Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide

Waimea Canyon is known as the “Grand Canyon of The Pacific.” On this tour we’ll take you into Waimea Canyon State Park where you can take in epic views of the expansive canyon as well as well as the Na Pali coast. In addition to all the scenic lookouts we’ll take you to, plan on hiking three trails, visiting two swinging bridges, stopping for some fresh poke, shave ice and ice cream, and learning loads about Kauai’s history!

Please Note: Parking at Waimea Canyon is $10 per vehicle and each non-resident visitors must pay a $5 entrance fee per person. You must pay for BOTH parking and entrance.

Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving Tour map


We recommend starting this tour by 10 a.m. This is a full-day tour that takes about 6-8 hours to complete.

Kauai Coffee Farm

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Start your day with a local cup of coffee made right here in Kauai. The rich volcanic dirt and cool trade winds on this island make for ideal coffee growing conditions. While you’re here, check out the visitor center for free coffee samples in a variety of flavors. You can also go for a walk through the coffee farm to learn about how this local java is made.

Russian Fort

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Russian Fort, Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving TourRussian Fort, Elizabeth State Park | Photo by Ivtorov, CC BY SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Looking at this structure now, you probably just see a pile of rocks. But 100 years ago this fort was an armory, barracks and officer’s quarters in the shape of a star with walls 20-feet high and 17-feet wide. The back story about this place is way more interesting than the structure itself!

Waimea Town

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Here in Waimea Town there are some local places to shop and eat. Stop by if you need a quick snack for the road, but other than that we suggest you skip this spot for now and save it for your return trip. We’ll guide you back, we promise!

First Viewpoint

Approximate time: 5 minutes

Make a quick stop for a view of some beautiful scenery. You can even see the Russian Fort from this vantage point.

Red Dirt Waterfall

Approximate time: 5 minutes

If you’ve been to Hawaii, you’ve probably seen a few waterfalls. But, this waterfall is particularly unique. It runs through Kauai’s red dirt, instead of lush green jungle, which is what you normally see. Stop by for a quick picture and then continue into the park.

Note: This waterfall is sometimes dry.

Iliau Nature Loop

Approximate time: 15 minutes

This is our first hike of the day. It is just a third of a mile long, but it offers some awesome views of Waimea Canyon. While you're on the trail, look out for place cards that describe the native plants. The trail is actually named after a rare plant -- ‘Iliau’ -- that is found nowhere else in the world, but here on Kauai.

Waimea Canyon Lookout

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Waimea Canyon, Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving TourExpansive views of Waimea Canyon, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ben Ono

This is the first of two lookouts of Waimea Canyon. This lookout has some of the best views on a clear day. Stand atop the lookout to take in the expansive views of this natural wonder.

Note: This spot requires paid parking.

Waipoo Waterfall View

Approximate time: 5 minutes

We’ll guide you to pull into a small parking lot for a view of an 800-foot waterfall that cascades into the canyon.

Note: depending on the season, this waterfall can be dry. If so, just move onto the next stop.

Pu’u Hinahina Viewpoint

Approximate time: 10 minutes

This is the second of the two lookouts for Waimea Canyon. Here at the end of the parking lot is the trailhead for Canyon Trail. The trail signs are a little confusing, so read the description under Best Hikes in our app before hiking. If you are lucky there is a little fruit stand here for some cold, fresh-cut fruit.

Canyon Trail

Approximate time: 1+ hour

Here is our first major hike for the day! The trail starts at the parking lot and you’ll travel about ¾ of a mile through lush jungle to a spot called Cliff Viewpoint. This trail is moderately challenging so be prepared.

From Cliff Viewpoint, you can turn around and return the way you came or, if you’re feeling adventurous, return to the trail and keep walking along a short, ⅓ mile detour to a river and the top of Waipo’o Waterfall. If you choose to continue walking to the waterfall, just turn around the way you came to get back to the parking lot.

Note: Some of the trees and bushes are overgrown on this trail. In addition, if it’s been raining this trail gets extremely muddy. We highly recommend wearing hiking boots.

Koke'e Lodge & Museum

Approximate time: 20+ minutes

Kokee Lodge; Rick McCharles, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

The lodge and museum at Koke'e are located at a small plateau in the mountain. The lodge is a sit-down restaurant with decent food if you are hungry. If you are lucky, sometimes they have live music! At the museum, there is a display of native plants, animals, and birds. You’ll also learn some history about the region. If you are interested in other hiking trails in the area, the museum staff are knowledgeable so feel free to ask them questions.

Note: Entry to the museum is free but donations are accepted.

Kalalau Lookout

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Na Pali Coast, Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving TourThe beautiful Na Pali Coast, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Ben Ono

Here you will find your first view of the glorious Na Pali Coast. However, don’t be upset if dense fog prevents you from seeing any views, it’s typical at this altitude. Try waiting it out a few minutes as the fog tends to come and go in waves.

Pu'u O Kila Lookout & Pihea Trail

Approximate time: 1+ hour

From this lookout, you get a view of the iconic Na Pali coast. You can also see the peak of Mt. Wai’ale’ale and a swamp called Alaka’i Swamp - one of the wettest places on the entire planet with about 450 inches of rain a year. Nearby, there’s a hike called Pihea Trail.

This trail is relatively flat and is considered family-friendly. The hike is 4 miles round trip, but you can hike as far as you’d like and return the way you came. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing views of this Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali coast.

This spot can also experience dense fog, so be mindful as you’re hiking. Depending on the weather you might just get a nice walk, but no views of the Na Pali Coast. Also be aware that if it has rained recently, this trail can get pretty muddy!


Return Trip Down the Mountain

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Now, we’ll head back towards Waimea Town with stories and music along the way!

Jojo’s Shave Ice

Approximate time: 10 minutes

As we return to Waimea Town there is a great little shave ice called Jojo’s Shave Ice. They have a wide range of tropical and traditional flavors. Add ice cream with condensed milk for a sugar rush!

Menehune Ditch and Swinging Bridge

Approximate time: 20 minutes

This unassuming block in the back of town has two really cool spots to check out: an ancient ditch and a swinging bridge. If you park before the bridge, the bridge will be on your right (you can’t miss it) and the ditch is on your left at the base of the mountain. You might be thinking to yourself, what’s so cool about a ditch? Well, we’ll tell you the story of the men that made this ditch thousands of years ago. After, go for a walk on the bridge and feel the foundation swing beneath your feet!

Waimea Town (Food Stop) & Captain Cook Statue

Approximate time: 20 minutes

In 1778, Captain Cook became the first Westerner to discover Hawaii. The place where Cook first set foot in Hawaii is right here in Waimea, so, there’s a statue of him in the middle of town. While you’re here, grab some fresh poke at Ishihara Market. You can eat it on one of the benches outside the statue. Otherwise there are plenty of other places to get some local grindz here in town.

Hanapepe Town

Approximate time: 30 minutes

Hanapepe Swinging Bridge; Jakob Owens via Hawai Tourism Authority (HTA)

Here in Hanapepe, there are a few quaint art boutiques, restaurants, and an interesting little bookstore called Talk Story. In fact, it’s the westernmost bookstore in the United States! Feel free to stop anytime as we do a quick drive through the town.

Lappert's Ice Cream - Temporarily Closed

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Just outside of Hanapepe, there is a famous local ice cream store called Lappert’s Ice Cream. They’ve got some local flavors like macadamia nut, coconut, and pineapple – all homemade, and tasty. Stop by if you’re looking for a sweet treat to end your day.

Hanapepe Swinging Bridge

Approximate time: 5 minutes

If you’re interested in checking out yet another swinging bridge, stop here. You can compare which one has better views and feels more sturdy! This bridge is much more accessible and well maintained. If you are here and Friday night this sleepy little town comes to life with a vibrant art scene.

Return to Lawai

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Hanapepe is only a few minutes from Lawai, where you started the tour, we’ll guide you back in that direction with a story about Hawaii’s state bird along the way.

When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully towards the locals, land and wildlife. Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.

Like this article? Share it on Pinterest!

waimea and na pali tour

Ready to take the Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Tour? Here's everything you need to know before you go! 


Know Before You Go, Waimea and Na Pali Driving Tour

Best Places To Eat In Waimea & Hamakua

Waimea Canyon Travel Guide

Waimea Valley Travel Guide

Waimea Bay Travel Guide

shaka guide app qr code

Download The Shaka Guide App

Get The
Shaka Guide App