Welcome to my personal guide to the best waterfalls in Kauai, Hawaii!
As someone who deeply loves this beautiful island, exploring its stunning waterfalls is one of the best ways to spend a vacation here.
My boyfriend and I recently had the opportunity to book a tour and set off on a waterfall trek, and I’m so glad we did. The falls in Kauai are truly breathtaking, with magnificent streams flowing into serene pools surrounded by lush greenery. It was a truly unforgettable experience.
To help other travelers plan their own waterfall adventures, I’ve compiled a list of the best falls on the island, including details on the accessibility of the trails, available facilities, and the resources needed to get there.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking for a leisurely stroll, there’s a waterfall on this list for you.
So don’t waste any more time – start planning your trip to see the best waterfalls in Kauai and discover the beauty of this amazing island for yourself!
Opaeka’a Falls – Best Kauai Waterfall to Drive to
If you’re not up for a hike and still want to enjoy the lovely waterfalls of Kauai, then Opaeka’a Falls are the only ones you need to visit. Since you can easily see the falls from a parking lot across them, they’re a great spot to bring the family along and enjoy the views.
We went to see the falls around midday, and the lookout was somewhat crowded. But that’s not a problem here since there’s plenty of space to park and picnic tables where larger groups sit, so it never gets too busy.
Since there’s a sprawling landscape and tunnel of trees on the drive to Opaeka’a Falls, it’s an incredible sight. The falls are 150 ft tall and 40 ft wide, falling into hidden pools at their base. We heard people trek to the bottom of the falls, but the trailhead was closed not too long ago.
Even without getting close to the falls, the area is a great spot for sightseeing. Just across the street is the Wailua River and a small park next to the falls with many chickens. My boyfriend went to the park with some snacks and fed the chickens too!
We had the best time at Opaeka’a Falls and consider them the best Kauai waterfalls for families. Here’s what makes them even better:
- There are clean bathrooms available across the parking lot.
- A stall there sells delicious fresh coconut water.
- The area is great for bringing a meal along and having a picnic.
How to get here:
From highway 56, drive to Wailua River State Park in East Kauai. Turn into the park, where you’ll come across Opaeka’a Stream. The falls are on the stream, with the lookout to your right.
Waipo’o Falls – Best Waterfall Hike in Kaua
Full disclosure: the trail leading to Waipo’o Falls can be difficult to trek if you’re not used to hiking, as it has root trails, slippery slopes, and is steep. In addition, the trail gets dangerous during heavy rains as people have slipped and got injured.
However, if you visit during good weather with a tour group, getting to see the 800 ft drop from the falls is an incredible treat. Our trip was with a similar group who helped us out by bringing supplies for the trek and keeping each other entertained.
The path leading here is the Canyon trail and is quite beautiful. We passed through the shady Koke’e rainforest and saw tropical birds above the canyon and even some wild goats! The path is lined with a stream that ends up in the falls and leads the way to them.
Since the pools at the fall’s base have cool, refreshing water, they’re great for taking a dip and relaxing after the hike.
We consider Waipo’o Falls the best Kauai waterfall for a challenging hike. Some things to consider before you go:
- Wear water-safe shoes for the hike and bring trekking poles for a smooth walk.
- The pools can dry up during the summers and dry season.
- A helicopter tour goes over the falls and gives an excellent view of them for those looking to avoid the hike.
- There’s ample parking space at Koke’e State Park, from which the trail starts.
How to get here:
You can access the trail by car for half the way through Waimea Canyon. In Waimea, from Highway 550, head north into Koke’e State Park. Then, turn right onto Halemanu Drive and follow the road which leads to Halemanu Koke’e Trailhead.
Wailua offers another great waterfall for people wanting to enjoy excellent views without taking a hike. Also, since the trail to these falls is closed, you can only see them from behind a fence in the parking lot.
But don’t let that hindrance deter you because the sight of this waterfall is breathtaking. At 173 ft, these falls split into two and cascade into crystal clear pools.
A great way to enjoy their natural beauty is by coming early and witnessing the rainbow caused by the sun’s rays shining through the fall’s mist.
However, the parking lot here is small, so there’s limited space during the day. If you wait a while, a spot usually clears up as most people leave after taking pictures.
Since weeds and foliage have grown over the lookout point, getting a good view of these falls is difficult now. Because of this, most people take a helicopter tour which gives an incredible, almost picture-perfect view of the falls. We took the trip as part of our tour and definitely recommend it.
Wailua falls are undoubtedly the best Kauai waterfalls for their gorgeous views, by land or air. Here’s what makes them even better:
- The intro for the hit 70’s TV show Fantasy Island was filmed here.
- There are locals selling beautiful artwork and yummy homemade bread in the lot.
- A circle island tour of South Kauai on a tour bus is a great way to see the falls without the parking hassle.
How to get here:
From Lihue, you need to head north on Highway 56. Then take a left on Maalo Road in Hanamaulu. After that, you’ll have to travel uphill for nearly 3 miles, where the road ends at the parking lot of the falls.
Hanakapiai Falls – Best Kauai Waterfall You Can Swim in
These falls are not for the faint of heart (or legs), as the trail leading to them is an 8-mile round trip that needs some skill to accomplish. However, a great way to enjoy them is by trekking 2 miles along the trail and stopping at Hanakapiai Beach for a relaxing swim. Then, continue the remaining hike as the falls are too gorgeous to miss!
You’ll enjoy gorgeous views of the nearby Na Pali coast for the first half of the trail. After that, it’s only the last ½ mile that’s tricky, with five stream crossings that get your shoes wet and some steep inclines.
However, wear good hiking boots, take an experienced hiker, and it’ll be a trip to remember!
Once you reach the waterfall, it’s an incredible view of a 300 ft drop into an emerald-green pool below. So we went straight in and enjoyed the most refreshing swim! This is a perfect way to cool off after the hike, and you can even swim right up to the falls.
We consider Hanakapiai the best Kauai Hawaii waterfall for its breathtaking falls, which are perfect for swimming in. Some things to consider before you go:
- These falls are closed during floods, so check water conditions before you visit.
- Bring along 2 liters of water per person and some snacks for the long hike.
- You have to buy passes online at gohaena.com to visit the State Park leading to these falls.
How to get here:
Drive to the end of the road on Highway 56, and park in the lot fronting Ke’e Beach. From there, head out on the Hanakapiai Trail.
Secret Falls (Uluwehi Falls)
Visiting the Secret Falls is a unique experience since you need to kayak across a river to reach the trail leading to them. The whole route can get strenuous, but the beautiful views of the Wailua River are worth the effort.
In addition, it’s great to go with a tour group since you can share kayaks and supplies. Starting on the river, the trail to the falls is 6.1 miles round-trip. You’ll paddle for 45 minutes until you reach a bank on your right, where you beach the kayaks and start walking on land. The land trail is only a 20-minute trek across a small stream.
Fortunately, the waterfall is a great payoff for your efforts. These 100 ft falls drop straight down in the freshwater pool, where there’s plenty of room to wade in and get under the falls too. Since the base of the pool is rocky, go in with water shoes.
One thing to consider is that you need to purchase kayaks for the trip. Wailua Kayak Adventures shop rents the kayaks and other supplies like bags, coolers, etc., for nearly $75-85. Or you can drive to the nearby Kamokila Hawaiian Village and rent supplies for half the price.
We had the most thrilling time traveling to these falls and consider them the best Kauai waterfalls for an incredible kayaking experience. Here’s why you will too:
- The area isn’t a secret anymore as plenty of tourists come here. But that makes it much safer in case you need help.
- The helicopter tour is a great way to see the falls for those who can’t make the trip.
- The scenery around the falls is gorgeous, with lush vegetation surrounding them.
How to get here:
Start on Lehua Street, and head southwest on Kuhio Highway for 2.6 miles. From there, turn right onto Kuamoo Road, then left onto Wailua Road, and continue 400 feet until you reach the parking lot.
Kauai is also known as the Garden Isle for its lush vegetation and rainforests, which house gorgeous waterfalls. However, as most of these falls are inaccessible, being deep in the valleys, tourists resort to viewing them from afar. This makes helicopter tours pretty common in Kauai because the overhead view of these falls is spectacular.
However, no matter which way you choose to explore Hawaii’s waterfalls, you’re in for a treat because the falls and the trails never disappoint.
Want to trek on a thrilling adventure hike? Try the Hanakapiai and Waipo’o Falls.
Looking for a family-friendly fall? Wailua and Opaeka’a falls are the ones for you.
Kauai’s waterfalls are not ones to miss!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
What is the biggest waterfall in Kauai?
Mount Waialeale Falls is the biggest waterfall in Kauai, at a 5000 ft elevation. The sheer height of these falls and the stunning view of the valley are why a scene from the Jurassic Park movie was filmed here.
What waterfalls can you drive to Kauai?
The Wailua Falls and Opaeka’a Falls are waterfalls you can drive to in Kauai. Since the trails to these falls are closed, you can view them from parking lots across them or through helicopter rides over the falls.
What are the best Kauai waterfalls to swim in?
Secret Falls, Hanakapiai Falls, Waipo’o Falls, and Ho’opi’i Falls have refreshing pools, making them the best Kauai waterfalls to swim in.
What is the best waterfall hike in Kauai?
Waipo’o Falls Canyon Trail, Hanakapiai Falls Trail, and Uluwehi Falls Trail are some of the best waterfall hikes in Kauai, as beautiful forests and scenery surround them.
How to get to Secret Falls in Kauai?
Secret Falls or Uluwehi Falls are only accessible via water over the Wailua River. However, you can take a guided tour to them, or rent your own kayak or canoe, to get there. Afterward, there’s a short hike on land before you finally reach the falls.
Last Updated on January 11, 2023 by Brigitte