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Waimea Canyon via the Kukui Trail

A difficult hike descending into the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific."

Hiking Severe

23 km
1.4 km
1.4 km
6-7 hrs
Low Point
159 m
High Point
895 m
Waimea Canyon via the Kukui Trail Map

Waimea Canyon is a stunning natural wonder on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. It is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific because of its size and beauty. The canyon stretches for about 10 miles, measures one mile across, and plunges up to 3,000 feet deep. It was formed by the erosion of the Waimea River, which cut through the lava and basalt layers of the ancient volcano that once covered the island. The canyon is named for the reddish water of the river, which reflects the color of the soil. The canyon offers spectacular views of the rugged landscape, waterfalls, and rainbows. It is home to many native plants and animals, such as ohia trees, ferns, birds, and goats.


The Kukui Trail is a great choice for a spectacular and challenging adventure in Waimea Canyon. This hike takes you from the rim of the canyon, where you can enjoy sweeping views of the colorful landscape, to the floor, where you can explore a refreshing river and a shady campsite. This is a challenging hike that demands good fitness and technical ability.

The trail begins at the Iliau Nature Loop Trailhead on Highway 550, where you can admire the scenery of the canyon and learn about its flora and fauna from interpretive signs. The trail then descends 2,000 feet over 2.5 miles to the bottom of the canyon, following a steep and rocky path. Along the way, you can marvel at the beauty of the canyon walls, waterfalls, and wildlife. You might even spot some wild goats or pigs grazing on the slopes.

At the end of the trail, you will reach the Wiliwili Campsite, where you can rest and enjoy the shade and water of the Waimea River. You can also continue on the Koaie Canyon Trail or the Waimea Canyon Trail for more exploration, but you will need a permit for these trails and the backcountry campsites.

The route shown here explores both directions in the bottom of the canyon, which would make for a long day hike. However, backcountry campsites in the bottom of the canyon make this a very attractive backpacking excursion.

The Koaie Canyon Trail starts about a half mile up the Waimea River from the bottom of Kukui Trail and follows the south side of Koaie Canyon for about 3 miles until it reaches a campsite. The trail has good scenery, wildlife and swimming holes along the way. The Waimea Canyon Trail starts from the same point as the Koaie Canyon Trail and follows the Waimea River for about many miles, depending on how adventurous you are and how much you want to bushwhack.

This excursion deep into the depths of Waimea Canyon isn't for the faint of heart, but it will reward the intrepid explorer with the story of a lifetime!

Source: Hiking the Kukui Trail to the River - Waimea Canyon Permits, Maps - Kauai. https://www.downthetrail.com/hawaii/hiking-kukui-trail-river-waimea-canyon-permits-maps-kauai/. Kukui Trail. https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/hiking/kauai/kukui-trail. Kukui Trail Hike, Waimea Canyon - Kauai, Hawaii | Kauai.com. https://www.kauai.com/kukui-trail. Waimea - Koaie Canyon Trail | Kauai.com. https://www.kauai.com/waimea-canyon-trail. Kokee & Waimea State Park Hiking Trails - Hawaii Guide. https://www.hawaii-guide.com/kauai/hiking-trails/kokee-waimea-state-park-hiking-trails. Koaie Canyon Trail - Activities On Kauai Waimea, Hawaii - LookIntoHawaii. https://lookintohawaii.com/hawaii/49058/koaie-canyon-trail-activities-kauai-waimea-hi. Conversation with Bing Chat



Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Picturesque
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area