Hawaii Guide


Waimea Canyon, Kauai's Grand Canyon

Waimea Canyon, Hawaii, Kauai, Landscape, Nature

Waimea Canyon is sometimes known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Like its counterpart in Arizona, the canyon is vibrantly coloured however it is much smaller than the Grand Canyon.

'Waimea' means red and this whole valley is characterized by its reddish lava beds. This canyon was formed after an earthquake forced several separate streams into a single river which carved out this impressive canyon. The resulting gorge is approximately twelve miles long and one mile wide. The Waimea river continues to flow today, cutting the gouge in the cliffs deeper and deeper.

If you are planning to visit the canyon by car then you have two options: for spectacular views go via Waimea Canyon Road along the west edge of the canyon; otherwise take the Kokee Road which goes through the canyon to Kokee State Park.

There are other lookout points along the way so pull over and admire the view. For those into hiking, the Canyon is an awesome experience and unlike the rest of the island, is quite dry and arid. This is due to its location on the south west coast that is dominated by the shadow of Mount Waialeale, which attracts all the rain leaving the area to the west dry.

Outfitters Kauai (1 808 742 9667) run a bike tour from the canyon you are transported to the canyon and then cycle downhill from there stopping off at points of interest along the way. However the ultimate view of Waimea Canyon can only be experienced from the air check out the helicopter tours offered by different tour operators on Kauai as the canyon is a highlight on many of the tours.

When heading up to this monumental chasm by car, check that you have enough fuel to last as there are no gas stations up there. As you get higher the temperature will drop, and it may be wise to bring some warm clothing, particularly if you are hiking. Hiking in cooler temperatures may be more pleasant and a good chance to get out of the heat that typifies the island. There are some great trails in Kokee State Park : The Poomau Canyon Ditch Trail (originally The Ditch Trail) was trashed after the hurricane in the early '80s but was reopened in the '90s and has incredible views of the canyon and two waterfalls. The trail is hard work and can get fairly tricky in places. Watch out for thorns. The Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp starts at the end of Waimea Canyon Drive and goes through the highest swamp in the world. Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls gives views over the canyon and the chance to visit two waterfalls. The Kukui Trail goes into the gorge itself.