Koke'e State Park is home to Kauai's Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It's easy access by road makes it a popular tourist spot. There is a network of roads and trails with otherworldly vistas that dazzle.
If you're looking for a little adventure, spend the day hiking the Awaawapuhi and Nualolo Valley trails which connect up to create an 11 mile loop. Described as "difficult," and starting at around 5K feet, it's not for the faint of heart.
The trail is in pretty good shape, with the first half heading mostly down to the coast. There is a great lookout with a good rest spot for the claw out. The connector trail starts with a warning sign. Portions of the cliff trail are gone. it'll take your breath away with beauty, and take your life away with sheer terror. If you have any fear of heights, go back.
There is no room for error once you move out onto the exposed, washed-out slope. No vegetation to grab for, no turning back. Keep your eyes ahead and follow your gaze. Start looking at your feet and you'll be staring into the abyss. It's the longest quarter-mile on the trip. Once across, the terrain is more stable, but the trail tends to disappear, pay attention. We got cliffed-out, forcing us to bushwhack up to find the path. It's a long, uphill walk to the road with spectacular scenics. The two-mile walk down the road got me lots of ride offers but I needed to finish the four hours on foot. Be sure to over pack on water, you'll need it...
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Ready, Set, Hike - Best Hike on Kauai, Alakai Swamp Trail
Although the name doesn't do the hike justice, the Alakai Swamp Trail is a 8-mile roundtrip sensory explosion. You not only get beautiful vistas worth writing home about of Kalalau Valley and the Napali Coast, but also the Swamp and the finale of Kilohana Lookout overlooking the other side of the island with Hanalei Bay and Wainiha Valley.
As a warning, I tried this trail three times. On my third attempt, I succeeded. It is a trail that tends to be wet. Also, it is a longer hike and takes about four hours. My previous two attempts, I had too little sunlight or the trail was just too slick and muddy. However, if at first you don't succeed; try, try, try again. And, it was so worth it.
1) Don't wear your slippers. This is NOT a flip flop hike. Please wear your best hiking boots, shoes, or sandals.
2) Don't be afraid to get dirty. You will leave muddy even if the trail is somewhat dry. Your light colored clothing will be stained by the red dirt.
3) Be patient. The view at Kilohana can be blocked by cloud cover. Just sit, relax, and enjoy some snacks. You didn't walk the distance to just turn back around. Wait for the splendid view of Hanalei and Wainiha.
So far, this is the best ALOHA hike on Kauai. So, ready, set, hike.