Waipoo Falls

Waimea Canyon State Park, Hawaii, USA

About Waipoo Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside; about 3.6 miles round trip (Canyon Trail)
Suggested Time: about 2.5-3 hours (Canyon Trail)

Date first visited: 2006-12-22
Date last visited: 2021-11-21

Waterfall Latitude: 22.10409
Waterfall Longitude: -159.66153

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Waipoo Falls (or Waipo’o Falls) is one of a handful of waterfalls within the Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

This waterfall is said to drop over a height of 800ft in a pair of visible tiers fed by the Koke’e Stream, which probably dries up in the Summer (like most waterfalls in Kaua’i).

Waimea_033_12272006 - Waipo'o Falls
Waipo’o Falls

Supporting this assertion, I recalled photos from a friend who went to Waimea Canyon in August and said this waterfall was dry.

Then, when we showed up in December of 2006 on what was said to be an unusually dry Wet Season, this waterfall was still flowing pretty well.

It did seem to have lighter flow when we came back in November 2021 so perhaps it was starting to have its watershed replenished since the onset of Wet Season hadn’t really kicked in at this time.

Nevertheless, these observations further support the notion that this waterfall may only put on a show during the Wet Season.

Views of Waipo’o Falls from the Road and the Air

Waimea_076_12272006 - Waimea Canyon, which was known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and after having seen it ourselves, we can totally see how it got that reputation
Waimea Canyon, which was known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and after having seen it ourselves, we can totally see how it got that reputation

Anyways, we had no trouble seeing this waterfall during our visits as it was pretty much viewable from the road from a handful of overlooks.

It was even visible from the busy Waimea Canyon Lookout (though it wasn’t the best viewing spot from here).

Perhaps the best viewing spot for this waterfall was between the lookout by the Pu’u Ka Pele Picnic Area to the north and the popular Waimea Canyon Lookout to the south (see directions below).

As for the viewing experience, the photos you see on this page were taken with a regular zoom lens.

Waimea_046_12272006 - Context of Waipo'o Falls, showing just how beautifully-situated it was as it was nestled within the grand Waimea Canyon
Context of Waipo’o Falls, showing just how beautifully-situated it was as it was nestled within the grand Waimea Canyon

However, since the roadside views were still a bit distant from the falls itself, I reckon a telephoto lens would really be helpful in bringing in the falls even closer in photographs.

During our first trip to Kaua’i, we also did a helicopter flight, which flew us closer and over the impressive Waipo’o Falls.

That said, I thought the roadside views were probably best when it came to this waterfall because of the Waimea Canyon context, especially considering the contrast between the red soil and the green vegetation.

Canyon Trail to the Top of Waipo’o Falls (Difficulty: 3)

While the roadside (and even chopper) views of Waipoo Falls were convenient, they were still distant.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_179_11212021 - View of Waimea Canyon from the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout, which also acted as the trailhead for the Canyon Trail leading to the very top of Waipo'o Falls
View of Waimea Canyon from the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, which also acted as the trailhead for the Canyon Trail leading to the very top of Waipo’o Falls

So in order to get a more intimate experience with the Koke’e Stream, I had to go on a roughly 3- to 4-mile upside-down hike to the top of the main pair of drops of Waipo’o Falls.

Throughout this trail, I wouldn’t be seeing the main drops of Waipo’o Falls, but I did end up getting close to two smaller waterfalls just a bit further upstream on the Koke’e Stream.

One of the waterfalls made for a nice swimming hole, while the other waterfall just downstream of it offered a precipitous view towards an unusual natural arch as well as the rest of Waimea Canyon from the very brink of Waipo’o Falls’ upper main drop.

I did the hike from the Pu’u Hinahina Viewpoint, where the minimum round-trip hiking distance to the top of Waipo’o Falls and back was about 3 miles with a roughly 660ft elevation loss.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_022_11212021 - Looking towards the alternate trailhead at the end of unpaved Halemanu Road, which was only possible with a high clearance 4wd vehicle
Looking towards the alternate trailhead at the end of unpaved Halemanu Road, which was only possible with a high clearance 4wd vehicle

However, I also pursued short detours to overlooks as well as to both smaller waterfalls so the overall hiking distance was on the order of 3.6 miles or more.

If you have a high clearance vehicle (preferably with 4wd), then it’s possible to take the Halemanu Road to an alternate trailhead, which would cut roughly 0.6-mile (or 1.2 miles round-trip) and around 300ft of net elevation loss.

Anyways, from the Pu’u Hinahina Viewpoint and parking lot, I went to the far eastern end of the lot, where the Canyon Trail went past a shoe brush area (to wipe off invasive species).

Almost immediately, the trail descended steeply, which really made me not look forward to the return hike because I knew the climb back up would be brutal.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_032_11212021 - View of the cliffs of Waimea Canyon from the spur trail to a lookout that briefly deviated from the Canyon Trail
View of the cliffs of Waimea Canyon from the spur trail to a lookout that briefly deviated from the Canyon Trail

Shortly after the alternate 4wd trailhead, the trail then reached a fork, where the path on the right went around 0.1-mile leading to an overlook towards the cliffs of Waimea Canyon.

It appeared that people used to hike beyond the end of the fencing towards a bluff lower than the end of this spur trail, but I didn’t pursue that unsanctioned path so I can’t say anything more about it.

Back on the main trail, it continued to undulate through a gulch on the Nawaimaka Stream before climbing to an open cliff-top section with views back towards the main road and parts of Waimea Canyon.

Continuing forward, the trail then descended a potentially slippery slope of packed dirt that apparently used to have steps but now was more of a friction pitch.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_067_11212021 - Zoomed in look at an attractive natural arch perched on a narrow ridge as seen from a scenic part of the Canyon Trail
Zoomed in look at an attractive natural arch perched on a narrow ridge as seen from a scenic part of the Canyon Trail

During this descent, I could already see a small and attractive natural arch across the Koke’e Stream.

Anyways, the descent ultimately veered left and returned to the jungle where it descended until the next trail fork.

At this fork, the path on the left led to a plunge pool and what I’m calling the “First Waterfall” on Koke’e Stream.

At this waterfall, there was a fairly large plunge pool that was perfect for cooling off.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_081_11212021 - One person wading in the large plunge pool of the first of two small waterfalls on the Koke'e Stream, which were just upstream from the main 800ft cumulative drop of Waipo'o Falls
One person wading in the large plunge pool of the first of two small waterfalls on the Koke’e Stream, which were just upstream from the main 800ft cumulative drop of Waipo’o Falls

According to Gaia GPS, the continuation of the Canyon Trail was further to the right of the plunge pool, but I didn’t go that way so I can’t comment further on it.

Continuing on the path to the right, the trail descended towards the top of a second waterfall.

It was possible to cross over the top of this second waterfall via one of the trails, but I sought out a more frontal view of this falls, which required a fairly dicey scramble down an eroded rock wall.

Once I reached the bottom, then it was pretty straightforward to stand in front of the double waterfall.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_122_11212021 - Looking across the second small waterfall that was accessible at the end of the Canyon Trail, which was right atop the main drops of Waipo'o Falls
Looking across the second small waterfall that was accessible at the end of the Canyon Trail, which was right atop the main drops of Waipo’o Falls

Looking downstream from the base of the falls, I was able to see the natural arch atop a cliff though it wasn’t possible to see any bit of the main drops of Waipo’o Falls.

Once I had my fill of this spot, I then hiked all the way back to the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout where I had to gain back most of the 660ft elevation loss, especially in the last half-mile which was relentlessly uphill.

Overall, I spent a little over 2 hours to do this hike, which included all the spur trails and lookouts in addition to the pair of small waterfalls on the Koke’e Stream.

Authorities

Waipo’o Falls resides in Waimea Canyon State Park in the island of Kauai, Hawaii. However, 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.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_193_11212021 - Recently, a pay and display machine has been installed at most of the popular parking lots in Hawaii's state parks, including this one at the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_173_11212021 - This was a spray and brush that was installed at the Canyon Trail Trailhead to encourage people to remove any invasive species that might be clinging onto their shoes
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_005_11212021 - The Canyon Trail immediately diving into the bush as it made a steep 300ft descent in the first half-mile or so
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_012_11212021 - The Canyon Trail descended steeply over several eroded switchbacks like this one.  So that means you have to get back all that elevation loss at the very end of this out-and-back hike
Waimea_Canyon_013_iPhone_11212021 - Looking back at the alternate trailhead at the very end of the 4wd Halemanu Road
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_024_11212021 - Near the alternate trailhead were lots of signs warning of the cliff exposure on the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_026_11212021 - At about 0.6-mile from the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout was this fork in the trail, where the path on the right made a brief out-and-back spur to some cliff views
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_027_11212021 - Context of the spur trail deviating from the Canyon Trail leading to cliff views of Waimea Canyon
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_031_11212021 - Approaching the end of the out-and-back spur to the cliff views
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_035_11212021 - Looking towards the cliffs from the out-and-back spur deviating from the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_038_11212021 - Beyond the cliff view detour, the Canyon Trail continued to undulate through some minor gulches and vegetation that was noticeably less jungle-like since Waimea Canyon tended to be drier than the island's more windward side
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_045_11212021 - The Canyon Trail starting to skirt some ledges on its way towards the top of Waipo'o Falls
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_051_11212021 - As the Canyon Trail started to get to more open terrain, I also started to encounter more red soil and interesting rocks like these
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_056_11212021 - The Canyon Trail climbing up to some ridge or ledge with expansive views of Waimea Canyon
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_059_11212021 - Context of the scenic stretch of the Canyon Trail revealing impressive cliffs of Waimea Canyon
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_062_11212021 - More rock formations on the scenic part of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_064_11212021 - The Canyon Trail continued along this scenic stretch before it made the next steep descent towards the top of Waipo'o Falls
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_065_11212021 - Descending the Canyon Trail just as people were struggling to make their way up.  Note in the distance towards the topright was a small natural arch
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_070_11212021 - Further down the steep and potentially slippery descent from the scenic part back into the vegetation along the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_072_11212021 - Back within the bush as I was getting closer to the end of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_106_11212021 - At the bottom of the descent from the scenic part, there was a fork in the trail, where going left went to the first waterfall while going right continued towards the second waterfall
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_074_11212021 - This was the first waterfall that I encountered on the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_098_11212021 - Long-exposed look at the first waterfall along the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_104_11212021 - Context of someone scrambling to the right of the plunge pool providing a sense of scale of the size of this waterfall
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_107_11212021 - Continuing further downhill from the trail junction, I found myself in this narrow stretch, which wasn't far from the second waterfall
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_108_11212021 - Looking across the stream immediately above the second waterfall at the end of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_111_11212021 - Looking across the top of the second waterfall on Koke'e Stream, which was just upstream from the top of the main drops of Waipo'o Falls. Notice the natural arch on the far topright of this picture
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_119_11212021 - Looking across the second waterfall on Koke'e Stream at the end of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_125_11212021 - Looking back at people making the steep scramble to get down to the bottom of that second waterfall on the Koke'e Stream
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_132_11212021 - Direct look at the second waterfall on the Koke'e Stream at the end of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_139_11212021 - Looking downstream over the brink of the main parts of Waipo'o Falls towards the Waimea Canyon cliffs and the natural arch in the distance
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_141_11212021 - View of the natural arch from the end of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_145_11212021 - Context of part of the second waterfall on Koke'e Stream and the scramble to get towards its bottom
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_148_11212021 - Contextual view over the brink of the upper main drop of Waipo'o Falls towards the natural arch and Waimea Canyon
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_149_11212021 - Last look across the second waterfall on the Koke'e Stream before heading back up to the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_156_11212021 - Going back up towards the scenic part of the Canyon Trail, which was deceptively slippery due to the loose gravel and erosion
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_158_11212021 - Catching up to a family as we were going back across the scenic section of the Canyon Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_165_11212021 - Back in the bush where this shot shows some of the muddy and rugged terrain of the Canyon Trail though it was tame compared to say the Kalalau Trail
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_166_11212021 - Continuing back through the bush within the Canyon Trail revealing some of the narrowness of the trail itself on the way back up to Pu'u Hinahina Lookout
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_169_11212021 - Even out in Waimea Canyon, there were the ubiquitous feral chickens or roosters out and about
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_172_11212021 - Steep ascent back up to the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout near the very end of this out-and-back hike
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_182_11212021 - While I was waiting for Julie and Tahia to come back with the car to pick me up, I spent some time checking out the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout itself
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_184_11212021 - There was also a short path leading to the Ni'ihau View, which went behind this restroom facility at the Pu'u Hinahina parking lot
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_185_11212021 - The Ni'ihau View lookout
Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_188_11212021 - Looking in the distance against the setting sun towards the Ni'ihau silhouette
Waipoo_Falls_Lookout_001_11212021 - Looking back across the Hwy 550 towards the Pu'u Ka Pele picnic area from the Waipo'o Falls Lookout
Waipoo_Falls_Lookout_006_11212021 - This was the view from the Pu'u Ka Pele Lookout towards Waipo'o Falls in context with the cliffs it was nestled within. Notice that on this November 2021 visit, the waterfall's flow wasn't doing nearly as well as during our December 2006 visit further down this gallery
Waimea_Canyon_001_Julies_11212021 - Sunset view towards Waimea Canyon from the Waipo'o Falls Lookout as the onset of darkness made the waterfall even harder to see given its light flow during our November 2021 visit
Waimea_012_12272006 - Waimea Canyon Lookout as seen during our December 2006 visit. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken on that visit
Waimea_031_12272006 - Closeup of Waipo'o Falls as seen in December 2006
Kauai_Inter_Island_heli_021_12222006 - Waipo'o Falls as seen from the helicopter during our first visit to Kaua'i in December 2006
Kauai_Inter_Island_heli_018_12222006 - Waipo'o Falls from a different angle during our late December 2006 visit
Kauai_Inter_Island_heli_242_12272006 - A distant contextual look at Waipo'o Falls by helicopter during our late December 2006 visit
Kauai_Inter_Island_heli_261_12272006 - Flying pretty close to the Waipo'o Falls during our late December 2006 visit to Kaua'i


The most notable roadside views of Waipo’o Falls is from the Waimea Canyon Lookout and the Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout.

The Waimea Canyon Lookout is between mileposts 10 and 11 about 10.3 miles north of the junction between the Kaumuali’i Highway (Hwy 50) and the Onaona Road (Hwy 550) in Waimea Town.

Waipoo_Falls_Lookout_004_11212021 - The Pu'u Ka Pele Lookout (or Waipo'o Falls Lookout) was directly across the Hwy 550 from the Pu'u Ka Pele Picnic Area
The Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout (or Waipo’o Falls Lookout) was directly across the Hwy 550 from the Pu’u Ka Pele Picnic Area

The Pu’u Ka Pele Lookout (officially known as the Waipo’o Falls Viewpoint) was about 2.5 miles north of the turnoff for Waimea Canyon Lookout just south of the 13-mile post on the Hwy 550.

Along the way, there were other more frontal views of Waipo’o Falls from various pullouts between mileposts 12 and 13.

For the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, that was another 3/4-mile further to the north along the Hwy 550.

If you’re interested in seeing Waipo’o Falls by helicopter, there are tour companies that leave from Lihu’e, Port Allen, and Princeville.

Puu_Hinahina_Canyon_Trail_003_11212021 - Looking back at the parking lot for the Pu'u Hinahina Lookout, which also acted as a trailhead for the Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo'o Falls
Looking back at the parking lot for the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout, which also acted as a trailhead for the Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls

The Kaua’i Helicopter Waterfalls write-up has more detail about that option.

Finally, for geographical context, Waimea was about 18 miles (about 30 minutes drive) west of Koloa / Po’ipu, about 24 miles (over 30 minutes drive) west of Lihu’e, about 32 miles (under an hour drive) west of Kapa’a, and about 53 miles (under 90 minutes drive) southwest of Princeville.

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Brief video showing the idyllic first waterfall and plunge pool


360 degree sweep at the second waterfall right atop the upper drop of the main sections of Waipo'o Falls with also a downstream canyon view that included the arch


Brief 360 sweep showing the canyon view at Waipo'o Falls before swinging back towards the picnic area and then back around the pullout and lookout area before looking at the falls once again

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Tagged with: waimea, waimea canyon, kauai, hawaii, usa, waterfall, waipo'o, waipoo, puu ka pele, na pali, alakai, kalalau



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secret (unnamed) kauai waterfall (to the left off Waimea Canyon road, just a few miles south of the Waimea Canyon lookout itself) January 6, 2016 9:44 am by Lauren Cohn-Frankel - I saw this small but GORGEOUS waterfall from the highway on the way to Waimea Canyon and I just had to stop. It is so picture perfect I thought it must be man made at first, and was expecting to see a house or resort or something nearby but nope, nothing. There is a pull… ...Read More

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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.
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