The inland area of the western part of Kauai is dominated by the Waimea Canyon and Koke`e State Park.
When Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) first viewed the Waimea Canyon he nicknamed it the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." That name has stuck for well over 100 years. To a certain degree the Waimea Canyon actually surpasses the Grand Canyon. In the coloring of its inner walls and the proximity that the average visitor can get to view into the canyon, Waimea Canyon reigns supreme.
The Waimea Canyon, however, is subject to the weather of Kauai where Mt. Wai`ale`ale alone receives an average of 440 inches of rain a year, making it the wettest spot on earth. That much rain does not fall in the Waimea Canyon, but when heavy rains and wind strike Kauai, viewing the canyon can definitely be a challenge.
The best time to view the canyon also varies according to the weather conditions and season of the year. For the most part, clear winter mornings will cast sunlight on the walls of the canyon opposite the Waimea Canyon overlook. Likewise, views from the lookouts further to the northwest which provide a more lengthwise view of the canyon are better as the day wears on and the sun shines more from west to east.
However, the Kalalau Valley - either from (the better) Pu`u o Kila Lookout at the end of Highway 550 in Koke`e State Park or from the more well known Kalalau Lookout a mile or so back - is best viewed in the morning as the sun casts its rays from east to west and along the northern wall of the valley.
As confusing as all of this may be (and it certainly is!), the bottom line is that getting perfect views of both the Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley from the Highway 550 overlooks on the same day is a very difficult challenge indeed.
In our case, the rainy conditions resulted in very low hanging clouds which made good views of the Waimea Canyon impossible and good views of the Kalalau Valley very hard.
Somewhat frustrated by the conditions, we proceeded back to the Sheraton Kauai Resort to freshen up and change into warmer clothes for our afternoon helicopter ride.
When we arrived at Jack Harter Helicopters we were advised that the flight prior to ours had been cancelled due to the poor weather conditions. We soon learned that out flight was cancelled as well. Without enough time on Kauai to rebook our flight, we reconciled ourselves to the fact that a helicopter tour of Kauai was not possible on this short visit.
In retrospect, the decision to cancel the flight was proper from both a safety perspective and from the standpoint of giving the passenger a worthwhile viewing experience. For the money that you pay for these rides, it speaks well of a company that is prepared to cancel a flight, rather than make the flight with poor visibility and leave the visitor with a negative memory of their trip.
The forecast for tomorrow, our last day on Kauai, is for clearer skies and sunshine. We are planning to check out of our hotel in the early morning and drive as far north and west as possible along the North Shore of Kauai.
View additional photos of Kauai in one of our Kauai Photo Galleries.