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KUILAU RIDGE TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII

KUILAU RIDGE TRAIL ON KAUAI, HAWAII

In what was a last-minute decision, we opened up Google Maps and searched for a hike near Wailua, which we could do before sunset. The Kuilau Ridge Trail looked perfect and was just past Opaeka’a Falls. It’s only a 2-mile, out and back trail, which is easy for all levels of hiking ability.

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. Also, be sure to check out my Oahu Hiking Guide if you head over there after your adventures on Kauai.

Kuilau Ridge Hike Details

  • Hike Distance: The distance of this out and back trail is 3.6 miles
  • Hike Duration: The suggested duration 2 hours
  • Hike Difficulty: Depending on the current condition of the trail it can be slippery, especially after heavy rain.
  • Hike Incline: 200m

Kuilau Ridge Trail Map

To get to Kuilau Ridge Trail you just cruise up past the Opaeka’a Falls. It’s only about 20 minutes from the beach in Wailua. There is a small parking lot, which can fit about five cars. A brown and yellow state sign marks the entrance and clearly says Kuilau Ridge Trail.

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The carpark is on the right-hand side of the road and you will find this sign, clearly showing the start of the trail.
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Once you pass this gate you have officially started the Kuilau Ridge Trail.

The Kuilau Ridge Trail Hike

The Kuilau Ridge Trail is a perfect two-hour adventure and one of the best easy hikes on the island. It’s short but because you are already elevated so high from the drive, the views are awesome from the first moment. A small muddy trail leads you along a winding path that cuts in and out along the ridge for two miles.

The trees and plants on the Kuilau Ridge Trail are out of this world. Huge ferns blanket the lower level of the forest, while enormous trees tower above you as you make your way along the path. It’s a classic Hawaii hike that has you feeling like you are on the set of Jurassic Park.

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Huge trees line the Kuilau Ridge Trail
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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.
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After you are about 3/4 of the way into the Kuilau Ridge Trail you will find a couple of benches in huts. This isn’t the end of the hike, although it is an important marker. If you turn on a right angle to your right and follow the path down the hill, this will lead you in the right direction to the end of the Kuilau Ridge Trail. If you continue on forwards you will reach a dead-end. However, you should go forward and reach the dead-end because these were the best views of the hike!

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These benches & huts mark about 3/4 of the way through the Kuilau Ridge Trail. The viewpoint is nearby but this is not the end of the trail.

From this viewpoint, you can check out the epic views of the valley. We counted six layers of mountains and as we looked at the blanketed ferns creating a canopy below, it was a scene I won’t forget.

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This is the epic viewpoint at the end of the Kuilau Ridge Trail
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How epic are the canopies and layers from this view!

Once you finish up enjoying the viewpoint head back to the benches and indeed take that right angle turn down the hill to continue the trail. It got increasingly muddy from here on in and the trail had quite an odd finish. In the depth of the forest, the trail suddenly finishes abruptly as a sign says ‘End of the Kuilau Ridge Trail’.

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We continued hiking past the viewpoint and the benches. The trail got quite muddy here!
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The end of the trail is marked by the sign and bridge.

We hiked a little further but nothing much changed as we were inside thick tree cover so after 20 minutes we turned around and went back to the huts for sunset before making our way down the mountain after sunset.

I highly recommend this simple but beautiful hike on Kauai for a short adventure just out of Wailua.

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How crazy is Kauai! This was the amazing sunset experience we had as we made our way back down the Kuilau Ridge Trail!

Where to stay on Kauai

I’m going to recommend five places to stay on Kauai. All five of these spots are in great locations but each one is a little different. Two are a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection. For more accommodation recommendations you can check my favorites in the Kauai Where to Stay Guide.

Kauai Shores HotelLuxury (but value also): A luxury feels with the resort-style property, palm trees, and a beautiful pool area. However, it is less than $300 a night. 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 ResortLuxury (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 ResortBest 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 InnValue 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, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.

Valerie

Tuesday 4th of October 2022

We did this hike yesterday and it did not disappoint! Thank you for the recommendation to go beyond the hut/benches. So beautiful! I will say that the sign to start the trail was not there, but we knew we were in the correct place because of the gate and we matched it to your picture!!

Matthew

Saturday 29th of January 2022

You could have taken moalepe and ended up in the homesteads. It’s about the same distance back down to the hike entrance.

15 BEST HIKES ON KAUAI, HAWAII - Journey Era

Wednesday 28th of February 2018

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