Exploring Waimea Canyon State Park, The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

We started our morning off right at the Poipu Bay Clubhouse for breakfast with some amazing views of the golf course (part of the Grand Hyatt, where we were staying for the week). I knew right off the bat that some chocolate chip pancakes were in order, and after our waiter raved about the crab cakes eggs benedict, my husband had made up his mind pretty quickly. After devouring our breakfast, it was time for the day’s main adventure, the Waimea Canyon.

The Waimea Canyon is commonly referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, originally penned by Mark Twain, a fitting title for this majestic panoramic view of the vibrant rich mountain ranges.  Although is not as big or as old as it’s cousin in Arizona, stretching at 14 miles long and one mile wide, at more than 3,600 feet deep, I’ll say it’s still pretty massive.

Even the drive to the main attraction is scenic in and of itself.  Along the way, we stopped numerous times to see dramatic deep red rocks and sand with tiny waterfalls.  This is an easy drive, compared to the Road to Hana or Haleakala on Maui, and are no hair-pin curves or single-lane bridges.  Still a bit curvy though, so use precaution.  The roads are well-maintained which makes the drive a bit more enjoyable.  Definitely worth it in my opinion.  Where else are you going to get views like this, besides the “original” Grand Canyon of course.  If you are a confident driver, don’t waste your money on a tour bus company – go yourself and you’ll be able to stop at every lookout and take in the beauty on your own time at your own pace.

OH, and if you rent a convertible, it’s even more fun :p (but not at all necessary)

Seeing the canyon from our Jurassic Falls helicopter tour and then seeing it from the Park’s lookouts offered some dramatically different views. From the helicopter, we were able to see all angles of this geological wonder from afar, while the overlooks provided panoramic views of Kauai’s dramatic interior.  There’s just so much to look at – the never-ending cliffs, valley on one side, and the ocean in the distance.  Look closely and you may even see some waterfalls too!  Make sure to admire the vibrant red and green colors.

I’m having a hard time describing the views from the canyon rim, as it was breathtaking and made me feel so incredibly tiny. Impressive. Awe-inspiring. Absolutely beautiful. I could have stood there for hours just feasting my eyes on the beautiful sight in front of me. We took so many pictures and sometimes just stood at the railing and took it all in.

We grabbed a cup of pineapple from the vendors in the parking lot and ate at the lookout. Light breeze in our hair (mine blowing a bit), delicious fresh fruit, with the Waimea Canyon in view – it can’t get much better than that in my opinion.  Just watch out for the wild chickens looking for snacks in the parking lots!

Turn 180 degrees and you will have a view of the wettest spot on earth. However, make sure to take a jacket, as you are over 5,000 feet elevation at the top and the weather can turn quickly.

Unfortunately, when we approached the very top (at the Kalalau Lookout), the clouds and mist had already rolled in, obstructing our view. My advice- go straight to the top in order to see the beauty before the clouds cover everything. However, I later heard that the clouds uncover pretty frequently. We should have stayed, but were on a tight schedule due to a flight back to the mainland! –> we obviously fit everything in that we could on our trip to Kauai!

Plenty of hiking trails can be found here, including one that leads to the Na Pali coastline. However, thankfully (!!!), you don’t have to hike to see the beauty of this canyon. The views from the lookouts were good enough for me! The red soil and green lush vegetation made for a pretty spectacular sight.

Know before you go:
– Leave early! Get to the top lookouts first, then make your way down. I noticed an increase in car traffic as we were heading home later in the day.

– We spent about half a day here, but you could easily make this into a whole-day adventure. Plenty of hiking trails can be found here.

– Go on a nice day. You don’t want impeded views. Clouds and mist can really make for an unpromising day.

– Continue up the road to the Kalalau viewpoint – you won’t regret it. I promise! Just remember- wait for the clouds to pass for an incredible view.

– Even if you only have a short time for this adventure, it’s definitely worth the trip! From the start of the canyon road, the entire trip was about 2 hours (roundtrip). Plan to stay around 30 minutes at the lookout.

– Take highway 550 both up and down, not the alternate 552. 550 is steeper and more winding, but far more beautiful.

This is an absolute “must see,” when visiting Kauai! Enjoy! 🙂

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