The Awaawapuhi hike has one of the coolest views on the island. On either side of the ridge are 2,000+ ft drop-offs above the Nualolo and Awaawapuhi Valleys. You can see the rest of the Na Pali Coast in the distance. Directly below you is the vast pacific ocean not too far away. This 6.4 mile roundtrip trail descends one mile in elevation from the top of Koke’e and it’s one of those hikes that leaves the amazing views hidden till the end.
The trail is located on the drive to the Koke’e State Park, Kalalau Lookout, and Mount Waialeale – about an hour and fifteen minutes from Lihue. You’ll drive 30 minutes from the small town of Waimea, go pass the Waimea Canyon Lookout and drive up for another 10 minutes after that viewpoint. On the left hand side of the road will be the parking lot. It’s usually filled with cars and is well marked by a sign saying the Awaawapuhi Trail on the right hand side of the road. Use the Google Maps location below to get directions before you hike, as there is no cell service around this area.
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,600 ft.
Description: A moderate trail with epic views of the Na Pali Coast. Go as far as you’re comfortable with. There is a small concrete landing viewpoint at the end, but you can go farther down the ridge, if conditions allow – greater views of the coast down the hill. The trail itself is fairly uninspiring and can leave a few people disappointed if the clouds don’t leave. But considering the other trails nearby, this packs in the best of all the trails. Difficult enough to give you a challenge, but not overly strenuous, It rewards those on a clear day with amazing views.
The trail is used by all types of people – older and younger, tourists and locals.
The pictures don’t do it justice, but the dropoffs are insane. When you finish this hike, you will be thousands of feet in the air, and looking down into the valley. It’s exhilarating and nerve-wracking, but then you will feel more alive than ever. The mountains here in Koke’e are some of the most majestic you can find on this planet earth. The greens, mixed with the ocean blues, and red dirt all come together to heighten your senses. It’s an elevated moment.
It takes a moment to realize that these mountains are some of the oldest in the Hawaiian island chain. Millions of years of erosion – rain, wind, sun – all make this striking landscape special. You’ll be a part of it all too.
For the most part, the trail is in superb condition. On a rainy day, the trail will become very slippery and it will take more time. But if you are lucky enough to go on a dry day, then you’ll breeze down the mountain to the lookout.
As far as time and conditions goes, it is difficult to forecast what the mountains up here will do and what time of day is best for hiking. You will have to check the forecast for Waimea (Kauai) and then reference the difference with Hanalei. In the middle of these two predictions, will likely be the correct amount of clouds and rain. The theory is that in the afternoon, the clouds will burn off the moisture and leave you with wide-open views. If you opt to hike in the afternoon, make sure to bring a headlamp, as you’ll be hiking back in the dark. For this trail, it is possible to watch the sunset and immediately head back to the parking lot and not get lost. Pack a few extra batteries just in case.