WAILUA FALLS HIKE ON KAUAI, HAWAII
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.
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.
Wailua Falls Map
On the Wailua Falls Hike map below, I have dropped pins at the Wailua Falls parking lot, which is where you will find trailhead 1 and the I also added a pin for the parking and entrance point for trailhead option 2 as described above.
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 Kauai, huge trees draped in ferns battle to reach the top of the forest in search of sunlight.
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 get’s 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. I won’t often say definitely not do something if you think you can but this time I’m going to say unless you are Chase Reinford, step back from the cliff. The Wailua Falls jump is not a thing, stay safe.
What to do at Wailua Falls
Okay, so I might have just squashed some dreams of avid cliff jumpers but there is 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.