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On Walkabout At: Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Basic Information

  • Name: Waimea Canyon
  • Where: Kauai, Hawaii
  • More Info: Hawaii Web

Narrative

The islands of Hawaii have some truly incredible scenery and it seems like each island has its own signature unique natural attraction.  Despite all the beautiful beaches and mountains on Kauai I would have to say its signature unique attraction would be Waimea Canyon because there is simply nothing like it anywhere else in Hawaii.  The canyon is located high up on the island’s west side:


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The canyon is accessed by  Highway 550 that begins near the city Waimea that is paved all the way to the canyon and features many curves:

As the road ascends up the high slopes of Kauai’s western mountains there are plenty of incredible views of the surrounding pastoral countryside:

There is also some unbeatable views to the west of Kauai’s neighboring island Niihau, which is known as the “Forbidden Island” :

Here is a view looking across the lush farmland to the south of the canyon with one of Hawaii’s iconic rainbows in the foreground:

As we drove further up the road, eventually the opening to one of the branches of the canyon could be seen:

Further up the road the canyon continued to grow deeper and the terrain more rugged:

Something we found amusing was that along the road where nothing but rugged wilderness could be seen, there was this solitary mailbox:

As we would see later on further up the canyon there was actually a small farm at the bottom of the canyon:

By looking closely at the below photograph a house is visible far below:

Here is a closer look at the house, which I assume is who the mailbox along the road belonged to:

Here is the view looking further up the canyon from the house where the canyon becomes even more scenic:

Here is a view looking back down the canyon towards the ocean:

Here is another view of the house where I could now see that this appeared to be a thriving farm:

What an absolutely great place to live though I would be concerned if I lived there about the flood threat due to being located so close to the river.  As my family and I drove further up the road the ground became noticeably redder with a few small creeks and waterfalls became visible:

It is only about 10 miles to the Waimea Canyon Lookout from the start of the road, but it feels much longer due to the slow speeds on the curvy road as well as the fact we kept having to pull over to take pictures due to the breathtaking scenery.  However, we did eventually make it to the lookout where we were greeted by a sign that stated that we were at 3,400 feet in altitude which is nearly the elevation of where we lived in El Paso, Texas:

I have been to Kauai many times and just about every time I make a stop at Waimea Canyon.  Views from the lookout are outstanding, but unfortunately there has been a few times I have been up there that this is all I could see:

So views from the lookout can be hit or miss due to the weather, so hopefully your dream vacation to Kauai doesn’t end without getting a view of the canyon due to clouds.  Here is another view I have seen before which is a dreary and extremely wet view of the canyon:

It was actually raining on me when I took the above picture so I was surprised it turned out as well as it did.  Here is the view of the canyon on a partly cloudy day:

If it is partly cloudy out it is well worth waiting around for awhile and see if the clouds part for a few minutes opening up views of the canyon.  This has happened for me before:

Here is view from the lookout on a partly cloudy day looking back towards the ocean:

Here is the view looking back towards the interior of the island and its famed Alakai Swamp that makes hiking to the summit of Kauai’s most prominent mountain, the 5,148 feet (1,569 m) Mt. Waialeale so difficult:

This is what the canyon looks like on a clear day:

However, I have found that the best time of day to visit the Waimea Canyon Lookout is in late afternoon where the light just seems to really bring out the colors of the canyon:

From the lookout Waimea Canyon is about 3,000 feet (900 m) deep which is about half the depth of the Grand Canyon.  However, the shape and various colors of the canyon have caused many people to call it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”:

This is probably a good description for the canyon because I don’t know of any other place in the Pacific that has a canyon as strikingly beautiful as Waimea Canyon:

I have never had enough time to do any extended hiking into Waimea Canyon, but the hikes here in such dramatic terrain has to be spectacular:

Conclusion

Waimea Canyon may not be as breathtaking as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but it is nevertheless a must see attraction for anyone making a visit to Kauai.  Most people to the island visit the canyon in conjunction with a visit to Koke’e State Park located at the end of Highway 550.  Both locations are must sees and it doesn’t make much sense to spend time visiting one without visiting the other.  Both are parks are not just iconic locations on the island of Kauai, but two of the most iconic locations in all of Hawaii.

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