Opaekaa Falls

Wailua River State Park, Hawaii, USA

About Opaekaa Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2006-12-23
Date last visited: 2021-11-20

Waterfall Latitude: 22.0484
Waterfall Longitude: -159.36215

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Opaekaa Falls (or Opaeka’a Falls) is a segmented waterfall said to tumble at a height of 151ft, which was one of the easier waterfalls to experience thanks to an official well-signed roadside overlook.

I believe “Opaeka’a” means “rolling shrimp” probably because there used to be the rare native shrimp in the freshwater streams here.

Opaekaa_Falls_003_12232006 - Opaeka'a Falls
Opaeka’a Falls

These shrimp were known to be able to climb cliffs containing waterfalls such as this one.

While the convenient lookout would make for a really short visit here, I noticed on our second visit (in November 2021) there was a crosswalk leading to a nice overlook of the Wailua River.

As for the waterfall lookout, it did leave a lot to be desired because there’s a tree growing into the line-of-sight, which conspired to make Opaekaa Falls look shorter than it really is.

Anyways, in addition to being well-signed and having a fairly sizable parking area, this was a pretty popular waterfall primarily because it was not far from the town of Kapaa (or Kapa’a).

The Temptation to improve the Opaeka’a Falls View

Opaekaa_Falls_022_11202021 - Looking down at kayaks on the Wailua River as seen from the overlook across the street from the Opaeka'a Falls Lookout
Looking down at kayaks on the Wailua River as seen from the overlook across the street from the Opaeka’a Falls Lookout

Now even though the overlook was very popular and busy, its view still left a lot to be desired.

Indeed, it posed a dilemma as to whether we should seek out a way to get closer to the waterfall or be content with this view that bordered on disappointing.

Well, it turned out that there were paths to the base of the waterfall as explained in the Adventures section of the Blue Bible.

Unfortunately, literally a couple days before we arrived in Kaua’i, a pair of ladies who made the attempt to get to the bottom of Opaeka’a Falls had fallen to their deaths.

Opaekaa_Falls_011_11202021 - Context of the walkway leading to the Wailua Falls Overlook in context with Opaeka'a Falls off the near side of the road
Context of the walkway leading to the Wailua Falls Overlook in context with Opaeka’a Falls off the near side of the road

As you can tell from the dearth of photos on this page, we decided against chancing it, and since that time, more fencing and more signage had been put up prohibiting trying to scramble to the base of the falls.

Authorities

Opaekaa Falls resides in Wailua River State Park in the island of Kauai, Hawaii. 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.

Opaekaa_Falls_003_iPhone_11202021 - Context of the restroom facility and the parking lot for the Opaeka'a Falls Lookout
Opaekaa_Falls_001_iPhone_11202021 - Looking back at the bathroom and picnic area at the Opaeka'a Falls Lookout
Opaekaa_Falls_002_11202021 - Looking ahead at the overlook area for the Opaeka'a Falls
Opaekaa_Falls_003_11202021 - Focused look at Opaeka'a Falls as seen from the lookout during our visit in November 2021
Opaekaa_Falls_005_11202021 - All zoomed in look at Opaeka'a Falls as seen from the lookout during our November 2021 visit
Opaekaa_Falls_008_11202021 - More zoomed out contextual look at Opaeka'a Falls as I walked a little further along the paved ramp leading to the Wailua River Overlook
Opaekaa_Falls_014_11202021 - Looking upstream at the Wailua River from across the street from the Opaeka'a Falls Lookout
Opaekaa_Falls_016_11202021 - Looking downstream at the Wailua River from across the street from the Opaeka'a Falls
Opaekaa_Falls_023_11202021 - Heading back to the parking lot and Opaekaa Falls Lookout after having my fill of the Wailua River Lookout
Opaekaa_Falls_025_11202021 - Last look at Opaeka'a Falls Lookout
Opaekaa_Falls_009_12232006 - View of 'Opaeka'a Falls from the overlook again as seen on our first visit back in late December 2006
Opaekaa_Falls_010_12232006 - Another look at 'Opaeka'a Falls during our late December 2006 visit


Opaeka’a Falls is easily accessed along the Kuamo’o Road (State Highway 580).

From downtown Kapa’a, head south on Hwy 56 for about a mile.

Opaekaa_Falls_001_11202021 - Looking back at the parking spaces at the lookout for Opaeka'a Falls
Looking back at the parking spaces at the lookout for Opaeka’a Falls

Just before the Wailua River Bridge, turn right (heading west or inland) onto Hwy 580 (Kuamo’o Road), where there might already be an Opaeka’a Falls sign at the junction between the 580 and 56.

Just a little over a mile from the traffic-lighted junction between the 580 and 56, we then entered the well-signed parking area and lookout for Opaeka’a Falls.

From some geographical context, Kapa’a was about 6 miles (about 15 minutes drive) north of Lihu’e, 18 miles (over 30 minutes drive) north of Koloa / Po’ipu, 25 miles (about an hour drive) south of Princeville, and 30 miles (about an hour drive) east of Waimea.

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Brief right to left sweep showing the context of the lookout area before ending at the falls


Long video showing the full context of the lookout area and view of the falls

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Tagged with: opaekaa, rolling shrimp, wailua river, kauai, kapaa, hawaii, waterfall, tragedy, overlook



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