About Secret Falls (Uluwehi Falls)
Secret Falls (Uluwehi Falls) is a very popular waterfall requiring some form of water transport to get to the trailhead, which made this a rather unique experience compared to most of the waterfalls we’ve visited over the years.
We visited this waterfall twice – once in late December 2006 that involved a canoe ride leaving from the Kamokila Hawaiian Village and then in November 2021 where we kayaked from the Wailua River State Park marina.
Since the falls was said to be 100ft, we figured that it was enough of a motivating factor for us to go through the adventure to get here.
And we were apparently not alone in this thinking because both times we’ve been here, the hike as well as frolicking at the plunge pool for Secret Falls were busy.
I guess Uluwehi Falls wasn’t so “secret” after all!
Water Transport to the Secret Falls Trailhead
This adventure involved doing a river kayak (a very popular option) or canoe up the Wailua River to the trailhead.
To my knowledge, there wasn’t a legal way to just hike to Uluwehi Falls without the need for using some form of water transport.
When we first did this excursion with the Kamokila Hawaiian Village, they offered us a canoe ride where both Julie and I rode together and were rowed by a non-Polynesian employee with a thick pidgin accent.
That part of the excursion probably took about 15 very relaxing minutes from the Kamokila Hawaiian Village, which was probably the closest or shortest water route to the start of the hike to Secret Falls.
I think that was the closest put in point on the Wailua River to paddle on the river to get to the trailhead for the falls.
After we landed our canoe, we were then left on our own to do an unescorted hike to the falls (we agreed on a meeting time back at this spot, which was in about two hours, I believe).
When we came back to visit Secret Falls on our second go around, we booked a kayak tour (with Duke’s Kayak Adventures) where we started from the Wailua River State Park marina near the mouth of the Wailua River by Kapa’a.
From there, we kayaked (two people max per kayak) for roughly 2.2 miles before pulling our kayaks up along the banks of the North Fork Wailua River a short distance west of its confluence with the South Fork.
According to my notes, it took us a little over an hour to paddle upstream (my daughter and I didn’t exactly paddle in rhythm), and roughly 50 minutes to paddle downstream back to the marina.
The kayaking can be smooth and liberating if you’re by yourself or if you’re paddling in unison with your partner.
However, it could also be tiring if you and your partner just can’t paddle in unison (which was the case with my daughter and I, and she was blaming me for slacking!).
Given how easy it was for the front paddler to splash water towards the back, there’s a high likelihood of getting wet (even soaked) so having a dry bag is definitely a good idea if you’re bringing something that can’t get wet.
Our tour actually provided pretty hefty 40L dry bags, but we did bring our own 20L dry bag to at least protect expensive camera equipment like the Sony A7 3 mirrorless camera that I was wielding at the time.
It was also good to have the smart phone dry bags that they sold in Hawaii, which were way higher quality than the ones we found on Amazon (which didn’t even pass the bathtub test).
Hiking to Secret Falls
Once we were done with the water transport portion of the excursion, then we had to hike the rest of the way to Secret Falls.
On our first time doing this, the canoe paddler dropped us off immediately at a rope-assisted crossing of the North Fork Wailua River.
During our December 2006 visit, the water got up to Julie’s upper thighs at its deepest point so I can imagine how the hike could be dangerous under higher water conditions (especially if flash floods are threatening).
When we kayaked to our put out point, it was actually a little further downstream from where I remembered where Kamokila dropped us off.
In this instance, we docked in a pretty wide open area, then hiked for roughly 0.2-mile along the banks of the river through some invasive Buffalo Grass that seemed to have taken over the island.
Then, we reached a fairly wide crossing of the North Fork Wailua River, where the water only got as high as my lower knee at its deepest point.
If you somehow didn’t get wet during the kayak, this river crossing for sure would get you wet, and it’s why we wore Keens (though sports sandals or water shoes should work) for this hike.
Once we were on the other side of the river, then we followed a pretty well-used trail that went over roots and rocks as well as some more fields of Buffalo Grass.
Eventually, after about another 0.2-mile from the crossing of the North Fork Wailua River, we then started to encounter a boardwalk, which I never recalled being there during our 2006 visit.
For almost the next 3/4-mile, the path alternated between conventional (albeit muddy) trail and narrow boardwalk where squeezing past hikers going in the opposite direction can get a little tricky.
Towards the end of the boardwalk section, there was a concrete column where it was said that some flash flooding that have gone through here can actually inundate that structure!
Beyond the boardwalk, the trail then pretty much crossed a couple of minor streams fronting a small waterfall (said to also be called “King’s Pool”) before climbing up a semi-steep hill then making one final crossing of the Uluwehi Stream.
Finally, after ducking some trees and watching our step on roots and rocks, the trail finally ended at an elevated bank before the large plunge pool fronting the Secret Falls.
We were given some time to scramble down to the level of the stream and even have a swim (some opted to swim beneath and behind the falls) while others were content to have a picnic and watch the action.
Once we had our fill of Uluwehi Falls, we then hiked back the way we came to get back to our awaiting canoe or kayaks to end off the hiking portion, which was roughly 1.4 miles in each direction (or 2.8 miles round-trip).
That said, I swore that when we first did this excursion with Kamokila Hawaiian Village, the hike was more like 2 miles round-trip.
Overall, our kayak tour went from a 7am meeting time and ended by 12:30pm, while our canoe ride and hike probably took roughly half that time since we didn’t have to go as far.
Secret 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.
From what I’ve read, most of the kayak/canoe rental vendors and tour companies (e.g. Kamokila Hawaiian Village, Wailua Kayak & Canoe, Wailua Kayak Adventures, etc.) are located in the vicinity of Kapa’a, Hanalei, and Po’ipu.
I believe most of the put-in points are at the mouth of the Wailua River (at the Wailua River State Park marina near the Hwy 56 and Hwy 580 junction).
The Wailua River State Park marina was on the southern banks of the Wailua River, and its access road (which also happens to be the same one leading to the Smith Family Garden Luau) is to the west of State Hwy 56 before the bridge over the river.
While traffic can be heavy, the highway is divided so you can get to the stop sign in between the opposing directions of the Hwy 56 to cut across and go west (or to make a left turn to get out of there to go north on Hwy 56 if you’re leaving).
On our first time to Secret Falls, we started at the Kamokila Hawaiian Village, which was pretty much almost directly across Hwy 580 from Opaeka’a Falls Overlook.
Just to give you some geographical reference, 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.
Find A Place To Stay
Related Top 10 Lists
No Posts Found
Trip Planning Resources
Featured Images and Nearby Attractions
Visitor Comments:Got something you'd like to share or say to keep the conversation going? Feel free to leave a comment below...
No users have replied to the content on this page
Visitor Reviews of this Waterfall:If you have a waterfall story or write-up that you'd like to share, feel free to click the button below and fill out the form...
No users have submitted a write-up/review of this waterfall