Awaawapuhi Trail is my favorite hike in the Koke’e State Park. It has incredible drop-offs and epic views down to the Na Pali Coast. It only takes about an hour and a half each way along the total of six miles out and back journey. If you only have time for one hike on the west side of Kauai, this is your trail.
I hiked all over Kauai for over a month and documented all of my adventures. In my opinion, these are the 15 best hikes on Kauai!
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Awaawapuhi Trail Details
- Distance: 6 miles out and back
- Duration: 4 hours
- Incline: 650m
Awaawapuhi Trailhead Location
Awaawapuhi Trail is one of the more popular hikes in the Koke’e Park and subsequently has a large, signposted parking lot. It is before the Kalalau lookout but still takes well over 30 minutes to reach there from Waimea Town. The trailhead is on the left of the parking lot.
MY TOP HOTEL PICKS FOR KAUAI
- Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area.
- Koloa Landing Resort – Luxury (high-end): LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping.
- The Grand Hyatt Resort – Best Family Resort: Best kids’ club on the island, a 5-acre pool complex with a lazy river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking.
- Read my full guide: You can check my favorites in my Kauai: Where to Stay Guide
The Awaawapuhi Trail Hike
The Awaawapuhi Trail is one of the more moderate difficulty hikes in Koke’e State Park. While the end viewpoint can get quite dangerous and steep if you venture down, the majority of the trail is well defined and quite straightforward. For a shortlist of shorter hikes on Kauai, you can check out my Easy Hikes Guide for Kauai.
The trail is quite wide in most parts and even though it had been raining a lot, the trail was in good condition. Heading down the Awaawapuhi Trail might give you some false confidence about how easy the hike will be. It’s because you spend the entire time hiking down 1500ft. You will feel each and every single step of the way back up as you breathe through the humid air inside the forested path.
The trail out towards the lookout took just under an hour and a half and was in shade most of the way. There were several groups of older hikers and it seemed to be the trail that was being attempted by all types of tourists.
We arrived at the official viewpoint and were blown away by the view. The dramatic drop-offs on either side of the Awaawapuhi ridge were something you don’t see anywhere else in the world. Kauai is the oldest island in the Archipelago and these cliffs have been shaped over thousands of years. It’s mind-blowing to stand at the lookout and take it all in.
What are my favorite pieces of hiking gear?
There are four pieces of gear that I simply never forget when I go on a hike. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
Most people stop there but it is possible to venture down the ridge although this can be quite dangerous. The rocks can be very crumbly and no step is certain on the ridges out in Koke’e State Park.
The reason why I love this trail and what makes it my favorite out in the west is because of the magnitude of the dropoffs and the gorge. Because the Awaawapuhi Trail drops you so low, you feel like you are almost down in the valley looking up towards the top of the other ridges. These landscapes are what thousands of people travel to Kauai for. They are unique and they are absolutely incredible!
What are my favorite pieces of travel gear?
There are four pieces of gear that I simply never travel without. These are four items that I using right now and this list gets updated every year! Here are my travel essentials.
- Packing Cube Set: Once you cube you’ll never go back. Organize your clothes within your luggage with these smart mesh containers. It will revolutionize your packing.
- Quick-Dry Towel: A quick-dry towel is a must for travelers. It hardly takes up any room and dries in seconds.
- Travel Wallet: Keep your passport, wallet, and vaccine card safe as well as any forms and important documents you need to store.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: I’ve used this for three years. It filters your water with one press and you can drink directly from it. Never buy a plastic water bottle again!
WHERE TO STAY ON KAUAI
- Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. The best part about this hotel is that it is right on the beach. The restaurant literally looks out to the waves, which is an awesome spot to start your day with breakfast.
- Koloa Landing Resort – Luxury (high-end): I was lucky enough to spend three nights reviewing Koloa Landing Resort and honestly the place is just phenomenal. It has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas.
- The Grand Hyatt Resort – Best Family Resort: With the best kids’ club on the island, wildlife talks in the lobby, and a five-acre pool complex that includes an enormous lazy-river pool, a waterslide, and a saltwater lagoon big enough for kayaking, the Grand Hyatt is unbeatable for keeping kids busy and parents happy.
- Hilton Garden Inn – Value Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number-one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, private beach access, and hot tub.
- For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.