Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls

Waipoo Falls Kauai
Waipoo Falls Kauai

The hike with too many names to count

Whether you call it Waipo’o Falls Trail aka Waimea Canyon Trail, Spur Trail, Canyon Trail, Pu’u Hinahina Trail, Pu’u Hinahina Lookout

I got so confused trying to figure out all the names and nuances of Waipoo Falls and the Waipoo Falls trail. All I knew is that I’d seen pictures of Waipoo Falls and I wanted to do the hike and then swim in the falls.

I LOVE swimming in the pools created by Hawaiian waterfalls, especially one that comes at the end of an epic hike.

This hike involves traversing a cliff line, multiple waterfalls, as well as incredible views of Waimea Canyon, aka the Hawaiian Grand Canyon.

Clarifying Confusions: Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls

Unfortunately, it gets confusing given that there are multiple starting points, multiple trails, and multiple names to each. Don’t fret though as I stumbled through the process of figuring everything out for you.

Just know that there are two potential starting points, multiple names for the trail, multiple nicknames for the trail, and other landmarks along the way that get described as the trail. Generally you will be looking for the Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls; I’ll explain.

Waipo’o Falls Trail Quick Facts

  • Other Names: Waipoo Falls Trail, Spur Trail (part of the trail), Canyon Trail, Waimea Canyon Trail, Pu’u Hinahina Lookout Trail, Ni’hau Viewpoint Trail
  • Distance: 2 mile or 3 mile depending where you start (likely 3 mile)
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Crowds: Popular but not overrun
  • Challenges: A couple steep muddy parts
  • Cost: $10 to park and $5 per person
  • Known For: A waterfall swim and Waimea Canyon views
  • Parking: Plenty at either parking lot

Waipo’o Falls Trail, Not Waipio

First off, it’s Waipoo Falls and not Waipio. Waipio is a different spot on the big island of Hawaii (super cool, but not what you are looking for).

The Real Trail Name is the Waimea Canyon Trail (and Spur Trail connecter)

The real name of the trail is the Waimea Canyon Trail, but it often gets called the Canyon Trail. Also, the first ½ mile of the trail is called the Spur Trail, but all the Spur Trail does connect you to the other Waimea Canyon Trail Parking lot (the 4wd only one).

Where is the Trail Head?

First off, there are two different places that you can start this trail, which leads to a lot of confusion. One of the access points cuts off ½ mile of the hike, but it also involves driving on a 4wd only road.

Most people park at the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout parking lot. There is plenty of parking and restrooms.

Aside from the trailhead there are also two different canyon viewpoint here, the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout and the Ni’ihau Viewpoint that you can go to if you aren’t in the mood to hike.

The Lesser Known Trail Head – Halemanu Road

If you have a 4wd and only want to hike a total of 2 miles then you can take the turn off just after the initial onto Halemanu Road and follow it to the end. It will end in a small dirt parking lot that immediately picks up the trail.

There Isn’t A Waipo’o Falls Trail (Technically)

There technically isn’t a Waipio Falls Trails. The actual trails have other names, but people will call it the Waipio Falls Trail because the hike ends at the falls.

Fork to Cliff Trail Waimea Canyon

The trail has an offshoot that is called the Cliff Trail Waimea Canyon. It is part of the Canyon Trail, but only goes on to a Waimea Cliff viewpoint. I recommend skipping this trial as the main Canyon Trail will offer the same viewpoint along with a wider cliff view and access to the falls.

The Actual Hike

Like most Hawaii hikes this one can get some steep spots that you might be uncomfortably in right after a rainstorm. Make sure you take care as it can get muddy and slippery.

While you will be in the forest for the first mile and a half it is still a pleasant hike. At that point the trees will open up and you will have awesome views back up to the Waimea Canyon viewpoints.

The Two Waterfalls

When you get to the end there are actually two different waterfalls just a few feet away from each other. If you head to the left you will end up at the smaller falls that form a pool that is just big enough for you to swim in. While it is nice for a quick dip, if you really want to swim in an expansive pool I recommend Wailua Falls on Kauai.

The second waterfall is the bigger Waipoo Falls, but it is worth noting that you will come out at the top of it and be looking down. From the end of the trail there is no way to get to the bottom of this one.

Conclusion

If you are in Kokee State Park and looking for a hike that will allow you to finish with a quick waterfall swim, then the Waimea Canyon Trail might be for you!

Check out more of the best hikes in Hawaii by clicking here.

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