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Awa'awapuhi Trail - Kauai


Time: 3-4 HOURS

Distance: 6 MILES

Elevation Gain: 1500 FEET

Foot Traffic: MODERATE

Challenges: Muddy if it's rained, Entirely uphill return trip

Sights: Napali Coast, Awa'awapuhi and Nualolo Valley

What to Bring: Water, Light Snack

This out and back hike may be an easy trail technically, but physically it can be quite challenging. The hike goes gradually downhill for 3 miles primarily through the trees (but with some scenic outlooks), before ending at a ridge with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, Napali Coast, and the Awa'awapuhi and Nualolo Valley. For the more daring, you can venture out onto the narrow ridge for an even more expansive view of the 4000 foot cliffs. After that, it's a 3 mile uphill trek back the way you came.


Today was my day on the West Side of Kauai, where I would be exploring Koke'e State Park and Waimea Canyon State Park. My first stop of the day was Koke'e State Park where I planned on hiking the Awa'awapuhi Trail because of its incredible ocean and Napali coast views.

The trailhead starts in Koke'e State Park, which is behind Waimea Canyon State Park in relation to where you start your drive. It is relatively deep in the park. It took me about an hour and a half to get there from Kapaa on the east side. I also lost cell service when I was in the park so I didn't know exactly where the parking lot was. Just keep your eyes peeled for something like this. There is a sign on the road the signifies the start of the trail as well.

The non-GoogleMaps version of the parking lot. My little red Honda felt inferior next to the better suited 4WDs.

The start of the trail. In case you were wondering, DLNR stands for Department of Land and Natural Resources and DOFAW stands for Department of Forest and Wildlife (I had to look that up after this trip).

A nice warning sign. I would like to think the mark on it is a smiley face... but you can choose what you want to see.

The hike is mostly shaded, which may bug some since there aren't as many views in the trees. For me, it makes the end view that much more rewarding.

There was a little bit of mud to contend with on the day I went. I'm sure this could be pretty slippery if it had been raining.

1.25 miles down, only 2.75 to go!

The trees will tease you every now and then with openings, giving you a little glimpse of the mountains.

The trees will also be an obstacle you have to avoid.

But eventually they will open up enough to give you some lookout points into the canyon.

I can't see my house from here, but I can see the ocean.

You will feel the terrain changing as you make your way out of the trees and closer to the end of the hike.

The sun made the greens of the trees really pop.

You will then enter what feels like a corn field. If you are shooting a video, best to get your camera out!

Almost there...


Aloha! Breathtaking is an understatement for a view like this... But it was going to get better. Time to head to the ridge.

We're going where this Australian guy is coming from.

I should mention here that this is fairly dangerous. The drop offs are several thousand feet on each side.

One slip and... but you won't slip. It really isn't bad if you've done any sort of ridge hiking before. It looks much scarier than it is.

A little view from the end of the ridge. These ladies were waiting for me to enjoy my time so they could take their turn.

And enjoy it I did! This was one of the most incredible views I have every seen. Being out there on that ridge alone with the Napali Coast, Pacific Ocean and valleys all in view was unreal. Even though it was a 3 mile hike back uphill, those moments looking down on such beauty made it all worth it.

Check out some of these amazing views in my video!

Have you done this magnificent hike? Share your experience below!

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