Often described as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this 10-mile-long Kauai valley is a kaleidoscopic array of scarlet earth, verdant valleys, and raw volcanic crags. Bands of color streak the corrugated landscape, each representing a different eruption and layer of lava. Waimea Canyon Drive has a series of lookouts; among the most popular is Waimea Canyon (past the Mile 10 marker on Highway 550), where a number of rivers once cascaded down the gently sloping shield volcano. When part of its flank collapsed, the rivers combined with dramatic results. Continue into the mountains to explore Koke’e State Park beyond. Its small, free museum contains a 3-D map, which sheds light on the canyon’s wild beauty, while the gift shop specializes in local art, crafts, and Niihau shell jewelry.

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Soak In a Stunning Canyon View, and then Hike It

The famous Waimea Canyon, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, appropriately dubbed “The Garden Isle,” as it seems to be almost entirely covered in lush green. I have been to far-flung corners of the earth, and this was perhaps the most incredible view I have ever seen. We hiked the Canyon Trail in the pouring rain, and could not have been more exhilarated. When we arrived at one of the lookout points, which felt as though we were in a cloud forest, there was a geologist giving a private tour to a small group. We overheard him say that this was in fact supposed to be the dry side of the island, that the stream over the falls below us was a larger volume of water than he had seen in 30 years, and that he resented the label “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” because the youngest rocks in the Grand Canyon are almost 300 million years old, while the oldest rocks of Waimea are about 5 million years old. We hiked back up and continued on to Hanalei Bay, Po’ipu Beach, Wailua Falls, and the many other incredible physical beauties of Kauai. A visit to Kauai is a must if you are planning to fly all the way to the middle of Pacific. But you do need a car in order to most efficiently get around the island.

Just When You Think You're Done, THAT'S When You Keep Going.

The sun-warmed terracotta rock seasoned with the oregano green foliage of Waimea Canyon on the Hawaiian island of Kauai was everything we would hope for in a sightseeing entree. Like the Mainland’s Grand Canyon, the stunning landscape was carved by a river, scarring the island’s surface to expose its striatic geology. Helicopters were swallowed whole, and massive waterfalls twinkled like tinsel in the vast expanse. “Well, time to call it a day,” agreed my 3 traveling companions. The flight from Oahu was short - a mere 45 minutes at most - but tropical sun, wind, and open-air drive in our rental convertible had collected a toll. “Wait!” I protested. An avid guidebook reader, I knew we had to keep driving. Tired arguments ensued, but drive, we did. Grumpy companions grumbled the entire way, blaming the fiasco - sunburned shoulders, near empty gas tank, growling hunger - on my stubborn insistence. The complaining stopped at the end of the road. We walked from the vehicle, climbed a small hill, and watched in awe as clouds dissipated before our eyes. At the start of the Kalalau Trail, the only sound is that of stunned silence - that, and for the astute listener, the lull of waves crashing against the beach of the deserted valley 4,000 feet below. We only hiked a third of the muddy 11 mile trail sans proper gear or footwear, but the view at the start was worth the drive. Arrive early to see the clouds, then watch as they burn away and expose the mountains and valley below.

Looking down at Waimea Canyon

The west side of the island of Kauai is beautiful, and feels so different from the more resort-like south and north shores, and the residential area of the east side of the island. This was taken at one of the overlooks when driving through Waimea Canyon. Among the many hiking trails in the area, the Cliff Canyon trail is family-friendly, though far from being a flat trail. The entrance to the trail is right by the Koke’e State Park entrance sign.

Waimea Canyon Rd - Metaphor for Life

Undulating on a ridge top, with twists, turns, ups and downs to your reward: a God’s-eye view of the Na’ Pali coast from 5000 feet up. Spellbinding.

Five hour hike with this 1 year old on my back.

Happy birthday hike left me in knots with my one year old strapped to my back. But it was all worth it when we made it to the river water fall. I will go further next time, when this kid can keep up. The end of the long in and out hike was rewarded with the most beautiful beach of my life. Half way out in the soft waves you look back at the towering green mountain, and the sunset warmed inlet beach with a blue life guard stand and orange jeep and little cliff cabana framing the moment ideally.

Colorful Hawaiian Canyon

Flying over to Kauai on a one-day get away from Honolulu, I asked the woman at the car rental desk what one thing she recommended seeing on her island. She suggested I drive up to the Waimea Canyon. After driving up a curvy and steep road for miles, I was wow’d by the spectacular first views I had from the first look out point - all the way down to the ocean. When reviewing the tiny island of Kauai on a map, I did not expect to find such dramatic topography possible. Beyond the stunning natural relief are a mosaic of vibrant colors that are part of Hawaii’s landscape.

Grand Canyon of the Pacific on Kauai

Leaving the Hawaiian Islands without visiting Kauai and experiencing Waimea Canyon would be a sin! Known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is otherworldly. And, you won’t believe it until you see it with your own eyes. The experience is absolutely majestic with a palate of reds, burnt oranges, varied browns, and lush greens, not to mention the ever-alluring peaks of the Napali Coast along the West. The drive up the canyon is glorious, but it is so much more personal to view Waimea Canyon’s beauty out on foot. For the adventure travel enthusiasts, I’d recommend two hikes: Canyon and Awaawapuhi Trail. Both are moderate, but provide two distinct views, one of the canyon and the other of the Napali Coast. **Just a warning, you will come back from either hike with red, dusty hiking boots, dirty socks, and perhaps a muddy rear-end if it is wet out. As a finale to your day, pack a wine and cheese platter or your favorite picnic snacks for a stop at the Kalalau Lookout. There are picnic tables, restrooms, and a vista that will be featured in your next year’s holiday cards.

Adventure Travel Waimea Canyon Kauai-Biking the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

One of the most beautiful places on the island of Kauai, which I have called home for nearly two years, is Waimea Canyon. Nicknamed as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it is spectacular with similar hues to its earth tones as the Grand Canyon, but it does stand out. The Grand Canyon doesn’t have views of the NaPali Coast and the Pacific Ocean. To view Waimea Canyon, you can drive, hike, fly in a helicopter tour, or bike. I had done all of the above before; so, this year, I decided to do a different adventure, biking Waimea Canyon. As the ride is 18 miles, I have condensed it into a quickie video for your enjoyment. To view it and learn more, visit my adventure travel blog, Ms Traveling Pants.

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