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.
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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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 Hotel – Luxury (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 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, has private beach access and hot tubs so you are still getting an awesome value and the resort experience.