While traveling to Hawaii, it is sometimes difficult to pry your feet out of the sand to do some non-ocean related exploration. When you’ve finished your book and the kids just start to get tired of snorkeling, hop in the car and head to Kauai’s west side for a day of diversity while exploring Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Having been to the actual Grand Canyon in Arizona, I had my reservations. We loved it. No doubt your family will too.
Unlike anything else in all of the Hawaiian Islands’ landscape, this chasm is 14 miles long, one mile wide, 3,600 feet deep, and lined with magnificent and diverse colors. The main road, Highway 550, serves as your entry point up to the canyon, which can be explored beautifully from the luxury of your own rental car. Numerous lookout points (almost all boasting kid-friendly restrooms) show you various views of the canyon’s wondrous valleys, buttes, and vistas.
Two main lookouts feature the best views: the lower lookout and Waimea Canyon Overlook. Locals will tell you to arrive early if you don’t want the cloud cover to block part (or all) of your view. We visited on a very cloudy afternoon, but were fortunate enough to get a break in the clouds when we arrived at the top.
If you continue further up the road, you’ll arrive at Kokee State Park which boasts a surplus of kid-friendly hiking opportunities. If you are hoping to hike within Waimea, there are only two official park options. Iliau Nature Loop is an extremely short and easy walk for families with children of all ages. The trail is .3 miles long and loops right back to your vehicle for easy in and out access. The Kukui Trail is not one for the youngest set. Although the entire trail is only 2.5 miles long, it drops over 2,200 feet in elevation as you descend down into the canyon floor. Camping is available by permit at the Wiliwili Camp site, although there is no running water or facilities. Be sure to plan ahead as flash flooding can occur.
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