Waiahuakua Falls, Hoolea Falls, and the Na Pali Coast Waterfalls

Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Hawaii, USA

About Waiahuakua Falls, Hoolea Falls, and the Na Pali Coast Waterfalls


Hiking Distance: tour
Suggested Time: allow 6.5 hours

Date first visited: 2021-11-21
Date last visited: 2021-11-21

Waterfall Latitude: 22.20059
Waterfall Longitude: -159.61473

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

The Na Pali Coast Waterfalls page was created to essentially showcase the less-accessible waterfalls visible primarily by water transport.

In particular with our experience, we did one of the popular Na Pali Coast Cruises as this had been on Julie’s bucket list for many years.

Na_Pali_Cruise_315_11212021 - Context of the Waiahuakua Falls within the Waiahuakua Sea Cave beneath the rugged Na Pali Coast
Context of the Waiahuakua Falls within the Waiahuakua Sea Cave beneath the rugged Na Pali Coast

Indeed, this scenic coast in Kaua’i’s rugged northwestern shore combined with the Alaka’i Swamp further inland were probably the main reasons why there wasn’t a road that went all the way around the island (at least in my mind).

Perhaps that’s a good thing because Kaua’i managed to stay more like a rural and laid back “Garden Island” compared to its extremely developed and busy neighbor in the island of O’ahu.

Anyways, during our cruise, we spotted at least a half-dozen waterfalls that may have some permanence to them.

And this doesn’t even include a couple waterfalls within the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park that I did manage to hike to – Hanakapi’ai Falls and Hanakoa Falls.

There Could Have Been More Na Pali Coast Waterfalls

Na_Pali_Cruise_116_11212021 - Looking across a giant streak on the drier side of the Na Pali Coast that apparently used to have more permanent flow until the diversion ditches ensured such waterfalls would no longer reliably flow
Looking across a giant streak on the drier side of the Na Pali Coast that apparently used to have more permanent flow until the diversion ditches ensured such waterfalls would no longer reliably flow

There probably could have been countless more waterfalls along the Na Pali Coast, but further up the cliffs to the west of Waimea Canyon and Alaka’i Swamp were a series of irrigation ditches (including the Koke’e Ditch) built to divert water for sugar.

This took place at a time when sugar was the primary cash crop throughout Hawaii (during and shortly after the Civil War when sugar grown in the south was not accessible, and resulting trade laws made Hawaii even more favorable).

In fact, the largest landowner of Kaua’i, the Robinsons, made their fortune as sugar barrons.

They did this before leveraging their wealth to move on to other means of fortune building when sugar became less profitable as a result of the Civil War-era laws being phased out after World War II and land value became more important in Hawaii.

Na_Pali_Cruise_136_11212021 - Another noticeable notch with a water streak that should have been a waterfall on the Na Pali Coast with other minor streaks flanking it (suggesting it could have been a 'vein-of-waterfalls' display in wet weather
Another noticeable notch with a water streak that should have been a waterfall on the Na Pali Coast with other minor streaks flanking it (suggesting it could have been a ‘vein-of-waterfalls’ display in wet weather

Come to think of it, this was not unlike what happened in East Maui where the waterfalls along the Road to Hana were robbed of their perennial flow due to EMI (East Maui Irrigation) diversion ditches siphoning water to that island’s central valley’s sugar fields.

As a result, we did spot numerous grooves and streaks where waterfalls should have dropped down the nooks of the Na Pali Coast.

What Were Some Of The Highlights Of The Na Pali Coast Waterfalls?

Of the many waterfalls that we spotted on our Na Pali Coast tour, I’d have to say the following waterfalls were the highlights…

Waiahuakua Falls – this was the waterfall flowing into a sea cave (called Waiahuakua Sea Cave) through a hole in its ceiling.

I have to believe that there aren’t many sea caves (or any cave for that matter) with this kind of characteristic, and that’s what really stood out to me about this waterfall.

Na_Pali_Cruise_310_11212021 - Closeup look at the Waiahuakua Falls and the entrance to the sea cave that it was in
Closeup look at the Waiahuakua Falls and the entrance to the sea cave that it was in

On our most recent trip to Kaua’i in November 2021, we saw numerous art galleries showcasing this waterfall but looking from the inside of the cave out towards the ocean.

This was something we hadn’t noticed before on our December 2006 trip to Kaua’i when social media and the internet in general hadn’t really taken off at the time.

That said, I have to believe that Waiahuakua Falls had gained in notoriety over the years as social media tends to push people more towards ‘never-before-seen’ features to build more of that social capital.

Anyways, I believe that within-the-cave shot can only be possible with a small craft (not the catamarans they use on Na Pali Coast cruises), and under benign conditions (likely during the Dry Season in the summer).

During the Wet Season, the swells dramatically increase along the open ocean of the Na Pali Coast such that they can easily inundate the cave.

Na_Pali_Cruise_259_11212021 - Looking against the morning sun towards Kalalau Beach and the Ho'ole'a Falls
Looking against the morning sun towards Kalalau Beach and the Ho’ole’a Falls

Ho’ole’a Falls – if you’re looking for that quintessential shot of the fluted cliffs of the Na Pali Coast with a beach and waterfall all in one place, then this is the waterfall that’s involved.

Basically, it sits at the far western end of Kalalau Beach, which is the destination of the famed 11-mile (22 miles round-trip) Kalalau Trail.

Finishing that hike is on my bucket list, and I might augment this write-up with my experiences if I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity (I’ll need at least 2 days with health to do this) and the luck (very difficult to score permits) to complete it.

Unfortunately, because the Na Pali Coast faces to the northwest, as you can see in this picture taken from our cruise, morning is not the best time to view the Na Pali Coast from the ocean.

Obviously, the afternoon is best for lighting and photographs, but nothing is guaranteed with the weather and the swells, which can easily whip up towards the latter part of the day.

Na_Pali_Cruise_165_11212021 - Context of what I think is the 'Awa'awapuhi Falls beneath rugged cliffs on the somewhat drier (more western) side of the Na Pali Coast
Context of what I think is the ‘Awa’awapuhi Falls beneath rugged cliffs on the somewhat drier (more western) side of the Na Pali Coast

‘Awa’awapuhi Falls – this was the first of the more ‘permanent’ waterfalls that we saw on the Na Pali Coast when coming from around the west side.

As mentioned before, that story could have been different if irrigation ditches hadn’t robbed most of the waterfalls further to the west of their flow.

Nevertheless, its location beneath a rugged and seemingly drier part of the Na Pali Coast made it stand out to me.

This is the last of the waterfalls I’ll single out in this part of the write-up, but it certainly wasn’t the least.

How Did We Partake In A Na Pali Coast Cruise?

Na_Pali_Cruise_016_iPhone_11212021 - Our daughter enjoying the sensation of getting the wind (and a little splash) near the front of the catamaran
Our daughter enjoying the sensation of getting the wind (and a little splash) near the front of the catamaran

First of all, it’s worth noting that visits to the Na Pali Coast by water can start from the North Shore by Princeville or from the South Shore by Port Allen.

We knew that our trip took place in late November, but we also were well aware that this put us in the Wet Season, which meant we could be subject to Winter swells.

So we opted to start out of Port Allen knowing that we first had to spend probably a solid hour just getting to the Na Pali Coast.

This had the effect of us not going as far along the famed coast (we turned around somewhere west of Hanakapi’ai Beach, which is still not bad), but we were afraid of getting seasick as we anticipated bigger swells.

Hanakapiai_008_jx_12242006 - We got a taste of the violence of the swells and waves crashing against Hanakapi'ai Beach within the Na Pali Coast, which made us fully aware of how bumpy a boat ride in those waters can be
We got a taste of the violence of the swells and waves crashing against Hanakapi’ai Beach within the Na Pali Coast, which made us fully aware of how bumpy a boat ride in those waters can be

Had we taken off from Princeville, which was way closer to the Na Pali Coast, we might have even had the option of doing a small boat tour, which would have enabled us to explore some of the sea caves.

That said, I’ve personally witnessed the violence of the waves of Kaua’i’s North Shore in the Wet Season so rolling the dice with Princeville-based tours wasn’t really an option for us.

After paying for the booking to reserve our spot, it was pretty much a waiting game on the day of the tour to see if the conditions would allow for the tour to move forward.

This kind of uncertainty is not nice for a well-planned out itinerary, especially since most things in Hawaii require pre-booking these days.

Na_Pali_Cruise_044_iPhone_11212021 - Context of our snorkel spot beneath the towering pali of the Na Pali Coast during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Context of our snorkel spot beneath the towering pali of the Na Pali Coast during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour

Once we’re checked in (our check-in was at 7am on the day of the tour), it was a waiting game until about 7:30am when everyone was organized and the morning tour groups went to their respective boats.

From there, the cruise began, and it pretty much went until around 1:30pm, which was why I put the time commitment as such in the sidebar.

Our cruise included a snorkel on the calmer western side of Na Pali Coast not far north of Polihale State Park so time commitments can vary.

Granted, we’ve had better snorkeling experiences, but personally, I cared more about the scenery while Julie and Tahia cared more about the snorkeling.

Authorities

The Na Pali Coast Waterfalls were spread out along the northwestern shore of Kaua’i Island. For information or inquiries about the general area as well as current conditions, you may want to try visiting the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) website.

Na_Pali_Cruise_002_iPhone_11212021 - Julie and Tahia about to check in to our Na Pali Coast cruise
Na_Pali_Cruise_004_iPhone_11212021 - Being led to our the marina at Port Allen to begin our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_006_iPhone_11212021 - Looking back towards the Port Allen marina as we were starting the Na Pali Coast Cruise in earnest
Na_Pali_Cruise_018_iPhone_11212021 - Looking back towards the southwestern shore of Kaua'i from our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_007_11212021 - Looking towards the military base at Barking Sands on the west shore of Kaua'i
Na_Pali_Cruise_018_11212021 - Looking back at the sand dunes of Polihale Beach on the west shore of Kaua'i
Na_Pali_Cruise_029_11212021 - Approaching the nearly vertical cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. This photo should make it apparent why it's very difficult to have a road go around the island let alone have any hiking trails there either
Na_Pali_Cruise_034_11212021 - Another look at the hidden gulches and hanging valleys along the Na Pali Coast as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_038_11212021 - During our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour, we witnessed dolphins 'catching the wave' caused by our catamaran
Na_Pali_Cruise_048_11212021 - Context of other (smaller) boat tours witnessing dolphins going up for air before diving again during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_054_11212021 - Another look at the pod of dolphins doing their thing around the Na Pali Coast as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_067_11212021 - Context of another catamaran cruising before the Na Pali Coast for a sense of scale as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_082_11212021 - Looking back at some of the scarring and water streaks where there should be waterfalls or where there might have been landslides as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_096_11212021 - Looking along the drier part of the Na Pali Coast with some nooks and water streaks where waterfalls were supposed to be as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_102_11212021 - More direct look at the many vertical streaks on the drier side of the Na Pali Coast where waterfalls used to be before the diversion ditches had been built
Na_Pali_Cruise_131_11212021 - Focused on one of the more pronounced streaks with a deeper nook as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_143_11212021 - Looking ahead towards other hidden gulches and valleys as we were getting closer to the more famous parts of the Na Pali Coast
Na_Pali_Cruise_151_11212021 - Looking towards the secluded Miloli'i Beach, which I'd imagine is only accessible with a small water craft. That nook you see to the right contains the Pa'aiki Falls, but we couldn't see it during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_159_11212021 - Looking back towards more wrinkly gulches somewhere near what I suspect was Nu'alolo as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_162_11212021 - Closeup look at a catamaran and smaller craft getting near a sea cave with a thin-flowing waterfall spilling over its entrance. This might have been the first waterfall we saw on our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_167_11212021 - Zoomed in look at what I think is the 'Awa'awapuhi Falls, which was perhaps the first permanent waterfall that we witnessed during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_168_11212021 - Portrait cliff context of what I think is the 'Awa'awapuhi Falls as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_173_11212021 - More contextual look at that thin sea cave waterfall somewhere in the vicinity of Nu'alolo as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_175_11212021 - Looking back at what I think is the 'Awa'awapuhi Falls though the other sea cave waterfall was no longer in view from this spot as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_178_11212021 - More dramatic and chaotic cliff scenery on the rugged side of the Na Pali Coast as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_181_11212021 - Another look at some of the pronounced hanging gulches (though it didn't have a legit waterfall as I would have hoped) as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_189_11212021 - Approaching a large sea cave that was apparently where Mary J Blige had filmed a music video from as explained and seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_191_11212021 - Frontal view of that large sea cave seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_199_11212021 - Starting to see an interesting stranded waterfall (I forgot what the captain said the name of the falls was) somewhere west of Honopu Beach and Honopu Arch
Na_Pali_Cruise_206_11212021 - Frontal look at that attractive stranded waterfall that I wish I knew what the name of it was (it's not labeled on my maps), but I suspect that it was just west of Honopu Beach and Honopu Arch
Na_Pali_Cruise_211_11212021 - Looking further to the east along the Na Pali Coast as we were starting to approach Honopu Beach and Honopu Arch
Na_Pali_Cruise_219_11212021 - Looking back at the main context of Honopu Beach as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_223_11212021 - Context of the somewhat hard-to-see Honopu Arch with a very partial hint of the Honopu Falls seen through it during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_229_11212021 - All zoomed in on the partial view of Honopu Falls as seen through the Honopu Arch during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_231_11212021 - Looking back at the full context of Honopu Arch, Honopu Beach, and the Honopu Falls as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_233_11212021 - A lot of interesting streaks coming down the nearly vertical walls of the cliffs backing Honopu Beach as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_242_11212021 - Direct look at a scarred part of the Na Pali Coast somewhere between Honopu Beach and Kalalau Beach
Na_Pali_Cruise_250_11212021 - Looking through the sea spray and morning haze at Ho'ole'a Falls backing the far western end of Kalalau Beach during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_255_11212021 - Looking directly against the morning sun at Kalalau Beach and Ho'ole'a Falls, which would have been much better in the afternoon
Na_Pali_Cruise_263_11212021 - Looking back at the fluted pali backing Kalalau Beach as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_264_11212021 - Looking back at the full context of where Kalalau Beach and Kalalau Valley are as the boat kept cruising further to the northeast during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_275_11212021 - Looking back towards some sea-plunging waterfall towered over by cliffs flanking one side of Kalalau Valley as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_278_11212021 - Looking in the direction of the Crawler's Ledge across some wishbone-shaped waterfall plunging into the turbulent seas during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_286_11212021 - Looking back at a small sea arch fronting a partial view of the wishbone-shaped waterfall somewhere near the Crawler's Ledge as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_289_11212021 - Another look back at the full context of some waterfalls spilling before the pali with a hint of Kalalau Valley way in the background
Na_Pali_Cruise_304_11212021 - Looking towards the hanging part of Hanakoa Valley.  The captain said 'hanakoa' was Hawaiian for 'to make strong'
Na_Pali_Cruise_305_11212021 - Direct look at some pinnacle-like peaks of the Na Pali Coast as we were continuing further west of Hanakoa Valley during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_311_11212021 - Finally getting to witness the Waiahuakua Falls somewhere between Hanakapi'ai Beach and Hanakoa Valley as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_312_11212021 - Portrait view of the Waiahuakua Falls as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_007_Julies_11212021 - Julie managed to capture this shot of a small craft zipping its way out of the Waiahuakua Sea Cave during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_320_11212021 - More contextual look back at the Waiahuakua Sea Cave and Falls as the boat was starting to pull away during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_006_Julies_11212021 - An even more contextual look at the Waiahuakua Sea Cave and Waiahuakua Falls as seen through Julie's iPhone during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_322_11212021 - Looking back along the contours of the Na Pali Coast with the Waiahuakua Sea Cave still in the picture as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_327_11212021 - Approaching a pair of sea caves and waterfalls somewhere to the east of the Waiahuakua Sea Cave as seen during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_330_11212021 - Profile view of some light-flowing waterfall near our turnaround spot just before Hanakapi'ai Beach during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_336_11212021 - Looking at the pair of sea caves with a waterfall that I think is on the Ho'olulu Stream spilling over the larger of the caves during our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour
Na_Pali_Cruise_338_11212021 - Last look at the profile of that light flowing waterfall near Ho'olulu Stream before turning the boat back towards the west of the Na Pali Coast
Na_Pali_Cruise_074_iPhone_11212021 - Julie capturing this look at the light-flowing waterfall fronted by a catamaran for scale before our cruise turned around
Na_Pali_Cruise_034_iPhone_11212021 - Looking back towards our catamaran while snorkeling off the Na Pali Coast
Na_Pali_Cruise_042_iPhone_11212021 - Truthfully, I've had better snorkeling experiences in other tropical destinations, and really, I thought the Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour was more about the scenery anyways
Na_Pali_Cruise_388_11212021 - Looking back at a hanging valley as we were heading back towards Port Allen to conclude our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour. Notice that with the sun higher on the horizon, the lighting was now a bit more acceptable
Na_Pali_Cruise_404_11212021 - Looking back towards what I think are radar domes or something in the vicinity of the Barking Sands base
Na_Pali_Cruise_410_11212021 - The last surprise of our Na Pali Coast Cruise Tour was witnessing some sperm whales doing a dive after surfacing to catch their breaths


There are several companies that do various flavors of the Na Pali Coast Boat Tours that range from large catamarans to smaller craft that can get even more intimate with the sea caves and waterfalls there.

We went with a tour that started in Port Allen, so I’ll just describe how we went there from Po’ipu.

Basically from say the Sheraton Kaua’i, we drove west about 0.6-mile to the roundabout and kept straight (2nd exit) to continue on Po’ipu Road for another 1.5 miles to the Koloa Road (State Highway 530).

Na_Pali_Cruise_003_iPhone_11212021 - Looking towards the parking situation for the Na Pali Coast Cruises coming out of Port Allen
Looking towards the parking situation for the Na Pali Coast Cruises coming out of Port Allen

We then turned left onto Hwy 530 and continued for nearly 3.5 miles to the Hwy 50 (Kaumualii Hwy), where we turned left at the light.

Then, we drove 5.5 miles on Kaumualii Hwy before turning left onto Eleele Rd, where we then drove the remaining 1/4-mile or so to the unpaved parking lot on the right for the various tour operators.

Overall, this drive took us about 30 minutes.

For geographical context, Port Allen was about 7 miles (under 15 minutes drive) east of Waimea, about 11 miles (Google says 20 minutes drive) west of Koloa / Po’ipu, 17 miles (about 30 minutes drive) west of Lihu’e, 25 miles (about 45 minutes drive) southwest of Kapa’a, and 46 miles (about 75 minutes drive) southwest of Princeville.

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Brief video showing a couple of small waterfalls on the Na Pali Coast


Another brief video showing another segmented waterfall coming down the scenic part of Na Pali Coast


Checking out the sea cave with waterfall going into it and some small craft motoring their way out of that cave


Brief video of a thin waterfall fronting another sea cave on the Na Pali Coast

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Tagged with: waiahuakua, hoolea, milolii, hoolulu, kalalau, honopu, awaawapuhi, nualolo, makaha, makole, na pali, cruise, snorkel, port allen



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.