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Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii. Author Kyle Pearce. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii. Author Kyle Pearce

Waimea Canyon: the Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Waimea Canyon is a spectacular canyon, 16 km long and up to 900 m deep, located on the western side of Kauai along the Hwy 550. Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, the canyon was formed by a deep incision of the Waimea River. This area is a wilderness of deep gorges and labyrinthine canyons, is one of the most spectacular sights in the Pacific. The Kauai’s canyon is more green than the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Along the road are several scenic viewpoint: the Lower Lookout on Waimea Canyon Drive, the Waimea Canyon Lookout, the PuuKa Pele Lookout and the Puu Hinahina Lookout. Continuing to drive up the mountain from Waimea into Kokee State Park you’ll arrive to the Kalalau Lookout and the Puu O Kila Lookout with beautiful views to the Na’Pali Coast.

Years ago, Hollywood made a popular surf movie that featured footage of a majestic canyon on the “Garden Island” of Kauai. At the time, many folks back on the Mainland scoffed at this as just another Hollywood invention to glamorize the Islands, using film clips from real Grand Canyon. Well, as anyone who have seen both canyons can tell you, the stunning beauty of Kauai’s Waimea Canyon approaches, on a smaller scale, that of the Colorado River’s Grand Canyon. It was Mark Twain, one of the many who has seen both natural wonders, who nicknamed Waimea “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii. Author Christopher. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution.

Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii. Author Christopher

It’s a leisurely drive from the seaside town of Waimea, or nearby Kekaha, up the winding two-line road that ascends to the refreshingly cool heights, downright chilly in the winter months, at 4,129 feet above sea level. Most visitors will make it a point to check out the exhilarating view at Waimea Canyon Lookout and the even more spectacular coastline view at Kalalau Lookout, as well as visit Kokee Lodge and the nearby Kokee Museum.

The centerpiece here is the Waimea Canyon Lookout, the views are dazzling of what is accurately described as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. A must visit. Farther north, you have Kokee State Park, another outstanding recreational area with miles of trails through virgin rain forest. There’s also a small but interesting natural history museum with displays of the local flora and fauna. One species of fauna you’ll surely encounter is the brightly plumed bantam roosters which run wild up in Kokee.

Two more lookouts are the Kalalau Lookout and the Puu o Kila Lookout, both of which have spectacular views of the Honopu Valley, the Kalalau Lookout is 4,000 feet in elevation.

Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain, and the natural elements have had 6 million years to carve out the 14 mile long, mile-wide chasm, which plummets 3,600 feet at its deepest point. All along the canyon’s rim there are trails that can be explored briefly or at length.

Last but not least, by any means, Waimea Canyon and environs can be explored by helicopter. Ideally, your trip will take place on a clear day not long after a rain that has replenished the numerous waterfalls gracing the canyon walls.

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