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Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park, Kauai

Jo Levy Reports on Her Visit and Hike in Waimea Canyon


Waimea Canyon on Kauai is ten miles long, two miles wide and 3,600 feet deep. Mark Twain nicknamed Waimea Canyon the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" because of its resemblance to the Southwest's most popular tourist attraction. In fact, with its deep reds, greens and browns, each created by a different volcanic flow over centuries, many feel that is much more colorful than the Grand Canyon.

Bordering Waimea Canyon State Park on the north and west is Koke'e State Park. Koke'e is over 4,000 acres with about 45 hiking trails some of which head into Waimea Canyon and some are of which are short hikes to non-canyon overlooks. I mention this because it took me awhile to figure out exactly where I was at any given time. For a donation you can get maps at the Ranger's Station, which I suggest you do if you will be hiking.

We stayed in Poipu, which is on the south shore of Kauai. Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park are in western Kauai. The best way to get up to the canyon and parks is to take Waimea Canyon Road from the town of Waimea. This road has much better views than are found by going up by way of Koke'e Road from the town of Kekaha.

Choosing proper clothing for a canyon visit and hike can be tricky. I wore shorts and a T-shirt, and was very comfortable. But. if your journey to the Canyon will be mostly in the car and confined to the lookouts you may be a bit cool due to the elevation. I would recommend bringing a jacket or sweatshirt.

If you are hiking, you can leave cool weather gear behind. It can get very warm, especially down in the canyon. Be sure to bring your hiking boots. Much of Hawaii can be muddy and Waimea Canyon is no different. Jeans are also recommended to protect your legs, but bring old ones that can be thrown away because hiking in Hawaii can be a dirty business. It may rain on your hike, so consider bringing along an extra set of clothes to change into as well.

Tips on Visiting Waimea Canyon

There are many lookouts at which to stop. Many of these have restroom facilities. You will be able to see the Canyon from every angle and at various heights. Most of the lookout walks are short trips and all are handicapped accessible.

There is no charge to visit Waimea Canyon and it is open year round.

There are cabins and tent campgrounds. You will need a permit to camp ($18 a night). There are also cabins in which you can stay for as little as $75 a night.

One of the most popular lookouts is Waimea Canyon Lookout. The scenery is really gorgeous, and truly indescribable unless you have been to the Grand Canyon.

This is one of the islands where many people say the cost of a helicopter tour is worth it. Helicopters do get right into the canyon. If you can't hike into the canyon, it may be worth the price.

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