Travel Diaries

Hawaii Diaries #6 – Exploring Waimea Canyon and Hiking

We were up early to drive out to Waimea Canyon.

It’s about a 30 minute drive from Poipu to Waimea which sits at the foot of the canyon. Waimea Canyon, A.K.A, “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is this massive gorge that stretches for miles. We saw it the other day in the helicopter but wanted to see it on foot too.

There are two paths to go up to the canyon itself and we took Waimea Canyon drive as it has better views on the way up.

One thing to note is that there’s no gas stations up there. In fact, there’s not a ton of gas stations on the way there. I stopped at the Shell in Waimea to get some gas as I was running low. $4.12 a gallon today. Gas is expensive here!

It’s about 10 miles from the bottom to the first main lookout. However, there are some spots on the way up that have space for a few cars to park.

These often have decent views of the canyon.

You’ll get much better views of the area once you actually get up there so there’s no need to stop on the way.

It’s a long winding road up with 25 mph speed limits. We eventually reached Waimea Canyon Lookout and stopped to take pictures. This area had bathrooms and a little stand selling water and fruit.

The lookout is a short walk up and gives you some beautiful looks at the enormous gorge.

It was a nice clear day so we got some good shots in before moving on. Do note that it does get chillier up here. The temperature was 83 when we started driving up but dropped into the mid 60s here.

The wind really picks up on the lookouts so I was glad to have a jacket with me.

The paved road continues past this main lookout all the way up to mile marker 18 so there’s plenty more to see.

We had a hike in mind but stopped at another lookout, the Puu Ka Pele Lookout to see the Waipoo Falls.

Waimea Canyon

They’re pretty far away in the picture but the cool thing is that you can actually take a hike to get right near the source of the falls.

That was the plan today and we were here pretty early to get on the trail before the temperatures picked up. It was around 10:30 A.M. when we parked at the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout.

The parking lot was already full so we had to park on the side of the main road. The Canyon Trail starts right past the parking lot and is intermediate to difficult in parts. I guess it depends on your fitness level because we were struggling a bit at times.

The hike starts of with a downhill portion with some slippery areas.

The first 60% of the hike is in wooded areas. There’s a mix of downward slopes and upward climbs like the one below.

The ground does get muddy in parts and I saw people slip and fall in certain areas. There are plenty of roots and rocks to make for a moderately challenging hike.

I would certainly recommend good hiking shoes here and plenty of water as it does get hot along the way; no need for a jacket here. I was glad to have my CamelBak with me so I could sip water whenever I wanted without stopping.

The wooded trail goes around the canyon until we found ourselves on the other side of the lookouts.

We started walking on some cliffs so be wary if you’re afraid of heights as one side is a sheer drop off. Still, the views are pretty awesome and as we went along, more of the canyon revealed itself.

It was very neat to see the canyon from a different perspective. You could hear the helicopters buzzing above just like we were the other day.

The trail switched from woodsy to rocky at this point as you walked on the canyon cliffs. That include some steep spots where you had to tread carefully or slip. I did find myself on my butt once as I tried to reach the edge of canyon face to take a closer look at the views.

There’s also a path leading further down that takes you to the source of the Waipoo Falls.

It was a beautiful little area but it did start getting crowded by the time we were leaving.

A little side path took us down closer to the main waterfall and the stream that fed it.

There really wasn’t a spot where you could get a great view of the falls or if there was we missed it. Still, the hike was pretty great as we get to see some really neat views we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

We started to make our way back. You can see the steepness of the way down I mentioned above better in this picture as we climbed up.

The hike is 1.8 miles each way but with all the stopping the whole thing took about 3 hours. This is one of those hikes that feels like you’re going uphill the entire time there AND also feels like it’s all uphill on the way back.

I’d say the way back is worse since there’s a ton of climbing and a few spots where it’s slippery on the way down. If it’s been raining a lot, this could be a rough hike.

If you’re in good shape, it probably won’t be a big deal, but if you’re a lazy butt like us, it’s pretty tiring. It was around 1 P.M. at this point and getting pretty busy so definitely get here early for a better experience.

We made it back to the car then drove up to a small museum area. It wasn’t much but there’s also a shop and restaurant there if you’re hungry. We got a smoothie and moved on to the last lookout past an open gate.

This area gets more tropical as there’s a lot more rain this far up. The Puu o Kila Lookout was packed but we were lucky to find someone pulling out as we drove up.

This final lookout isn’t a view of the canyon anymore but of the Kalalau Valley on the Na Pali coast.

It’s beautiful when the skies are clear.

You can definitely see the stark difference in vegetation here versus the canyon as this area gets a lot more rain.

There’s also a trail here that’s worth checking out; the Pihea Vista trail.

This one is mostly dirt and you get various views of the valley on the left side and greenery on the right. The feel is more tropical as we could hear bird sounds and look at cool plants that you didn’t see on the other trail.

This trail runs about one mile before it gets more difficult so keep that in mind if you want something light. The first part isn’t too bad.

The cool thing about this trail is the fog that moves in every once in a while and seems to cover the landscape. We were lucky with our timing as the valley was pretty clear but the fog started moving in a few minutes into our hike.

It started on the other side of the valley; the less desirable view so we were still able to see more valley view as we hiked along the trail.

There’s plenty of spots on this trail where you can just climb up on a ridge and see awesome vistas. You can also see the tropical vegetation on the bottom of the shot there.

It started to rain a little bit and the fog started to move past us and over the valley leading to this cool effect.

Rainbow with fog covering the landscape!

Eventually we made it to a big hill that looked extra muddy. Two people coming down said it gets a lot worse up there and their clothes were covered with mud from a spill so we turned around.

We were pretty tired from our first hike so we didn’t want to risk a spill. On the way out, the fog was really starting to take over certain areas meaning we would have missed out on some views if we got here later.

Based on what I’ve read, the fog moves through quickly sometimes so if you get here and can’t see anything, just wait around to see if it moves on because the views are worth it.

This is definitely a day long endeavor. That’s especially true if you want to get some hiking done. We hadn’t had anything to eat besides some granola bars so we set out to find some late lunch.

That’s a #1 from Porky’s at the foot of Waimea Canyon drive. It’s a pineapple sausage covered with pineapples, onions and pulled pork. Quite good and you can skip the bun if you don’t want carbs.

We were pretty much dead by the time we got home around 4:30 P.M. We did make a quick stop at Lappert’s again for some ice cream.

Dinner was homemade(Costco) soup and the remains of our farmer’s market haul. The chocolate chip banana bread was delicious and we tried the dragon fruit too.

The dragon fruit looks cool and has a very light sweet taste. It was my first time eating it and I’d definitely get it again. Think of it as a mix between a kiwi and a pear; the texture of a kiwi with a light sweet pear flavor.

That was it for Day 6. It was a day of hiking and cool views and now we’re starting day 7 and packing up our stuff to move to the north for a few days.

We’ve got horseback riding on Mahaulepu beach today, another first for me as I’ve never ridden a horse and then we’ll do some hiking before checking in to our new AirBnB and heading out to a dinner under a tent.

Related : Hawaii Diaries #7 – Horseback Riding and an Outdoor Dinner

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