15 Kauai Waterfalls That Are Open in 2024 + Map
Visitors to the waterfalls of Kauai are encouraged as each of them offers a glimpse into the island’s diverse ecosystems and geological history. Whether you’re an avid hiker seeking a challenging trek or a casual traveler in search of a serene escape, the waterfalls on Kauai are sure to provide a memorable experience.
Kauai, the oldest and fourth-largest island in Hawaii, is a true paradise for nature lovers. Often referred to as the Garden Island, Kauai is famous for its lush green landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and pristine beaches. One of the most breathtaking aspects of Kauai’s natural beauty is undoubtedly its stunning waterfalls. These cascading marvels can be found all over the island, each with its unique charm and characteristics.
From easily accessible falls like Opaeka’a Falls to the more remote gems like the Secret Falls, Kauai offers a wide range of waterfall experiences for visitors. If you don’t know what to do in Hawaii, then come and discover its waterfalls.
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Waterfalls on Kauai with map
Kauai, the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, is home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the world.
Waipo’o Falls, towering at about 800 feet, is Kauai’s highest waterfall accessible by hiking. Located in the Grand Canyon of the Pacific aka Waimea Canyon State Park.
Twin Falls, also known as Makaleha Falls, and Ho’ole’a Falls are enchanting with their series of smaller cascades. Twin Falls, with its twin streams, creates a picturesque scene, while Ho’ole’a Falls, hidden in Kauai’s lush interior, offers a serene and intimate atmosphere, perfect for nature lovers.
For families, Wailua Falls is ideal. It is easily viewable from the roadside, offers a spectacular sight without the need for a strenuous hike, making it accessible for visitors of all ages.
Hanakapi’ai Falls and Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls) are perfect for swimming. Hanakapi’ai Falls, at the end of a rewarding hike, features a large swimming pool at its base. Uluwehi Falls, hidden in the Wailua River Valley, offers a secluded spot for a refreshing swim.
Kalihiwai Falls and Red Dirt Waterfalls are Kauai’s hidden gems. Kalihiwai Falls, tucked away on the north shore, is a secluded paradise, while Red Dirt is just off the road.
Waipo’o Falls – the highest waterfall in Kauai
Waipo’o Falls, cascading 800 feet in the heart of Waimea Canyon, is a two-tiered spectacle. Accessible via the Canyon Trail, a moderately challenging hike, it rewards adventurers with stunning views and a smaller pool at the top for a refreshing dip. Its towering presence in the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a sight to behold.
How to get there? – Access is through Koke’e Road in Waimea Canyon State Park, with the trailhead located near the Puu Hinahina Lookout. Parking is available at the trailhead with no entrance fee for the park or the trail.
Don’t mistake it for the 80-foot tall Wailua Falls in Maui. This Wailua Falls in Kauai is a majestic double-tiered waterfall that stands at 173 feet. Nestled in the lush Wailua River State Park, it’s surrounded by rich tropical greenery. Easily accessible with viewpoints near the parking area, it’s a sightseeing favorite. The falls don’t offer safe swimming options, but their grandeur and ease of access make them a must-visit. The area is steeped in Hawaiian legend, adding a mystical charm to the experience.
How to get there? – Located just north of Lihue, a short drive off Maalo Road (Hwy 583) leads directly to the falls. No hiking is required, and there is no entrance fee or designated parking area, but roadside parking is available.
Opaekaa Falls, a 151-foot tall waterfall, is one of Kauai’s most accessible cascades. Overlooking the lush Wailua River Valley, it’s surrounded by dense rainforest and indigenous fauna. A short walk from the parking area leads to a prime viewing spot. While swimming isn’t possible here, the falls are a photographer’s dream, especially with the historic Wai’ale’ale Mountain in the backdrop. If you have only a couple of days in Kauai, this should be on your list.
How to get there? – Situated in Wailua, it’s easily reached via Kuamoo Road (Route 580) with ample parking available. No entrance fee for the park or the trail.
Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls)
Uluwehi Falls, often called Secret Falls, is a hidden gem with a 120-foot drop. Located in the heart of a tropical jungle, it’s accessible only by kayaking the Wailua River and a moderate hike. The area is a haven for exotic birds and plants. Its secluded pool is ideal for swimming, offering a private paradise experience. The journey to Uluwehi Falls is as enchanting as the destination itself.
How to get there? – Start with a kayak trip up the Wailua River, followed by a hike through the jungle trail. Parking is available at the Wailua Marina.
Manawaiopuna Falls (Jurassic Falls)
Manawaiopuna Falls, famously known as Jurassic Falls, is a towering 400-foot waterfall. Immortalized in the movie “Jurassic Park,” it’s set in a prehistoric-like valley, surrounded by ancient flora. Access is exclusive and typically part of a helicopter tour, offering an aerial view of its grandeur. The falls are not accessible, but their cinematic fame and dramatic setting make them unforgettable.
How to get there? – Accessible only by helicopter tours from Lihue, which is not really an eco-friendly activity.
Kahili Falls (Five Sisters)
Kahili Falls, also known as Five Sisters, is a captivating series of waterfalls located in the heart of Kauai. This quintet of cascades, each varying in size, creates a breathtaking natural spectacle. It is close to the famous Manawaiopuna Falls.
How to get there? – Located near Hanapepe, Kahili Falls is accessible via a challenging hike through dense vegetation. The trailhead is relatively close to the location used for helicopter landings at Jurassic Falls.
Hanakapiai Falls, a stunning 300-foot waterfall, is located along the famed Na Pali Coast. The journey involves a strenuous 8-mile round-trip hike through the Hanakapiai Trail, offering breathtaking coastal views. The surrounding area is rich in native Hawaiian flora and fauna. A plunge pool at the base provides a refreshing swim after the hike. This waterfall adventure is for experienced hikers seeking a challenge and reward.
How to get there? – Accessible via a hike on the Kalalau Trail, starting at Ke’e Beach at the end of Kuhio Highway (Route 560). Parking and entrance require a fee and reservation at Ha’ena State Park.
Ho’opi’i Falls, a lesser-known yet charming waterfall, features two cascades with the main fall dropping about 15 feet. Tucked away in the lush forests of Kapaa, it’s a favorite among locals. The trail to the falls is a moderate hike, revealing diverse island vegetation. The lower falls have a small pool suitable for swimming, offering a secluded spot for relaxation. Its off-the-beaten-path allure is perfect for adventure seekers.
How to get there? – Located in Kapaa, the trailhead is off Kawaihau Road, followed by a hike through the forest. There is no entrance fee, and parking is available on the roadside near the trailhead.
Mount Waialeale Falls: The Weeping Wall
Mount Waialeale Falls, known as The Weeping Wall, is a series of cascades flowing down one of the wettest spots on Earth. The falls, varying in height, create a mesmerizing spectacle amidst the dense, emerald greenery. Access is extremely difficult and often limited to aerial views via helicopter tours. The unique climate and remote location make this waterfall a mysterious and awe-inspiring sight.
How to get there? – Best viewed by helicopter tours, as ground access is hazardous and often restricted.
Hanakoa Falls, a remote and stunning 1,000-foot waterfall, is located along the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. The trail to the falls is a challenging 11-mile round trip, traversing rugged terrain and offering spectacular coastal views. The falls are surrounded by lush valleys and native Hawaiian plants.
How to get there? – It is reached via the Kalalau Trail if you acquire a permit in advance. Parking at Ha’ena State Park with a fee and reservation is required.
Red Dirt Waterfall
Red Dirt Waterfall in Waimea is unique for its striking red dirt cliffs, a result of the high iron content in the soil. The waterfall is relatively small but offers a picturesque contrast against the red backdrop. Located near Waimea Canyon, it’s easily accessible and provides a quick, scenic stop. While not suitable for swimming, its distinctive coloration makes it a photographic highlight.
How to get there? – Located off Highway 550 near Waimea Canyon, easily accessible by car.
Nestled in the lush landscapes of Kauai’s north shore, Kalihiwai Falls is a hidden gem. This stunning waterfall, approximately 80 feet in height, cascades into a secluded pool. Surrounded by dense tropical foliage, it offers a tranquil escape. The falls are accessible via a moderately challenging hike, rewarding adventurers with a serene swimming spot. Its off-the-beaten-path location makes it less crowded, perfect for those seeking a peaceful nature experience.
How to get there? – Book a guided tour with a reputable tour company to access the falls since it is on private land and permission is needed to enter.
Ho’ole’a Falls, a lesser-known treasure in Kauai, offers a serene and intimate experience. This 250-foot waterfall is located in the heart of Kauai’s lush interior. The hike to the falls is moderately challenging, taking you through dense rainforest and along streams. The falls are known for their peaceful ambiance and the beautiful pool at their base, ideal for a refreshing swim. Its secluded location makes it a perfect spot for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty.
How to get there? – There is no designated trail or public access to Ho’ole’a Falls. It’s located in a remote area, and reaching it may require traversing private property.
Twin Falls (Makaleha Falls)
Twin Falls, also known as Makaleha Falls, is a pair of stunning waterfalls located in the eastern part of Kauai. These falls, approximately 200 feet in height, offer a spectacular sight with their twin cascades. The approx. 3-mile round hike to Twin Falls is moderately challenging, taking you through lush landscapes and along streams. The area around the falls is rich in native flora, providing a true tropical experience. Swimming is possible in the pools at the base of the falls, adding to the allure of this hidden paradise.
How to get there? – Located near Kapaa, the falls are accessible via a hike through the Makaleha Mountains.
Queen’s Bath Falls
Queen’s Bath Falls, a unique and picturesque waterfall, is located in the northern part of Kauai near Princeville. This natural tide pool, formed by a sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock, is fed by a small waterfall. The hike to Queen’s Bath is about 0.8 miles round trip and is considered moderately challenging, often slippery and muddy. The trail descends through a lush forest, leading to the stunning oceanfront location. While swimming in Queen’s Bath can be tempting, it is extremely dangerous during high surf and is not recommended.
How to get there? – Queen’s Bath is accessible via a trail starting in a residential neighborhood in Princeville. Parking is limited and the area can be crowded.
Kilauea Falls – CLOSED
Kilauea Falls, a hidden gem on Kauai’s north shore, is a picturesque 40-foot waterfall. Nestled in lush greenery near the historic Kilauea town, it offers a serene and private experience. However, the falls is on private land and the owner denied access to it.
Kipu Falls – CLOSED
Kipu Falls, a small yet charming waterfall, is located near Lihue. This 20-foot waterfall was easily accessible until the landowner Grove Farm put up a fence around it due to safety concerns. The falls feature a picturesque pool surrounded by lush greenery.
Kauai, Hawaii, is known for its stunning waterfalls, many of which are accessible via diverse hiking trails. To enjoy these natural wonders, it is important to consider safety precautions and respect private property guidelines.
When planning a hike, choose a trail that matches your skill level and physical ability. Pack essentials like water, snacks, and sunscreen, and always wear appropriate footwear. Be aware of trail closures due to weather conditions or maintenance, and avoid trespassing on private property.
Before visiting any waterfall, familiarize yourself with potential risks, such as flash floods and dangerous currents, especially during heavy rainfall. The Kauai Visitors Bureau has a free brochure with safety recommendations, including specific suggestions for waterfall adventures, like not diving into pools of water.
It is also important to keep your valuables secure by not leaving them unattended at the beach or in your car. This will help ensure a pleasant experience while exploring the waterfalls of Kauai.
There are numerous waterfalls on Kauai, with 14 being the most prominent ones. Each waterfall has its own unique charm, contributing to the island’s breathtaking beauty.
Some of the waterfalls on Kauai offer swimming options, such as Queen’s Bath Falls and Ho’opi’i Falls. However, it’s essential to exercise caution and pay attention to local guidelines, as some waterfalls may have dangerous currents or sharp rocks, making swimming risky.
No, Wailua Falls and Secret Falls (also known as Uluwehi Falls) are two separate waterfalls in Kauai. Wailua Falls is a spectacular double waterfall, easily accessible, and great for some stunning photographs. Secret Falls, on the other hand, requires a kayaking trip up the Wailua River, followed by a moderate hike to reach the base of the falls.
‘Opaeka’a Falls is one of the most accessible waterfalls in Kauai. This impressive 151-foot waterfall can be viewed from a convenient lookout point, which is easily reachable by car.
Yes, you can drive to several waterfalls in Kauai. Many waterfalls have viewing spots or parking areas nearby, making them easy to visit by car. However, some falls require helicopter ride, hiking or kayaking to fully experience their beauty.
Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.