Wailua Falls Hike on Kauai (AMAZING waterfall hike!)

Wailua falls hike
Wailua falls hike

You have to do Wailua Falls Hike! 

You need to do the Wailua Falls Hike! Wailua Falls is one of the most popular spots on Kauai. The double waterfall that often makes a rainbow spray is the perfect representation of Kauai, the Garden Isle.

Technically, you can only view the falls from above and you aren’t supposed to hike down, swim, or even hike behind the falls. Supposedly the state closed down the hike due to liability issues, but they know tons of people do it and don’t enforce the closure.

While I’m normally a rule follower, I’m so glad I didn’t follow as swimming underneath this double waterfall was truly the best of the Kauai waterfall hikes. In fact, I’ve visited these falls three different times.

Quick Facts

  • Distance: .3 miles down and .3 miles back (barely even a hike I know)
  • Elevation Change: Straight up and down
  • Difficulty: It’s over quick but you must be sure footed and able to climb up and down the slippery rocks
  • Cost: Free
  • Crowds: Quite popular though there is plenty of space to spread out
  • Note: Technically this hike is closed, but the state knows tons of people still hike it and doesn’t enforce
  • Parking: plenty of street parking, you might just have a brief walk up to the falls

Wailua Falls Hike Location

Wailua Falls are located near the Lihue area of Kauai. The main airport is in the Lihue area, so this means that you are virtually guaranteed to be passing by there at one time or another.

The drive from the airport is only about 15 minutes.

Wailua Falls Parking

There is no set parking lot, only a few expanded shoulders off the side of the road. Most people just street park ahead of or after the falls and walk.

The site is pretty remote so there is lots of side of the road parking so you don’t need to worry that you’ll have to hike that far. Also, even if you want to wait for a close spot, lots of people just go to the overlook, snap a picture or two and then get back in their cars.

Wailua Falls Hike parking
Wailua Falls Hike parking

What To Expect on the Wailua Falls Hike

First off, when you see the falls they look even more impressive in person. They were so much bigger than I thought.

Overlook

When you first pull in, the falls will be off to your right. You can hear the roar as you get close. This overlook has you looking down on the falls, and full disclosure the view isn’t that good.

Accessing the Forbidden Wailua Falls Trail

If you are willing to take the risk and do the Wailua Falls trail, you simply walk around the chain link fence lining the overlook. You will see a well-worn footpath where many others have already gone.

Wailua Falls Hike
Wailua Falls Hike

The Trail Down

The trail down is only .3 miles long, but it is really steep and at times gets really muddy. The trail is so steep that at times ropes are tied between trees that you will want to hold on to.

If it has just rained (which in Kauai is basically all the time) there will be a few areas where it is super muddy so leave the Air Jordans at home.

I’ve done it in flip flops, but it’s a lot easier with some sturdier shoes.

Wailua Falls Swimming

Once you are at the bottom remember that you can spread out to take better advantage of the Wailua Falls Swimming! Most people tend to crowd at the opening where the trail comes down, but there are a number of different places you can access the pool to go swimming.

When you do get in know that the rocks are going to be slippery (really slippery) so move slowly.

Also, the current out of the pool and down the river is a little stronger than you would expect, so take caution if you have kids with you (I saw a boy starting to get swept away).

There is a path that goes directly behind the falls. It makes for a super unique view, but know that you will get wet!

Wailua Falls Hike Swimming
Wailua Falls Hike Swimming

Will You Get in Trouble for Doing the Hike?

Being the compulsive rule follower that I am, it pained me to do this hike. One of the times I was down there I met a local state parks employee. I asked him if the state ever enforces the trail’s closure or gives people tickets.

He said that he is well aware of the things the state of Hawaii punishes people for but hiking Wailua Falls is not one of them. He said the state doesn’t want to get blamed for someone spraining an ankle on the way down.

While you will have to make a decision on whether you want to take the risk or not, I would feel comfortable doing it again and again.

Side note: Notice that this hike and experiencing the falls is cool enough that even locals will do it again and again.

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