Waimea Canyon State Park. Canyon in Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon State Park

Canyon in Kauai, Hawaii

waimea canyon Photo © paul bica

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Waimea Canyon State Park

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Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, Waimea Canyon stretches 16 kilometers (16 kilometers) along the western side of Kaua’i in the Hawaiian Islands, United States. It is up to 900 meters (914 meter) deep in places and named for the ‘reddish water’, translating as ‘Waimea’ in Hawaiian, which the eroded red soil of the canyon produces.


Kaua’i, like the other Hawaiian Islands, comprises the top of a volcano, emerging from the ocean floor, and lava flows indicate it to be the oldest of the island group at around 5 million years. During its formation around 4 million years ago, a section collapsed, creating a depression which was filled with lava flows, contributing to the canyon’s structure. Over time, extensive rainfall from Kaua’i’s central peak, Mount Waialeale (Wikipedia
	Article), one of the wettest places on Earth, has also helped carve out the canyon along one edge, with water flowing into the Waimea River, cutting a deep incision into the landscape.

Along the western side of the canyon, the cliffs are composed of thin lava flows which ran down the side of the Kaua’i volcano, while on the other side, the cliff walls are built from lava flows which accumulated in the depression. The underlying geology is tholeiitic and post-shield calc-alkaline lavas, deposited by the island’s volcanic activity, indicate extensive faulting and collapse during the early formation of Kaua’i. Originally black in color, the exposed basalt has, over time, weathered down to a bright red color for which the canyon is famed.

In 1792, goats were introduced to the island by English sea captain, George Vancouver (Wikipedia
	Article), and today they live wild within Waimea Canyon. Their grazing activities have accelerated erosion in the region with no four-footed mammals having existed on the Hawaiian Islands before their introduction.


Today, Waimea Canyon is protected as the Waimea Canyon State Park, which covers around 7.5 square kilometers (1,866 acres). It is a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors, with extensive hiking trails throughout the canyon to explore for both beginner and experienced hikers. The Waimea Canyon Lookout offers incredible views of deep valley gorges, rugged crags, and crested buttes.

Getting There

The Waimea Canyon State Park is accessed from Hawaii State Road 550, with Waimea Canyon Drive the main road leading into the park. Not only are there views across to Kaua’i’s neighboring island, Niihau, from the highway, but lookouts within the park offer fantastic views across Kaua’i’s dramatic interior landscapes. If you continue along this road, you will enter into a mountainous region before it ends in the adjacent Kokee State Park (Wikipedia Article).

Visiting the Canyon

It costs $ 1.00 USD to hike through the Waimea Canyon and the state park, or $ 5.00 USD if you want to take a driving tour. It is best to visit in the morning for the best views of the gorge and before crowds descend around midday. On clear days the canyon’s vibrant colors are at their most vivid, while on cloudy days visibility is quite limited. The most popular lookout areas include the Waimea Canyon Lookout near the 10-marker, the Pu’u ka pele Lookout just past the 12-mile marker, and the Puu Hinahina Lookout near the 13-mile marker.

There are plenty of walks throughout the park, from short meanders to all-day hikes into the canyon. One of the most popular is the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls, a 2-hour walk to cascading falls which takes in some spectacular views of the canyon. You can also extend this walk and create a loop, following the Kumuwela Trail and Halemanu-Koke’e Trail through denser jungle sections to arrive back at your starting point. This four-hour walk takes in a variety of scenery and a diverse array of the park’s flora at different altitudes. Keep in mind that you are walking at elevation, so carry plenty of water and rest frequently.

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Author: Pip Strickland. Last updated: Mar 16, 2015

Pictures of Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park
Waimea Canyon State Park. Photo by John M

Kaua'i - Waimea Canyon State Park - Waimea Canyon State Park
Kaua'i - Waimea Canyon State Park - Photo by Wally Gobetz

Grand Canyon of Hawaii, Waimea - Waimea Canyon State Park
Grand Canyon of Hawaii, Waimea - Waimea Canyon State Park. Photo by carfull...Cowboy State-r


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