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“Stunningly beautiful”
4 of 5 bubbles Review of Koke'e State Park

Koke'e State Park
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Waimea Canyon Bicycle Downhill
Ranked #3 of 11 things to do in Kekaha
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: A beautiful state park encompassing 4345 acres and containing 45 miles of scenic trails.
Santa Monica, CA
Level Contributor
238 reviews
78 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 162 helpful votes
“Stunningly beautiful”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 14, 2009

We went to Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park in September. The morning ride there was beautiful - lots of great picture taking of the canyon. We intended to hike the Pihea trail to the alakai swamp trail (as described in Kauai Revealed, by Andrew Doughty). We started off around 9:00 am, cool weather, few other people, but did not make it more than 1 mile. This trail is an ankle twister. The day we went was dry so it was hard packed clay-like surface but there is not a flat surface to be found. It was like boulder hopping but on a slick, packed clay. You have to watch your footing all the time, which means you can't enjoy the scenery. I'm in my 50's and hike the Santa Monica Mountains in So Cal without trouble. The Pihea trail I did not enjoy. My teenagers - both fit and adventurous - were the first to suggest we not proceed; they could not envision 4 miles of that only to turn around and rewalk it for a total of 8 miles. We drove back down to the park headquarters, walked through the museum, and enjoyed a picnic by a grassy field. We had enough time to enjoy snorkeling at Poipu Beach. We enjoyed our day, probably more than if we had done the hike, and covered a lot of beautiful Kauai.

Thank Plumeria D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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182 reviews from our community

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Jacksonville, FL
Level Contributor
287 reviews
90 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 207 helpful votes
“Great day kike”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 25, 2007

We spent a week on Kauai in mid July at the North end of the island and decided to drive around the island to the park for a day hike. We left our vacation rental around 6:30am for a very nice drive South down past the Kauai coffee plantation and up the canyon road (550) into the park, arriving ar the end of the road around 8:30am at the Kalaleu Valley lookout. This view alone would be worthwhile for those who are hiking challenged. It is also the starting point for an 8 mile round trip day hike to the Kilohana lookout, with its absolutely breathtaking view all the way to Hanalei Bay. Technically, the first part of the trail is one that goes to the Pihea Vista, with a branch off descending to the Alaka'i Crossing, a well marked board walk intersection of two trails, one of which is the so called swamp trail that goes out to the Kilohana lookout. The trail is every bit as good as stated in the guide books, so I'll focus on what they don't tell you. I suspect most casual hikers turn back within a half a mile from the start point due to mud (there are a number of wonderful vistas along this stretch, so even that is worthwhile).

We started off around 8:30am in sunshine with spectacular views until the morning clouds moved in, then hiked through heavy mist with some light showers for a considerable time. This was quite ethereal in addition to protecting us from the tropical sun. From what we were told, it also is a typical weather pattern, with everything clearing by about noon. It timed out well, since it took us 3 hours to reach the lookout, which was completely shrouded. Like magic, in about 20 minutes while we ate our picnic lunch, everything cleared for what is probably the most spectacular view I've ever seen. I wore hiking sandals and my wife running shoes, both well tested in mainland hiking. We didn't encounter hikers on the way out, but we did on the way back, with footgear ranging from hiking boots to bare feet. You could tell how close you were to being back by how muddy their feet were. There are a number of sections of the trail that require climbing up or down rock slimed with mud, and I'm sure it is rarely dry, considering you are near the wettest spot on earth (the summit of Mt. Waialeal). Even for veteran hikers, this calls for slow going, with risk of ankle or knee injury if you should slip (and both of us did have a couple of good slips in the course of the day). If you have ankle or knee problems, you might want to think twice about doing this particular trail. Once you are past the Pihea Vista section of the trail, you begin encountering sections that have been board walked, including one with a very long flight of stairs. The hike across the swamp is particularly easy, with mostly flat board walk. Prior to this, you cross a small mountain stream where you can rinse off some of the mud, but it is followed by another section of rock ascent/descent where you get muddy all over again. The board walk consists of two parallel planks sheathed with wire fencing for traction. Since the fencing is broken in spots, I wouldn't consider walking on it barefoot or with unprotected toes, although I'm sure some do. The swamp is more like a bog, since there isn't visibly moving water. It is quite large and filled with interesting plants. We encountered no insects. Sunscreen is a must. Our return was in heavy sun with no clouds. This also gave us the benefit of seeing the trail in both mist and in clear sun, with even Mt. Waialeale's summit exposed on our return, a rare event. I would suggest taking a lightweight parka. We also carry light weight day packs for water and incidentals. This is not a sweaty hike since it is at 4000 feet altitude with a vertical shift of no more than 400 feet across the length of the trail. I was fine with 2 bottles of water over 6 hours. Incidentally, no water along the trail is safe to drink or bathe in, since there have been cases of leptospirosis bacterial infection reported. If it is of interest, my wife and I are both in our mid 60's and found this trail quite doable. I would not rate it strenuous since there are no heart pounding climbs, but would rate it difficult in spots. Most of it I would rate either easy or moderate.

7 Thank JAXers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Flagstaff, AZ
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Muddy but fun”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 5, 2007

My wife and I hiked the Pihea Trail in late June 2007. It had a nice combination of spectacular views and interesting vegetation. We hiked from the overlook to the intersection with the Alaka'i Swamp Trail.

This was a muddy trip, but lots of fun. The high elevation meant it was cool and pleasant to hike. I particularly enjoyed the vegetation changes along the way--the moss, ferns, and bromeliads get more interesting as you approach the swamp.

I wish we had more time to take the Swamp Trail all the way to the end. One more reason to return to Kauai!

2 Thank Canyoneer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Salt Lake City
Level Contributor
13 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Awa'awapuhi trail.....worth the work!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 13, 2006

My husband wanted to do at least one moderately strenuous hike on Kauai and this is the one we chose. We hit the trail head at 8:00 a.m. on a dry, sunny day. The trail was a little slick in places but not excessively muddy; rain would definitely take some of the fun out of this trail. I was hoping to see more flowers to photograph, but I did get a couple of pretty flower and fern pictures. But any lack of flora quickly seemed insignificant when we got to the end of the trail overlooking the Nu'alolo Valley and the ocean. There is just absolutely no way to capture on film even a fraction of the beauty and majesty of the vista before you. It's simply stunning. As far as wildlife we saw chickens (of course), goats, one startled baby wild pig, a rat, and assorted birds. Our total time on the trail, including rest time and a .6 mile sidetrip to a non-existent waterfall was 4 hours. We had camelbacks full of water and Gatorade and certainly needed them. Don't try to do this trail without sufficient hydration. And unless you're in tip top shape prepare for some sore calves the next day. But it was SO worth it! You'll never see a view like this anywhere else.

5 Thank utahmethodist
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
11 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“N'ualolo Trail in Koke'e State Park a Must”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 18, 2006

The views are amazing, but it is a dangerous trail. Especially when the trail has been rained out. The first 1/3 is mud, the second third is flat, and the last third is a steep 1500 climb. But the views are amazing. This is where Harrison Ford had his hissy fit in the movie Six Nights and Seven Days. There probably won't be anyone on the way back even in high season. Breathtaking views that will stay with you forever. It is 11.6 miles, and you better start before 10 am because of daylight constraints. Bring 2x as much water as you think. Its hot and dry up there, and you can get dehydrated easily. Make sure to get plenty of gas for your car before you leave Waimea to get here no gas stations up in the park area.

7 Thank philfna
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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