Kauai's Waterfalls: Exploring the Island's Best Wonders

Waterfalls are an integral part of Kauai’s landscape, enhancing the island’s natural beauty and providing a breathtaking backdrop for outdoor activities.

They play a vital role in the island’s ecosystem, feeding the lush vegetation and supporting diverse wildlife habitats. Kauai’s waterfalls also hold cultural significance for Native Hawaiians, who view them as sacred spaces imbued with mana (spiritual power).

Best time of year to visit

The best time to visit Kauai’s waterfalls is during the winter and spring months (November to April), as this is when the island experiences more rainfall, resulting in stronger and more impressive waterfalls.

While some waterfalls flow year-round, others are more seasonal, so visiting during these months will maximize your chances of witnessing Kauai’s waterfalls at their most spectacular.

Kauai Waterfalls

Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls is an iconic and easily accessible waterfall located near the east side of Kauai, near the town of Lihue.

This majestic waterfall stands at approximately 173 feet tall and is recognizable for its double cascade, which sometimes merges into a single stream during lower water flow. Wailua Falls gained fame due to its appearance in the opening credits of the TV show “Fantasy Island.”

Hawaii Kauai Wailua Falls Helicopter

Accessibility to Wailua Falls is straightforward, with a well-maintained viewpoint located just off Maalo Road (Highway 583). The parking lot is a short walk from the viewing area, making it an ideal destination for those who prefer not to hike.

For the more adventurous, a steep, unofficial trail leads down to the base of the falls, but caution is advised as the path can be slippery and dangerous.

Hiking through the tropical rainforest trails will take you to a view that provides a full panoramic view from different angles. Apart from the spectacular view, swimming in the cool and refreshing pool below the waterfall is another popular activity for visitors.

Opaeka’a Falls

Opaekaa Falls, located on the eastern side of Kauai near the Wailua River, is another stunning waterfall with easy accessibility.

The falls stand at approximately 151 feet tall and cascade down a basalt wall into a hidden pool below. The name “Opaekaa” translates to “rolling shrimp” in Hawaiian, a reference to the shrimp that were once abundant in the stream.

Opaekaa Falls Kauai Trip
Baris Parildar

To reach Opaekaa Falls, visitors can take Kuamoo Road (Highway 580) to the well-marked Opaekaa Falls Lookout. The viewpoint is easily accessible from the parking lot, requiring no hiking.

Although the trail to the base of the falls is closed to the public due to safety concerns, the lookout provides excellent photo opportunities and views of the waterfall and the surrounding valley.

Hanakapiai Falls

Hanakapiai Falls is a breathtaking 300-foot waterfall nestled deep within the Na Pali Coast‘s verdant valleys. The falls are a popular destination for hikers looking for a more challenging adventure, as they require a strenuous hike to reach.

Hanakapiai Falls Kauai
Marko Stavric

To access Hanakapiai Falls, visitors must embark on the famous Kalalau Trail, starting at Ke’e Beach. The hike to the falls is approximately 8 miles round trip and involves crossing the Hanakapiai Stream, which can be hazardous during periods of heavy rain.

Hikers should be prepared for steep inclines, slippery terrain, and potential flash floods. It’s essential to check weather conditions before attempting the hike and to carry sufficient water, food, and appropriate footwear.

Waipoo Falls

Waipoo Falls is a striking two-tiered waterfall located within Waimea Canyon, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The waterfall is approximately 800 feet tall, with the main drop being around 600 feet. The cascading water and red rock formations create a stunning contrast in the lush canyon landscape.

Waipoo Falls Waimea Canyon State Park
Kirk Hauer

To access Waipoo Falls, visitors can take the moderately difficult Canyon Trail, which starts at the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout in Koke’e State Park. The hike is approximately 3.2 miles round trip and takes about 3-4 hours to complete.

While the trail doesn’t lead to the base of the falls, it offers excellent views of Waimea Canyon and a smaller waterfall along the way.

Manawaiopuna Falls: Jurassic Park Falls

Manawaiopuna Falls, also known as Jurassic Falls, gained its fame after featuring in the movie “Jurassic Park.” This magnificent waterfall is approximately 400 feet tall and located in the heart of Kauai’s lush interior, surrounded by dense vegetation and towering cliffs.

Manawaiopuna Falls Islands Helicopter
Island Helicopters

The falls are located on private property, making them inaccessible by foot. The only way to experience Manawaiopuna Falls is by booking a helicopter tour that includes a landing at the base of the falls.

This exclusive experience provides an up-close view of the breathtaking waterfall and its surrounding landscape, creating a truly unforgettable adventure.

Queen’s Bath

While not a waterfall, Queen’s Bath is a unique tidal pool located on Kauai’s north shore near the town of Princeville. Formed by lava rock, the pool is filled by waves crashing over the rocks, creating a natural “bath” with various aquatic life, including small fish and sea urchins.

Queens Bath Pool Kauai
Kenneth Davis

To access Queen’s Bath, visitors must take a short but steep and slippery hike along a trail starting in a residential area. The hike is approximately 0.8 miles round trip, and caution is advised, especially during wet conditions.

It’s essential to visit Queen’s Bath during calm seas and low tide, as high surf and strong currents can make the area extremely dangerous.

Ho’opi’i Falls

Ho’opi’i Falls consists of two picturesque waterfalls on the Kapa’a Stream, hidden within the lush Kauai jungle. The upper falls feature a serene cascade with a small pool, while the lower falls are larger and more powerful, with a deeper pool suitable for swimming.

Hoopii Falls Kauai
James S

To access Ho’opi’i Falls, visitors can take the Ho’opi’i Falls Trail, which starts at the end of Kapahi Road. The trail is approximately 2 miles round trip and can be muddy and slippery, requiring caution and appropriate footwear.

The hike involves navigating through dense vegetation and crossing the stream, but the reward is a secluded and serene waterfall experience.

More waterfalls in Kauai

We have compiled the most popular waterfalls. Of course, the waterfalls of the island of Kauai are not limited to these. There are many waterfalls. You can see the list of waterfalls on the island of Kauai below.

  1. Uluwehi Falls (Secret Falls)
  2. Mount Waialeale Falls aka Blue Hole Falls
  3. Ho‘ole‘a Falls
  4. Hanakoa Falls
  5. Kipu Falls
  6. Kilauea Falls
  7. Kalihiwai Falls
  8. Unnamed Twin Falls
  9. Hinalele Falls

Guided tours and helicopter rides

For those looking to explore Kauai’s waterfalls, guided tours and helicopter rides offer unique and memorable experiences.

Guided tours, led by knowledgeable local guides, provide insights into the history, geology, and flora and fauna of the area. They also offer the opportunity to visit hidden waterfalls that may not be accessible by foot.

Helicopter rides provide a bird’s-eye view of the island’s most stunning waterfalls, some of which are inaccessible by land. These aerial tours provide a thrilling and unforgettable way to witness the true majesty of Kauai’s cascading falls and the breathtaking landscape that surrounds them.


What to bring with you on a hike?

When embarking on a hike, it’s essential to be well-prepared to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Key items to bring along include comfortable and sturdy footwear, weather-appropriate clothing (including rain gear), plenty of water, snacks or a packed lunch, a small first aid kit, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat.

Additionally, bring a map or guidebook, a fully charged phone with GPS capabilities, and a portable charger. A lightweight backpack is also helpful for carrying your belongings, and trekking poles can provide extra stability on uneven terrain.

What waterfall can you drive up to Kauai?

In Kauai, you can drive up to Wailua Falls, which is easily accessible by car. A well-maintained viewpoint is located just off Maalo Road (Highway 583), a short walk from the parking lot, making it an ideal destination for those who prefer not to hike.

Can you swim in any waterfall on Kauai?

While swimming in some of Kauai’s waterfalls is possible, it’s crucial to exercise caution and be aware of potential hazards such as flash floods, slippery rocks, and strong currents.

Some waterfalls, like Ho’opi’i Falls, have pools suitable for swimming. However, always check local conditions, respect posted signs, and prioritize safety when deciding to swim in a waterfall.

How many waterfalls are there in Kauai?

There is no definitive number of waterfalls in Kauai, as the island’s landscape is ever-changing due to rainfall, erosion, and vegetation growth.

Kauai is home to numerous waterfalls, ranging from well-known and easily accessible ones like Wailua Falls and Opaekaa Falls to lesser-known, hidden gems that can only be reached through challenging hikes or helicopter tours.

What is the biggest waterfall in Kauai?

Waipoo Falls, located in Waimea Canyon, is considered the biggest waterfall in Kauai. The waterfall is approximately 800 feet tall and features a two-tiered cascade. The main drop accounts for around 600 feet of the waterfall’s height, making it a remarkable sight to behold.

How to get to Kauai?

To get to Kauai, the most common method is to fly into Lihue Airport (LIH), the island’s primary airport.

Several airlines offer direct flights from mainland US cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, as well as connections through other Hawaiian islands like Oahu and Maui.

Upon arrival at Lihue Airport, you can rent a car, arrange a shuttle, or use public transportation to reach your final destination on the island.


In conclusion, Kauai’s waterfalls are a significant aspect of the island’s captivating landscape, drawing visitors from around the world to witness their beauty.

By visiting during the winter and spring months and considering guided tours or helicopter rides, you can experience the best of what these natural wonders have to offer.

So go ahead, immerse yourself in the splendor of Kauai’s waterfalls, and create unforgettable memories to cherish for a lifetime.