That sounds like a strange assortment of things, right? Trust me, it makes sense. West Kauai has one of my favorite hikes on the island as well as a perfect beach to watch the sunset. Read on to find out more!
This lookout is part of the Koke’e State Park in West Kauai. The road through Koke’e winds up the mountains for miles, and Waimea is the first major lookout you’ll come across. That means it’s a perfect spot to stretch your legs and blow your mind at the same time.
Since this is the first lookout, there are going to be plenty of people trying to check out the view. That means you’ll definitely have to do a bit of posturing to find the best spot for photos. There also might be a native in the traditional garb giving out the interesting backstory to the native Hawaiian culture. Tip him/her if you find the information interesting and ask them for the actual translation of the word Hawaii!
Protip: You also might find a few tents with people selling snacks and other goodies. Make it a point to try a few, they’re delicious!
Now, this is the hike you (and I) have been waiting for. I’ll give an immediate disclaimer, if you have vertigo or are afraid of heights, perhaps reconsider this trek. That being said, if you have good shoes and aren’t nervous around narrow ledges and sheer drops, you’ll fall in love with Kalepa Ridge. It’s an incredible hike that provides absolutely stunning views of Kalalau Valley.
The start to this hike is sort of hidden; there’s a small gate off to the side of the lookout over Kalalau. It was sort of overgrown when we went, so you might need to look closely to find it. Once you start, you’ll see that the beginning of the hike is pretty steep and dusty, so it’ll be pretty slippery no matter if it’s wet or dry.
At only 1.6 miles long, Kalepa Ridge isn’t a terribly long hike. You shouldn’t have much trouble getting to the end, but make sure to check the weather before heading out. If you hike early, you’ll most likely avoid the clouds that roll in towards mid-day. You’re literally in those clouds throughout this hike, so if the weather changes it affects you immediately. Right as we got to the furthest point on Kalepa, lightning struck right over our heads. Crazy, right? It was pouring for the rest of the hike back and it was such a cool and different experience.
Nervous? Don’t let any of these warnings scare you, the views from Kalepa Ridge are 110% worth the trek. Take a look at the photos below and tell me they don’t make you want to see the Kalalau Canyon for yourself! Oh, remember the mountain goats I mentioned? There are a bunch of those too. Just listen for what sounds like a kindergartener shouting.
Your heart pounding thinking about 4,000 foot drops? Maybe check out Wailua Falls instead! It’s much easier (you can see the waterfall from the road) and the falls are mesmerizing to watch. I may or may not have paused in the middle of the road to watch.
Wailua is 173 feet tall and feeds into the Wailua River. The amount of water cascading from the falls depends primarily on how much rain has fallen over the past few days. It was storming for about a week before we got to Kauai, so Wailua was massive. It was primarily overcast for our time at the falls, but the sun popped out as we were leaving. There was the perfect rainbow coming off the falls, and I was able to catch just a bit of it above. Cool, right?
This is the most relaxing part of West Kauai, but it requires a bit of a drive and a 4x4 car. I’m serious with the 4-wheel drive car, there’s really soft sand and you’ll get stuck. Polihale Beach is part of Polihale State Park, and it’s a seventeen mile stretch of soft sand, clear water, and gorgeous cliffs looming over the coast. Take a look, it’s really stunning.
Polihale has a parking lot with restrooms, showers, and picnic tables, so you won’t be roughing it if you decide to visit. You can camp there, but you need a permit to do so. Lifeguards don’t patrol there and this beach has been known to have strong currents, so I’d advise not to try to swim. My suggestion for your Polihale trip? Plan it out so you make it there right before sunset. The colors were so gorgeous, I actually forgot to take photos for a few minutes.
That was West Kauai!
This side of the island had some of my favorite views on the island and they should 100% be on your bucket list. So, what did you think of this Kauai series? Have any travel tips or destination suggestions? Comment below and let me know!