Shaka Guide's Wailua Valley and Waterfalls Tour Itinerary
Shaka Guide’s Wailua Valley and Waterfalls Tour explores the lush landscapes that give Kauai it’s nickname, the Garden Isle. On this excursion you can visit three waterfalls, hike four trails, walk the grounds of a Hindu monastery and snorkel at a beach that’s perfect for the entire family!
This tour has two starting points: Kapa’a and Lihue. This itinerary is designed if you’re starting in Lihue, but all the stops are the same. We’ll note some ways your day might look different if you’re starting in Kapa’a at the end of this itinerary. Plan to spend 6-8 hours exploring on this tour.
*This itinerary starts in Lihue*
As we’ve mentioned, this tour packs a lot in for a relatively short distance. You’ll want to get an early start, around 9 a.m. especially if you’re planning on visiting the Hindu Monastery. This sacred spot closes at noon daily. Snap a Photo at
Approximate time 15 minutes
Wailua Falls in Kauai
Wailua Falls is an iconic 173-foot waterfall surrounded by jungle forest. This spot is just a quick photo op as there’s no hiking to the falls. It’s one of the most epic falls on the island, so you’ll definitely want to make the stop.
Pro Tip! If you haven’t had breakfast stop, after this stop, check out Konohiki Seafood for some local eats. They specialize in items like poke and plate lunches, but they have some pies, mochi and spam musubi. Don’t worry, we’ll guide you there on the tour. If you’re starting the tour in Lihue, we recommend you pick up some snacks and water here, there are limited spots to grab food until you reach Kapa’a where you’ll have tons of choices. Not hungry? Just skip this spot.
Snorkel at Lydgate Beach Park
Approximate time: 1 hour
Lydgate Park is a is a really cool place for kids both young and old alike. Here you will find a gigantic kalamani playground perfect for little kids. There are also rock-enclosed pools that make swimming safe and fun. The protective pools were constructed so that reef fish can still come and go as they please. You can also find picnic tables and even a restroom here.
Visit Ancient Hawaiian Historical Sites
Approximate time: 45 minutes
At this point in the tour, there are a few historical sites one after the other, and we recommend you stop and listen to the stories of each! These sites include four heiaus, which are ancient Hawaiian sacred spots, and birthing stones where mother’s would come to birth future chiefs. Here are the spots and how much time you should expect to spend at each:
- Rising Sun Heiau - 10 minutes
- Hauola Heiau - 10 minutes
- Holoholoku Heiau - 10 minutes
- Birthing Stones - 10 minutes
- Poliahu Heiau - 5 minutes
Have another Waterfall Photo Shoot at 'Opaeka'a Falls
Approximate time: 15 minutes
Located in Wailua River State Park, Opaeka’a falls is a spectacular 150-ft waterfall that flows over volcanic basalt rocks. This is another stop for a photo op right next to the parking lot as there’s no hike to the falls. If you have the time follow the path here and cross the road for a nice view of Wailua river.
Pro Tip! There’s a public restroom in the fall’s parking lot if you need to stop for a bathroom break.
Marvel at the Kauai Hindu Monastery and Walk through a Sacred Forest
Approximate time: 45 minutes
Visit the Kauai Hindu Monastery and learn more about its history and influence, Anson Chappell, CC BY ND 2.0, via FLickr
Please note: the Kauai Hindu Monastery closes at noon.
Nestled on the outskirts of Wailua State Park, you’ll find a 363-acre Hindu monastery that’s considered one of the holiest sites in the hindu religion. This Kadavul Temple is home to the largest quartz crystal on earth surrounded by 108 golden statues of the Hindu god Siva. At the monastery, you can also walk through the site’s sacred garden where you’ll see rudraksha trees, a shrine to ganesha, and a hindu demi-god in the form of an elephant. For more information about visiting this site, such as dress code and etiquette, visit its website here.
There’s no entrance fee but donations are welcome.
Kuilau Ridge Hike OR Keahua Arboretum Walk (OR Skip these and Move onto Sleeping Giant or Ho'opi'i (see below)
Approximate time: 1 hour
Next up, we’ll get to some hiking! You’ll have four hikes to choose from on this tour and they are all in a row. The first two are the Kulia Ridge Hike and the Keahua Arboretum Walk. The Kulia Ridge hike is a relatively flat trail with a broad shaded path through an old growth forest. It’s actually quite long but we recommend just hiking the first mile or so.
If you’re planning on doing one of the later hikes -- Sleeping Giant or Ho'opi'i (or both) -- you might want to skip the Kulia Ridge trail and take a stroll through Keahua Arboretum. This is technically more of a leisurely walk than a hike. Here, you’ll see local plant species like monkeypod trees. If you’re lucky you might even spot a rainbow eucalyptus.
Sleeping Giant Trail OR Ho'opi'i Waterfall Hike
Approximate time: 1.5 -2 hours
At this point in the tour, you’ll have the choice of two more hikes. We recommend you choose one of the two. The first is Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) - West Trailhead. Technically, Sleeping Giant has three hikes of varying difficulties, but our tour takes you to the Sleeping Giant West Trail, which is the easiest. This trek is just over 2-miles round trip and once you reach the top, you’ll be amazed by the sweeping views of Kauai’s coast and Kapa’a Town. If you’re looking for the chance to hike to a waterfall and swim in its pool, you might want to skip Sleeping Giant and head straight to the nearby Ho'opi'i Waterfall Hike.
At Ho'opi'i You’ll meander along a forest trail until you reach the first of two waterfalls. If you want to swim, you’ll have to continue past the first fall to the second where you’ll find a rope swing that you can use to jump into the pool below. This hike is fairly easy and considered family friendly. Be warned -- there are some points where your shoes will get a little wet!
Spend the late early afternoon in Kapa’a Town
Approximate time: 45+ minutes
Enjoy afternoon leisure walks along small shops in Kapaa, Kauai, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Kapa’a Town is a seaside neighborhood with cute restaurants, a few hotels and some historic landmarks. Spend the afternoon learning about these sites and walking around the town visiting local shops and trying some Hawaiian food! For the landmarks in Kapa’a Town, we’ll have you pull over into parking lots to listen to stories.
Here’s what you’ll find:
- Kapa’a Library and Mo'ikeha Railroad Bridges - 5 minutes
- Japanese Lantern - 5 minutes
- Hee Fat Building - 5 minutes
Eat Lunch at a Local Shop
Approximate time: 30 minutes
After you’ve finished learning about the history of some Kapa’a’s landmarks, we’re sure you’ll be ready for some lunch. Pull over into a nearby parking lot (we’ll guide you there) and stop for a bite to eat. We recommend Pono Market for poke of plate lunch, but we’re sure you’ll notice all the cute little cafes and restaurants in Kapa’a. Take your pick and refuel.
Pro Tip! You’re right by Kapaa Beach Park and you’re almost done with the tour. Take your lunch and have a picnic on the beach or go for a post-lunch swim break.
Take in Views of Sleeping Giant
Approximate Time: 5 minutes
After lunch, we have one more scenic spot on the tour. You’ll pull over into a parking lot to learn about Sleeping Giant and view the mountain from a completely different vantage point.
Return to Lihue
Lihue, Kauai; Tor Johnson via Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)
Now that you’ve learned about Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant) we’ll take you back to the road where you’ll make your return to Lihue.
Pro Tip! Optional Side Trip to Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Kapa’a: Here you can rent a kayak and paddle up the river or take the Smith Family’s Wailua River Cruise to the fern grotto. It’s a lovely boat ride, with a narrated tour that comes complete with live music and a hula show. If you’re here around dinner time, you may want to stick around and check out the Smith Family Garden, and luau, which is one of the best on Kauai. www.smithskauai.com
If you’re taking the tour from Kapa’a instead of Lihue here are some ways your day will look different:
- You’ll visit all the landmarks in Kapa’a Town in the morning, versus ending your day there.
- You should bring snacks -- the only place to grab a bite midday will be at a local minimart on your way out of the Ho'opi'i hike. We still recommend waiting till you reach Kapa’a for a proper meal.
- You’ll return to Kapa’a in the mid-late afternoon which means you can stay and visit the beach park for sunset!
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.
Ready to take the Wailua Valley and Waterfalls Tour? Here's everything you need to know before you go!