From the viewpoint the waterfall is spectacular but the Wailua Falls hike allows you to follow the trail down to the bottom pool and enjoy the raw power of this waterfall from up close.
The Wailua Falls hike is only a short trek down a slope, which is often quite slippery and muddy. Despite the short distance, this is a waterfall hike for able-bodied, fit people. This is due to the steep incline and muddy terrain. I consider myself to be in good shape and a good hiker and slipped several times onto my back on the way down to give you an example of why this isn’t a great trail to take your grandmother on, especially if it has been raining recently.
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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Wailua Falls Hike Details
- Hike Distance: The distance of this out-and-back trail is 1 mile
- Hike Duration: The suggested duration 1 hour
- Hike Difficulty: Depending on the current condition of the trail it can be slippery, especially after heavy rain.
- Hike Incline: 100m
Wailua Falls Hike trailhead and directions
Wailua Falls Hike is several trailheads.
- The easiest and first route: starts right near the main parking lot. There is a constant flow of tourists parking right above the falls, taking a few pictures then heading off. Park here and then walk down the fence away from the falls until a large wired fence begins. Cross over the short fence at this point. Continue walking away from the falls holding onto this 6ft wired fence for support. After 50 yards you will find a trail to your left that is worn away with roots and some rope here and there for support. This is the easy trail, takes 10 minutes to get down and shoots you out right at the Wailua Falls bottom pool. I highly recommend this route. I missed it and took a much muddier, steeper route.
- The second route: Drive to Wailua Falls main parking lot and then don’t park. Drive back away from the falls. There will be a small parking spot on the left after a few hundred yards. Keep driving. There will be another parking area on the left, drop your car here and the trail begins right on this fence. It is obviously a much less trafficked trail and consequently, it sucks. We slid down as if we were walking on ice while clinging to trees for dear life. Okay, a little dramatic! It wasn’t life-threatening but bloody slippery and hard to descend. It shoots you out a few hundred yards down-river from Wailua Falls. This wasn’t intentional but was nice as the scenery walking along the river towards the falls was serene. It only took us ten minutes or so of wading through the water and scrambling rocks to reach Wailua Falls. On the way back we scurried up the first route I described and realized our error. Although, it was a scenic error. The choice is yours.
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.
Wailua Falls Hike
Now that you know how to find the trail, I’ll let you know what you can expect from the Wailua Falls hike and the experience at the base of Wailua Falls.
If you take the scenic slippery route as we did you will encounter mud and lots of it. We slipped our way down to the river and figured we would just walk upstream until we hit the falls. There was no one downstream and we took a few moments to enjoy the serenity of the stream. As you will find all over the island while hiking on Kauai, huge trees draped in ferns battle to reach the top of the forest in search of sunlight. I actually flew over this region on a Kauai Helicopter ride and it looked incredibly dense from above.
We waded through the water, still able to keep our camera gear above our heads and dry. Hugging the river bank we scrambled along through the rocks and then entered a section of the stream covered in reeds and boulders. The lighting was insane and it was such an unexpected little journey.
We only had to walk for ten minutes through the stream until we reached the Wailua Falls pool. It is a booming falls and gets even more violent after a big storm. Wailua Falls is an epic 173ft in height, which is 52.7m. People have jumped from the top in the past and you will find these clips on Youtube. That is an insane height and I believe several people have been very badly injured attempting it. While this isn’t a great place for jumping, there are some great cliff jump spots on Kauai.
What to do at Wailua Falls
Okay, so I might have just squashed some dreams of avid cliff jumpers but there are still many adventures to be had at the base of Wailua Falls.
- You can swim in Wailua Falls and it will definitely be refreshing as the water is freezing. I would advise steering clear of anywhere near where the waterfall smashes into the pool as you don’t want to get sucked into that mess. There is quite a strong current in the pool but it seemed to push outward. Stay near the edges and don’t go inspecting the waterfall too close while you swim.
- Swim over to the side of the pool or you can walk on the left side and you can climb up and creep your way behind the falls. It is quite slippery so be careful but the view of the falls from behind is incredible. Rainbows appear everywhere and to be behind such a powerful flow of water was probably my favorite part of the Wailua Falls hike. Being able to get behind the waterfall and its raw power made me decide that this was my favorite waterfall on Kauai.
Hope you enjoy this blog post about the Wailua Falls Hike. Stay safe and I hope you don’t get too muddy on the trail down. Always pack out your trash and even take some extra out with you if you find any. Leave the place better than when you came.
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Tuesday 25th of October 2022
Please stop promoting this hiking trail. Not only is it ILLEGAL to hike down to Wailua Falls, it's also extremely dangerous. People have died on this trail, as recently as last week (10.22.22). There are no hiking, no trespassing signs posted everywhere and these signs are there for a reason. Please stop promoting this CLOSED trail.
Long Time Resident
Sunday 23rd of October 2022
TODAY on our County of Kaua'i FB Page: From Kaua'i Police Department: Hiker dies at Wailua Falls; Police identify victim. The Kaua‘i Police Department has identified the 28-year-old female who died at Wailua Falls Saturday afternoon as Nicole Chavez of Chile. In the interest of safety, officials remind everyone that Wailua Falls is closed off to hiking. “No Hiking,” “No Trespassing,” and “Danger” signs are in the area, advising the public.
Sunday 31st of July 2022
We did this hike and not knowing or researching about it. We did the Backcountry tubing and our guide mentioned it so we went. We saw the chain link fence that you talked about but we climbed over the hip height rock wall near the fence where we accessed the trail down. It was difficult and thank God for some good hikers that left those ropes there to hold on to. It took us about maybe 30 minutes to climb down since we didn’t want to rush because you do have to hold on to your dear life. Definitely need good hiking shoes. The trail was pretty dry when we went about 10 days ago. Water fall was an amazing sight. You see it from above and it’s already pretty amazing and when you see from down below at the waterfall pool it’s even more magnificent. We swam and spent about a couple of hours there. We also went behind the falls and people were jumping off the rocks between the two falls. It was an amazing experience. People will hike to this waterfall no matter what. I think they should just put up a safer trail for everyone IMO. We also hiked the Kalalau trail on Napali Coast at Ha’ena State Park. The trails there are a lot safer than this waterfall trail and they should do the same for this waterfall trail. Safe hiking out there everyone.
Monday 18th of April 2022
Do you think the first route down would be doable w/ a toddler (possibly in a hiking backpack) ? Or do you recommend any other routes to the bottom? My hiking experience I would say is pretty good.
Sunday 31st of July 2022
@Ramon, I would say no to that. You don’t have enough space through the tree roots openings that you have to crawl through. I wouldn’t try hiking there with a baby. No way.
Sunday 30th of January 2022
This is a Sacred place. Please show our culture respect. Also the state does fine Trespassers up to a 1000$ dollar. DLNR officers are Federal officers. AND ACCIDENT DO HAPPEN ALOT.
Long Time Resident
Sunday 23rd of October 2022
Ha'ena Beach Park/Kalalau Trail is monitored. In fact, they close it down occasionally to widen the trail for safer hiking. It's also a designated trail that does NOT have 'no trespass' signs and fences in an effort to keep visitors safe like there are Wailua Falls. Am assuming you have no clue how many ignore the signs and fences there on a regular basis, then put our first responders at risk. Happens far too much! Most visitors don't realize our soil is clay and when wet it's slippery like snot. There's no other way to describe it. I wiped out and injured myself recently while walking 'cautiously' on a level, unpaved driveway! It's irresponsible bloggers (from other places) who encourage and create the majority of the issues we have in the mountains and ocean here. Who pays for these rescues? The residents do, and we're tired of it! Bloggers don't care, they just want followers.
PS: On our County FB page today: "The Kaua‘i Police Department has identified the 28-year-old female who died at Wailua Falls Saturday afternoon as Nicole Chavez of Chile."
Sunday 31st of July 2022
@LocalsOnly, no one is manning the place. Even locals go there according to our tubing guide. We wouldn’t know about it if it wasn’t mentioned to us by a local. There’s even a lady selling banana bread, water and juice by the waterfall. Ha’ena State Park have dangers signs too but they still allow people to make reservations and hike there.