Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

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, this tour includes opportunities to:

  • stop at a coffee farm
  • hike some of the popular canyon and forest trails
  • visit two swinging bridges, and
  • learn loads about Kauai’s history

PLEASE NOTE: Parking at Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park is $10 per vehicle and admission for each non-resident visitor is $5 per person. You must pay for BOTH parking and admission. Fees can be paid with credit card at any of the parking area kiosks and are valid for both parks.

waimea and na pali tour map stops


We recommend starting this tour by 9 a.m. This is a full-day tour that takes about 6-8 hours to complete.

Kauai Coffee Farm

Approximate time: 15 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 there, 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 coffee is made.

Pa'ula'ula (Russian Fort)

Approximate time: 15 minutes

russian fort brown signboardRussian 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.

On the tour, learn the fascinating back story about this place and about Kauai's last king who once called it home--King Kaumuali'i.

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 Pa'ula'ula from this vantage point.

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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: Depending on the time of year, 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, check out the interpretive signs that describe the native plants.

The trail is actually named after a rare, exotic plant -- the iliau or Kauai greensword -- that is found nowhere else in the world but here on Kauai.

Waimea Canyon Lookout

Approximate time: 15 minutes

rock canyonExpansive 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.

Waipo'o 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 on to 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 Hiking in our app Highlights before hiking.

If you are lucky there is a little fruit stand here for some cold, fresh-cut fruit.

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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, mile detour to a river and the top of Waipo’o Waterfall. There is a small pool above the waterfall that is perfect for swimming.

If you choose to continue walking to the waterfall, just turn around the way you came to get back to the parking lot.

You can also access the Canyon Trail from Halemanu Road. 

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

red houseKokee 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

sea overlookThe 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 a 4 4-mile 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 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, you can grab some ice cream or Hawaiian shave ice at JoJo’s Shave Ice.

Their shave ice comes in a wide range of tropical and traditional flavors. We recommend getting one of their combos with vanilla or macadamia nut ice cream! Their small size is plenty big enough to share.

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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 Menehune who constructed 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. We'll point out his statue in the middle of town.

If you're hungry, there are plenty of places to get some local grinds here in town.

Hanapepe Town

Approximate time: 30 minutes

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

Here in Hanapepe, there are a few quaint art boutiques, restaurants, murals 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. 

If you are here on Friday night, this sleepy little town comes to life with a vibrant art scene.

Hanapepe Swinging Bridge

Approximate time: 5 minutes

If you’re interested in checking out yet another swinging bridge, there's another one in Hanapepe. You can compare which one has better views and feels more sturdy!

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 fun story about Kauai's "state bird" along the way.

When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully toward 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.

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Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Waimea and Na Pali Driving Tour!

We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Shaka Guide recognizes the use of diacritics in the Hawaiian language including the okina or glottal stop and the kahako or macron. In some instances, these have been omitted on our site to ensure the best online experience for our users since not all online platforms recognize these marks. We understand the importance of these diacritics to preserve the language and culture of Hawaii.

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

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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

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