Amazing hikes in Kauai - The hiker's paradise of Hawaii

Kauai is a hiker's paradise. It not only has the Kalalau Trail along NaPali coast, which is known as 'The Ultimate Hike' in all of Hawaii, but several other fascinating hikes with fantastic views. We went to Kauai for a week in August to celebrate our 8th anniversary and my husband's birthday. Unfortunately, the Kalalau Trail was closed due to flooding since April of this year, but we did some pretty amazing hikes during our trip. Some on the mountains, some near the canyons, some amidst the swamps, some in the rain forests, some along the beach and some to get to the beach - each was unique and all of them were interesting and rewarding. For more details, read on.

1) Best Views - Nounou Mountain West Trail:

If there is only one hike you could do in Kauai other than Kalalau Trail, this should be it. It is less than 4 miles round-trip and has the grandest views of Kauai. The 360 degree views were so incredible that I found myself exclaiming, "Sh**, we could see the whole of Kauai right here, what are we going to see the rest of the week?". As with most trails in Kauai, it is a muddy trail and there are several chances of you slipping down, so dress accordingly. This trail starts in a residential neighborhood on Kamalu Road (Hwy 581) near telephone pole #11 between mile marker 2 & 3 in Wailua (Yes, telephone pole numbers are valid addresses in Hawaii, just don't search for them on GPS ;). 

Here are some pics from the top. To get these views, don't stop at the picnic shelter that you will see about 30 minutes into the hike. Continue up along the ridge for another 10 minutes.

Once you walk through the yellow metal gate with the Kauai Trail sign near telephone pole # 11, the trail leads you through a grove of Norfolk pine trees after which it starts to get wet and muddy. There are a couple of trails that lead you to this Mountain, so if you are at an intersection, choose the trail that goes up.

2) Most interesting hike - Pihea Trail & Alakai Swamp Trail:

We went to Pu'u O Kila lookout in Kokee State Park as it has a panoramic view of Kalalau Valley, which is said to be among the most beautiful spots on the entire pacific coast. We started with the Pihea Trail which is a 2-mile round trip. It was a beautiful day with relatively clear skies (unlike the previous day when it was all filled with fog) and we had great views of the Valley. As the Trail skirted along the edge of the Valley, we stopped every few minutes to take in the view and watch the sunlight pierce the clouds to brighten the ridges of the NaPali coast. As the sun and the clouds competed for space in the sky, we were treated to beautiful views and shades of the Valley. It looked even more beautiful every single time. 

Beautiful Kalalau Valley
Another view

This trail itself felt more like rock climbing than hiking in parts and would have been adventurous on a rainy day.

Pihea Trail

Towards the end of the 1-mile trail, we came across a junction and we took the trail that seemed to go through a rain forest. It had boardwalks set up neatly amidst green trees and ferns to avoid hikers trampling native plants and shrubs. The whole environment seemed pretty interesting, so we continued to walk until we reached a junction about a mile later. There was a 4-way junction which was marked on one side as Alakai Swamp Trail leading to Kilohana Lookout. We did not know what to expect and would have probably turned back if not for another couple who told us that by hiking another 2+ miles, we could see all the way up to Hanalei Bay on the North side of the island from the lookout point, on a good day. We were intrigued and decided to go along. It seemed like a good day and what started as a 2 mile hike now turned into an 8-mile+ round trip hike, but we had food and water in our backpacks, so we did not hesitate. 
Boardwalk in the rain forest
Alakai Swamp
We did not know that we were in the highest swamp in the world near the 2nd wettest spot on the planet, i.e. Mount Waialeale. But we could definitely sense the other-worldliness of the surroundings. There was something strange about walking on that boardwalk in a swamp on what seemed like the highest place in Kauai with nothing and nobody in sight. It felt like both a mountain and a plain, it was wet and swampy and we couldn't have done the trail without the boardwalk. After about 2.75 miles (as per fitbit) in this mysterious place, we reached the Kilohana lookout. Lo and behold, there was the magnificent Hanalei Bay and the spectacular NaPali coast in all its glory. Apparently, one has to be really lucky to get this view as it is mostly covered in fog. So we thanked our stars and the skies and had lunch with this fantastic view, which reminded us of this view in El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico.
Hanalei Bay & NaPali Coast from Kilohana Lookout

3) Rain forest hike - Kuilau Ridge Trail: 

I fell in love with rain forests on our El Yunque trail in Puerto Rico and then again in Hoh rain forest while camping in Olympic National Park. So, I jumped at the idea of a rain forest hike and loved this hike in Kauai too. 

With its lush green vegetation, tall green trees and ferns covering the entire area, the place was dreamy and magical for me. This place truly justifies the name of "The Garden Island" for Kauai. The canopy of trees was mesmerizing and our eyes took a while to adjust to the dazzling green all over. No wonder a lot of movies were filmed in this area.

4) Coastal hike - Mahaulepu Heritage Trail:

How can you not do a coastal hike in an island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean? With the ocean blue on one side and a golf course on the other, this hike takes you through sand-dune cliffs, limestone formations and rocky inlets where you might see turtles and monk seals occasionally. 

We parked in the shipwreck beach parking lot and hiked along the ocean. This hike leads to Mahaulepu beach. There was a hurricane watch that day and it started raining, so we turned back before we reached the beach. As all coastal hikes are, this was one lovely too.

5) Canyon hike - Awaawapuhi Trail:

There are a lot of hikes near Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and Koke'e State Park. This 7-mile hike near the 17-mile marker on the Waimea Canyon Road came highly recommended for its views of the NaPali coast. The hike takes you through a jungle and ends with good views of the coast. The trail is well defined but gets very narrow near the view point and we did not venture further out. But you could, for more dramatic views.

6) Hikes to the beach - Secret Beach & Queen's Bath:

The shortest hike we did was to the Secret Beach. The hike was beautiful and the beach even so, with a view of the Kilauea lighthouse. We went in the evening and had fun in the water with the waves. It wasn't ideal for snorkeling given the waves, but it was fun nevertheless.

We also took a super muddy and slippery trail to the Queen's Bath to watch the turtles play in the waters. 

We absolutely loved hiking in Kauai. Hope you will too. Happy hiking!


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