The Grand Canyon of the Pacific
Though only 26 miles across and 21 miles north to south, Kauai is home to one of Hawaii’s natural wonders, Waimea Canyon. Mark Twain was referring to its scale when he dubbed it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
Located on the island’s west side, Waimea Canyon is 10 miles long, a mile wide and about 3,600 feet. The red, green, blue, gray and purple hues of its chasm makes Waimea Canyon a must-see attraction when visiting Kauai.
As far as the eye can see, crags, buttes and gorges march into the distance under a dramatic banner of roses, lavenders, celadons and siennas. The canyon was carved thousands of years ago by numerous floods and rivers flowing down from the summit of Mount Waialeale, renowned as one of the wettest spots on Earth (it receives an average of 466 inches of rain each year).
The canyon can be viewed from a number of lookouts along Waimea Canyon Drive. The road winds into the mountains and ends in the cool forests of Kokee State Park. Here you’ll find hiking trails suitable for both novice and experienced hikers. The trails take visitors along the rim and down into the canyon. If you prefer a bird’s-eye view, take to the skies and enjoy a helicopter tour of the canyon.
Be advised, the loss of elevation is about 2,000 feet in two and a half miles. If you walk down, you’ll also have to walk up!
Within the park is the Kokee Natural History Museum, which houses excellent exhibits on the unique flora of the area, along with maps of hiking trails and nature walks. Rangers are on hand to help you find the most suitable trail for your interests and abilities.
Each May, the park stages the Banana Poka Festival, a fun-filled event featuring hikes, crafts and various family activities. And the Eo e Emalani I Alakai festival in October commemorates Queen Emma’s 1870 visit to Kokee with stirring hula performances.