Opaeka'a Falls: Kauai's Hidden Gem and Natural Wonderland

Opaeka’a Falls is a stunning waterfall located on the east side of the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii.

This 151-foot tall cascade is situated along the Wailua River, making it an easily accessible and must-visit attraction for anyone exploring the island.

Fed by the Makaleha Mountains’ rainwater, the falls flow year-round, with peak flow occurring during the rainier months.

The name “Opaeka’a” translates to “rolling shrimp” in Hawaiian, a nod to the abundance of shrimp that were once found in the river. Surrounded by lush, tropical vegetation, the falls are a true showcase of Kauai’s natural beauty.

Opaekaa Falls Kauai Trip
Baris Parildar

With a convenient roadside lookout, Opaeka’a Falls offers an excellent photo opportunity for visitors without the need for a strenuous hike.

Opaeka’a Falls history

Opaeka’a Falls holds a significant place in the history and culture of Kauai, Hawaii. The Wailua River Valley, where the falls are located, was once the center of ancient Hawaiian civilization on the island.

The valley was considered sacred and was home to many ali’i (Hawaiian royalty), who chose the area for its fertile land and abundant resources.

Legend of Opaeka’a Falls

There are several Hawaiian legends and myths associated with the area around Opaeka’a Falls. One such legend tells of the demigod, Maui, who tried to unite all the islands of Hawaii by connecting them with a magical rope.

While attempting this feat, Maui stood atop the nearby Mount Waialeale and threw the rope toward Oahu. However, the rope fell short and landed at Opaeka’a Falls, creating the waterfall we see today.

Things to do near the falls

Kauai offers some of the most beautiful hiking and viewing opportunities in Hawaii. Opaeka’a Falls State Park is a great place to start your explorations.

  1. Opaeka’a Falls Lookout Point: Naturally, the main attraction is the lookout point, which offers a breathtaking view of the falls. Take your time to admire the vista, capture memorable photos, and soak in the tranquil atmosphere.
  2. Wailua River Overlook: A stone’s throw from the Opaeka’a Falls lookout point, you’ll discover the Wailua River Overlook. It provides enchanting views of the Wailua River and the lush valley beneath, presenting yet another wonderful photo opportunity.
  3. Wailua River State Park: Located nearby, this park offers an array of activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and boat tours along the Wailua River. The park also houses the famous Fern Grotto, a naturally-formed lava rock cave adorned with ferns.
  4. Hiking Trails: The area boasts several hiking trails, including the Sleeping Giant Trail (Nounou Mountain) and the Kuilau Ridge Trail. These trails cater to varying difficulty levels and provide picturesque views of the island’s landscapes.
  5. Kamokila Hawaiian Village: A short drive from Opaeka’a Falls, this reconstructed ancient Hawaiian village offers a fascinating insight into Hawaii’s history and culture. Visitors can partake in various activities such as traditional crafts, games, and canoe rides.
  6. Wailua Falls: Another stunning waterfall nearby, Wailua Falls, is situated just a 15-minute drive south of Opaeka’a Falls. This 80-foot cascade is easily accessible and presents yet another fantastic photo opportunity.
  7. Sacred Sites: The Wailua River Valley is home to numerous ancient sacred sites, including Poli’ahu Heiau, Holoholokū Heiau, and the Royal Birthstones. Exploring these sites offers an opportunity to learn about the area’s cultural and historical significance.

Best time to visit Opaeka’a Falls

The best time to visit Opaeka’a Falls depends on your preferences for weather and waterfall volume. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect during different times of the year:

  • Rainy Season (November to March)

During the rainy season, Opaeka’a Falls is at its most impressive, with a higher volume of water cascading down the cliffside. If you’re interested in capturing the falls at their most powerful, this is the ideal time to visit.

However, keep in mind that the weather can be unpredictable, with frequent rain showers and potentially slippery conditions near the lookout point.

  • Dry Season (April to October)

Visiting Opaeka’a Falls during the dry season means you’ll likely experience better weather, with more sunshine and less rainfall.

The falls may have a lower volume of water during this time, but they are still a beautiful sight. This is an excellent time to visit if you prefer clear skies and warm weather.

In general, the morning hours are ideal for visiting Opaeka’a Falls, as the sun illuminates the falls and the surrounding lush vegetation. This is particularly important for photographers looking to capture the best possible images.

Regardless of the time of year, always check the weather forecast before your visit and be prepared for changing conditions.

Opaeka’a Falls is a year-round attraction, so you can plan your visit based on your weather preferences and the type of experience you’re seeking.

Tips for visiting Opaeka’a Falls

If you are planning to visit Opaeka’a Falls, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Always stay within the designated viewing areas and do not attempt to climb the steep slopes or access the waterfall from the top or bottom, as the terrain can be slippery and dangerous.
  • Be cautious of wet surfaces near the lookout point, especially during or after rainfall.
  • Bring these. A camera or smartphone for taking photos, sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun, insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes, a hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
  • Do not litter; dispose of any trash in designated receptacles or take it with you when you leave.
  • Stay on designated pathways to avoid disturbing the natural vegetation and wildlife.
  • Do not pick flowers or plants, and avoid disturbing rocks or other natural features.
  • Keep noise levels low to maintain a peaceful atmosphere and respect other visitors.
  • Be mindful of the cultural and historical significance of the area, and treat all sites with respect.

How to get to Opaeka’a Falls

To get to Opaeka’a Falls quickly, follow these simple directions from your current location. Keep in mind that the exact route may vary depending on your starting point:

  1. Determine your current location using your smartphone’s GPS or a map.
  2. Locate the nearest main road that connects to HI-56 (Kuhio Highway).
  3. Head towards the east side of Kauai on HI-56 (Kuhio Highway).
  4. Turn onto HI-580 (Kuamoo Road) – if coming from the north, you’ll make a left turn; if coming from the south, you’ll make a right turn.
  5. Continue on HI-580 (Kuamoo Road) for approximately 1.6 miles.
  6. Opaeka’a Falls will be on your right. The parking area and lookout point are just after crossing the Wailua River.

The scenic drive to Opaeka’a Falls takes you through lush green landscapes and offers glimpses of the beautiful Wailua River Valley. Upon arrival, you’ll find a small parking area with easy access to the Opaeka’a Falls lookout point.

The lookout is wheelchair accessible, and there are no hiking trails required to view the falls, making it a convenient destination for visitors of all ages and abilities.


In conclusion, Opaeka’a Falls is a must-visit destination in Kauai, offering breathtaking views and a serene atmosphere. The area around the falls provides numerous attractions and activities, including hiking trails, river adventures, and cultural experiences.

Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of this enchanting waterfall and the surrounding Wailua River Valley during your visit to Kauai.