When you think of Kauai, what pops into your head? It’s a good chance that you’re imagining relaxing on a beach, or dreaming of snorkeling in some beautiful water. Or, perhaps you’re thinking about hiking through a lush jungle, or weaving your way along a rocky coastline. It’s very likely that you think about how beautiful the island is, and there isn’t a shortage of natural sites to see.
Surely you’ve heard of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but what about the Grand Canyon of the Pacific? Your imagination is probably putting together something amazing right now, and you’re not going to be disappointed. This impressive natural feature is located on Kauai, and it’s a part of the island that’s not to be missed.
The Grand Waimea Canyon
Although it’s commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, that isn’t its actual name. Instead, it’s officially called Waimea Canyon, and the name is a reference to its color. Waimea is a Hawaiian word that means “reddish water,” so this was a title that matched well with the red color of the canyon.
Waimea Canyon lives up to its name, as it is impressively large. It’s about ten miles long, and it’s around 3,600 feet deep at the most extreme point. Sitting on the western side of the island, it has a more unique history than many other canyons. It wasn’t simply caused by erosion, but a big part of its development was due to the collapse of a volcano that formed much of the island.
Visitors are amazed to see the vivid colors, multiple waterfalls, beautiful rainbows, and all of the other treats the canyon offers.
Waimea Canyon State Park
This natural feature is part of the Waimea Canyon State Park, and this is an area filled with 1,866 acres of beauty. Inside the park, visitors can find roads to hiking trails and lookout points, as well as picnic areas and other places to relax. There are even options for hunting and fishing within the park.
Activities in the Canyon
One of the many reasons that Waimea canyon is so popular is because of all the ways it can be visited. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike, a casual view from an overlooked on a road, or an incredibly adventurous experience, you’re sure to find an option that meets your needs. You can go on self-guided adventures, or you can take advantage of one of the many tour operators offering experiences in Waimea Canyon.
If you’re interested in hiking, you have two options with very different levels of difficulty. The first is the Iliau Nature Loop which is an easy, 0.3-mile-long hike that is easy to get to with a car. This is a great choice for casual walkers and families who would just like to have a brief experience in nature.
The other choice is about 5 miles once you make a round-trip journey, and it’s much more difficult with a large change in elevation. The Kukui Trail allows you to go for a challenging hike down the canyon. Please note that camping is not allowed without a permit.
There are a few nice lookout points spread around the canyon, and some can be easily reached by those traveling in a car. The easiest is the Waimea Canyon Lookout, and it has incredible views, but the only downside is that it can sometimes be crowded.
There are a few companies that organize bicycle tours, and this can be a great option to see the canyon. They generally follow the paved road that goes for about 12 miles, but they drive you to the top in a van, so it’s very easy to coast down! This is a great way to see the views without too much physical exertion, but it gets you out of the confines of a car.
A Bird’s Eye View
If you really want to see the canyon from a unique viewpoint, then why not head into the sky? There are a number of tour companies which offer airplane and helicopter tours, and the spectacular views are definitely worth making the trip. Also, these aren’t just limited to Waimea Canyon. You can also see the other beautiful highlights of the island while flying around with the birds.
A rugged Jeep tour is a great way to have another adventuresome experience without having to leave the ground. An experienced driver can take you around, and you’ll have the chance to stop at some hiking and waterfall spots.
Are You Ready to Explore?
Waimea Canyon is just one of many amazing places on the island of Kauai, but it’s definitely a must-see location. And if you spend enough time on the island, you’ll learn that you never grow tired of its beauty.