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. If you are visiting Oahu on your trip to Hawaii make sure you check out one of my most popular posts: 10 Best Hikes on Oahu
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!
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.
The Kuilau Ridge Trail Hike
The Kuilau Ridge Trail is a perfect two-hour adventure. 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.
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!
From the viewpoint, you can check out the epic views of the valley. We counted six layers of mountains and looking at the blanketed ferns creating a canopy below was a scene I won’t forget.
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’.
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 for a short adventure just out of Wailua.
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 is a luxury pick, one is a family choice, the other is a value selection and the last recommendation I have for you is where I recommend for the budget backpackers.
Kauai Shores Hotel – Luxury (but value also): Okay so Kauai is expensive that is just a fact. So luxury on Kauai is REALLY expensive. We are talking $700+ a night at many hotels. Kauai Shores Hotel has the luxury feel 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. This is a great choice if you do want a high-end hotel for your stay in Kauai but you still want to keep things reasonable and not blow thousands and thousands on your getaway. Remember you will want to do lots of activities and get a rental car as well maybe so saving a couple of hundred a night by staying at the Kauai Shores Hotel compared to the Marriot will give you the resort vibe but not be extravagant on your budget.
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 is part of the Wyndham Autograph collection and has the LARGEST pool on all of Kauai with beautiful, natural-style landscaping throughout the pool areas. Palm trees surround the pool and restaurant areas on what is one of the most luxurious properties on the island. The rooms had all of the trimmings and it was definitely an amazing experience to spend a few nights at Koloa Landing Resort.
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. Plus, five of the resort’s 11 restaurants have children’s menus at The Grand Hyatt Resort.
Hilton Garden Inn – Value Pick: The Hilton Garden Inn is your number one choice if you are on a budget but still need comfort. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t cheap it is still over $200 USD but this is Kauai. $200 USD is a bargain. The Hilton has a beautiful pool, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting awesome value and the resort experience. The Hilton Garden Inn is where you go when you want to enjoy the hot tub, pool and beach access but don’t necessarily care about all of the trimmings at the resorts that are 4 figures or more per night. If I was on a honeymoon or with a family, this is where I would stay and spend the saved money and helicopter tours, rental cars and experiences!
More Kauai Blog Posts
I spent an entire month exploring the island of Kauai. In particular, I was hiking all of the trails and made several guides for the best hikes and easiest hikes so you can enjoy the trails of the island.
North Shore Hiking Guide: 4 AWESOME HIKES ON THE NORTH SHORE OF KAUAI
Kauai Hiking Guide: 15 BEST HIKES ON KAUAI
Easy Hikes on Kauai: 8 EASY HIKES ON KAUAI WITH GREAT VIEWS
Cliff Jumping Guide to Kauai: BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON KAUAI
Open Door Helicopter Flight Kauai: EPIC DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF KAUAI