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On Walkabout At: Wailua and Opaeka’a Falls On Kauai

Basic Information

  • Name: Wailua and Opaekaa Falls
  • Where: Kauai, Hawaii
  • More Information: HawaiiWeb.com

Narrative

Just a short drive from the Hawaiian island of Kauai’s main city of Lihue are two scenic and very accessible waterfalls that are worth checking out.  The first waterfall is Wailua Falls which is located just a short drive north of Lihue:


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The road State Highway 583 to the waterfall traverses through some very scenic farmland that used to be at one time completely covered in sugar cane:

There is a few volcanic hills to see along the way as well:

Eventually the road comes to a deep gorge that the Wailua River flows through:

At the head of this gorge is the beautiful 80 foot Wailua Falls:

This waterfall was made famous by being featured in the opening of the popular television show “Fantasy Island”.  There is a parking area that is usually packed at peak times so parking can be tricky and some people park further down the road and walk down the road to the falls.  Something else I found of interest at the falls is that there are signs everywhere saying it is illegal for vendors to set up shop here, but every time I have been to these falls there has been plenty of vendors everywhere.  Anyway this waterfall is well worth checking out and the vendors actually do sell some interesting items.

About a 15 minute drive to the east of Lihue is another great waterfall Opaeka’a Falls located near the village of Wailua:


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At Wailua there is a turn off on to Kuamo’o Road which leads to the 151 foot waterfall:

There is a well marked and usually busy lookout on the right side that can sometimes be hard to find parking because of the number of visitors coming by rental car and tour bus.  It is easy to understand why so many tourists come to this lookout thought because it really does offer an exceptional view of this pretty waterfall:

Here is an even closer look at the falls that shows how someone has got themselves a beautiful piece property right above the falls:

An added bonus with visiting Opaekaa Falls is that across the street from the falls is a historic Hawaiian “heiau” or temple:

This heiau is the called the Poli’ahu Heiau and only the exterior walls from the temple remains.  All these rocks were carried up from the valley floor by hand which would have been a huge project for the villagers to complete which I think shows how important the heiau in the lives of the early Hawaiians:

This marker shows what this heiau would have likely looked like:

Within the walls of this heiau the “Kahuna” or priest would have conducted religious ceremonies for the local villagers.  The arrival of Christian missionaries who were able to convert many of the Hawaiian royalty to Christianity led to the Hawaiian heiau system being banned in 1819 and these temples falling into disrepair.  With the rebirth of traditional Hawaiian culture these heiau are taking on increasing meaning to native Hawaiians and thus the state park service that overseas this temple asks that people show respect while visiting the site:

The view of the Wailua River valley from the temple are just tremendous:

Before the arrival of Europeans this valley would have been filled with traditional Hawaiian huts that the people down below would always have a grandiose view of the temple.  I think this is another indication of how important the traditional Hawaiian religion was in the lives of the early Hawaiians that lived in this valley.  You can learn more about the Poli’ahu Heiau at the link.

Conclusion

I think a good itinerary for visiting these falls is to visit both locations in the morning and then eat lunch in either Wailua or Kapa’a and then spend the rest of the day checking out both villages that offer many great shops.  For those looking to do something more active, use the afternoon to rent a kayak or take a boat trip up the Wailua River.  I think a great way to end the day is by taking in a luau at the Smith Family Garden Luau which is located near Opaeka’a Falls along the banks of the Wailua River.  There is plenty of other things to do in the area, but make sure to take some time to enjoy these two beautiful waterfalls.

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