South of and abutting the Na
Pali Coast State Park, Kokee State Park surrounds and protects more than
one Waimea Canyon
trail, and two of the most spectacular are Awaawapuhi Trail and the Nualolo
Loop Trail. Both are moderately difficult hikes, and most visitors choose to
combine the two. Hiking the Awaawapuhi Trail alone calls for an approximate
seven-mile trek. If combining the two, prepare for about sixteen miles. The
reward is a breathtaking walk on the edge of 3,000-foot high sheer cliffs and
past sparkling waterfalls.
There are stunning views across the Na Pali Coast, and you can even see neighboring
Niihau Island. At the midpoint of your hike, you reach a lookout point over
the Kalalau Valley, with views of the deepest valley in Na Pali, and across
to the Pacific Ocean.
Hiking the Awaawapuhi Trail requires some preparation, as you will be trekking on fairly demanding, steep terrain in a wilderness area at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,200 feet where there is no cell phone service. You should be in good physical shape. Bring sunscreen, water, a picnic lunch, suitable footwear, and a Waimea Canyon trail map. Begin with a stop at the Kokee Museum to get an overview of the park and its trails. Here you can also pick up an Awaawapuhi Trail Botanical Guide, prepared with help from the botanist owner of the Kauai Wildlife Refuge. Kokee Museum is reached by driving Highway 550 toward the Waimea Canyon Lookout. It is possible to book guided hikes and tours in the summer, which provides both company as well as giving you the benefit of your guide’s expert knowledge.