlook is situated on the rim of Wainiha Valley and provides spectacular views of Kauai’s north shore including Hanalei Bay (weather permitting).
The Pihea-Alakai Swamp Trail is a great hike for seeing native rainforest as well as the many rare native Hawaiian forest birds that live only in Koke‘e State Park.
Kukui Trail – 5 miles round trip
Kukui Trail is a strenuous hike that drops 2,000 feet from Koke‘e State Park down to the floor of Waimea Canyon. Along the way the trail travels through forests of kukui and other upland trees.
This is a narrow and challenging switchback trail, descending quickly at the beginning through forest and then out into the open on the side of the mountain. The trail also passes several great viewpoints that allow you to see the canyon as well as distant waterfalls. Eventually the trail reaches the Waimea River at the bottom of Waimea Canyon.
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