The Views from Waimea State Canyon Park, Kauai, Hawaii, USA


One of Kauai Island’s most appealing scenic attractions is the Hawaiian Grand Canyon located inland in the Waimea Canyon State Park. The Waimea Canyon State Park offers a drive up the spine of Waimea Canyon, allowing for scenic and picturesque views across the canyon on a clear day. Join us while we check out the best view points on the Waimea Canyon drive.

This post is one chapter on our trip on the United Island Hopper and to Oahu & Kauai, Hawaii, United States. This trip was redeemed through Alaska Mileage Plan, United Airlines Mileage Plus and Marriott Bonvoy. It was further enhanced through Marriott Bonvoy Elite Status. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Activity: The Views from Waimea State Canyon Park, Kauai, United States of America.

We started out day three with an earlier than usual wake up. We were down for breakfast at The Sheraton Kauai Resort at 8:30 AM. Today was a local dish, two poached eggs, along with fried rice, crab and sausage, along with scallions and sauce. Ohh, and that side of bacon as well. . . We set up for the morning on the chairs on the ocean lawn.

In the afternoon, we freshened up and headed for our activity for today, a self drive tour of Highway 550. We had planned today’s activities as such…

It was an absolutely spectacular day out for a drive under blue skies.

Driving up the Waimea Canyon State Park:

Highway 550 took us up the Waimea Canyon State Park. Waimea State Park is a giant chasm of ancient lava rock, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It’s approximately 3,500 feet deep and also contains one of the wettest parts of the United States.

Waimea Canyon State Park Lookout #1:

Without a proper map, we headed up the highway courtesy of Google Maps. We eventually stopped at what appears to be a pull out at Waimea Canyon Drive Lookout #1. There were gorgeous views over the “Hawaiian Grand Canyon” to our right.

Waimea Canyon Drive Lookout #2:

We then followed with Waimea Canyon Drive Lookout #2, which involved a small trail hike across flat terrain to some great views. It included the retro park signs from an era past.


Waimea Canyon Lookout:

We eventually made it up to a more official looking Waimea Canyon Lookout that was marked with a proper parking lot instead of a small highway pull over. We paid a $5 USD United States Forest Service day fee for use of (all) the parking lots. We had great views here over an established lookout that was great for panoramic photography.

The parking lot was home to several of the Kauai chickens, a species that seems to have no natural predators on this beautiful island.

Wai’po Falls Lookout:

We continued on a short distance up the road to the Waip’o Falls Lookout overlooking the vast valley. It was very beautiful and we were fortunate to have a clear day for sightseeing.

We finally arrived to the top of the road where there were several separate attractions.

Kalalau Valley Lookout:

Our first stop was at the Kalalau Valley Lookout. The first one we came to past the not so secret radar installation was the Kalalau Lookout. First off, a gratuitous picture of our “All American Black Rental Car”, a big Chevrolet Impala… along with the radar station that appeared to be manned by government officials

Unfortunately, the view of the Napali Coast that is on many postcards from here was totally obscured with cloud due to weather. We waited a bit here but we were timed out with no change in the cloud situation.


The Pu’u’ o Kila Lookout:

We continued on to the Pu’u’ o Kila Lookout at the very top and the official end of the road. We had better luck with the weather here with the sea side being obscured but the valley inland side having much better views. This location proclaims to be one of the wettest spots on earth. Surprisingly, today’s visit was dry and mud free on the trails.

With some luck, we were able to get some peek a boo views of the coast from the top. It was enough to give us a sense of what to look forward to if we ever made it back here.

Driving Down the Waimea Canyon:

From there, we headed down via Route 552. It was approximately 1 hour to get off the mountain with and enjoyable drive. There were some picturesque turns passing through the descent with ocean spread all around you.

We tried to get toward the Polihale State Park. The last 3 miles of the access road is not paved. The first portion of the road was a little rough 9 mph rough. It rough enough that we opted not to continue with the rental car and headed back towards Barking Sands Beach. I plugged the destination into Google Maps and it led us directly to a manned US Pacific Missile Range testing facility.


Sunset at Kekaha Beach Park:

With the second idea quashed, we headed a little further down the road, and ended up at wonderfully natural Kekaha Beach Park. It looked like a town immediately out of old school “Fightertown USA” from the original Top Gun movie. The locals were in town with their trucks. We found a comfortable spot on the side of the road to set up for sunset.

Dinner at Kauai Brewing Company:

From there, we headed back to Port Allen for dinner at the Kauai Brewing Company. It was an authentically local place with friendly service. It was great to be able to get a little off the regular Poi’pe resort tourist trail with some more normal “less resort like” restaurants. It looked like a dive bar but it was pretty tasty overall with a great selection of beers.

It was mahi mahi sandwiches with homemade tartar sauce for us which really hit the spot paired with a Leila Lite beer for me.

We ended up back at The Sheraton Kauai Resort after a full day of sightseeing.

My Thoughts on the Day in The Waimea Canyon:

The Waimea Canyon drive is a must see activity when in Kauai. It is reported that there can be a lot of rain on this trip, although we had a really clear day. Although we didn’t get many Napali Coast views, we certainly enjoyed the eastern facing Canyon views. Next time, I would have probably allowed a whole day to explore some of the smaller towns along the coastal drive on the way instead of the half day trip that we did.

If you have visited the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, did you take the time to visit Waimea Canyon ?

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