Kukui Trail

HARD 86 reviews
#6 of 15 trails in

Kukui Trail is a 4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Kekaha, Hawaii that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, camping, and nature trips and is accessible year-round.

DISTANCE
4.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2162 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

bugs

no dogs

An incredible experience of Waimea Canyon's west side, this Kokee State Park trail drops 2,000 feet to the canyon floor. Travel through a forest of Kukui and other upland trees stopping at viewpoints of the canyon and distant waterfalls along the way. River at the bottom. Camping by permit at Wiliw

hiking
4 days ago

The views from this trail are stunning and well worth it!You hike down into the Canyon on the Kukui trail. This was steep, and a that bright red mud/clay mix which I imagine would be treacherous when wet.
At the bottom of the Canyon the Kukui trail ends and you may either turn left and head up the Canyon to Lonomea campground, or right and follow the Canyon all the way out to the town of Waimea (around 8 miles). (...Or indeed you could turn around and hike the Kukui trail back up and out)
So, tips for IF YOU TURN LEFT AND INTEND TO CAMP: the campsite right at the bottom of the Kukui trail is called Williwilli (it's beautiful). Further up the trail and 3 river crossings later (which will definitely require you to get your feet wet) is Kaluahaulu campground, then Hipalau, and finally at the end of the trail is Lonomea. We had a permit for Lonomea campground, but did not actually make it there because the trail was SO overgrown, and ducked into Hipalau instead. We really were battling our way through dense overgrown thorny plants, which were often above head height, for sustained stretches. What's more there is a sharp drop off on one side (totally unproblematic if you can see the path, but a little treacherous if you can't see where you're putting your feet!). It's really just a shame that Hawaii State Parks rangers aren't doing a proper job and clearly haven't been up there in (at the very least) a few months. Camping at any campsite does require a permit. I will say, however, that although both Kaluahaulu and Hipalau were showing as fully booked on the State Parks website, the night we were there only one couple was at Kaluahaulu and we were the only couple at Hipalau (and the dreadfully overgrown state of the trail informed us that clearly no rangers go back there to check permits). A tip for if you are camping though - the mosquitos are swarming down there. I covered myself in bug spray and still got eaten alive... take DEET!
Tips for IF YOU TURN RIGHT TO HIKE THE CANYON OUT: It's very straight forward - it's essentially an 8 mile dis-used 4x4 trail, with multiple river crossings (I lost count, although I think it was around 11). The river crossings will definitely require you to get your feet/legs wet. Otherwise, though, it's very easy. It's not hugely scenic (especially the last 3 miles or so), but it is kind of cool to see how long the Canyon continues for.
Best thing about both these trails - hardly anyone else on them!

hiking
7 days ago

We are covered in bug bites from our ankles to our faces and we DID use bug spray. The only waterfall you see is on the other side of the canyon. You hike to a river that is swarming in mosquitoes. There are so many other better hikes in the park and on the island. This one is not worth your time or energy. It is super slippery going down. Overall, not worth it.

1 month ago

Wow! Stunningly beautiful hiking. Well worth the effort. The views are well worth the steep drop.

hiking
2 months ago

Stunning!!! And rather brutal and muddy.
It’s “only” five miles but the mud and rough trail make it take a while. The views about halfway down are stunning, though, and the forest is filled with frogs and goats and is also quite pretty. Also pack water and good shoes it is quite slick.

hiking
3 months ago

Disclaimer: I do not suggest attempting this in the rain or in any sort of inclement weather. The trail becomes VERY slippery and when I went down the visibility was very low so I didn’t actually see any views of the canyon. Still one of the most beautiful and fun hikes I’ve ever done, but I am a regular hiker and I had good boots and used two sticks I found along the way as poles and it was pretty tough to keep from slipping. And a fall in rainy conditions could be dangerous. I am not from Kauai and was warned to be careful if I went at all, which was not recommended by locals, as at least three people were seriously injured (broken bones, airlifted out, etc) on trails in the canyon that week.

That being said, I am young and dumb and may never have the opportunity to visit this beautiful place ever again so down I went.

Took me about an hour and a half to get about 2-2.5 miles in. I could hear rushing water on either side of me but saw nothing but white. Heard some goats too! But like I said, I would have preferred to do this in better weather and if I’m ever able to return I will.

Moral of the story is- this hike is gorgeous even when you can’t see the views. But DO NOT attempt hikes like this on Kauai if it’s been raining and especially if local people advise against it. They know the place much better than you do and it’s not worth the risk. I was with a group of people on Waimea river who wanted to try and hike after heavy rains and we were told it wasn’t a good idea and wouldn’t even be fun, but they didn’t seem to believe it. TRUST ME, I like busting my butt down and up a muddy mountainside in the rain just as much as anyone else but don’t assume you know better than folks who live in the area.

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful views into the canyon with distant waterfalls along the way. There were mosquitos below the tree line (a little past the halfway point). We stopped at the the river for lunch. Hiking back up was strenuous. Bring at least couple liters of water. Also good hiking shoes and hiking poles are recommended.

camping
3 months ago

Great hike! Definitely difficult because of the elevation gain/loss but I thought going down was harder than coming back up! I'm from flat Nebraska and liked the challenge. Enjoyed the change of terrain, saw a lot of goats and trekked through the mud at the bottom-adventurous! Our plan was to camp 1 night at Kaluahaulu campsite but we could not find the trail after we crossed the river. We looked and looked. (Anyone else have this problem?! Frustrating.) We ended up coming back to Wiliwili and a nice German couple shared their site with us. Be prepared for sneaky mosquitos at the river, bring plenty of water and snacks. Stars on a clear night are incredible.

backpacking
4 months ago

Very beautiful. We did a 3 day hike down the valley. We wanted to go to kaluaha but We missed a trail junction and we ended up to a dam. Very nice but the climate was very humide during the night. We left our bivouac open and ended up with water inside. Overall, beautiful trail and the way back was not as difficult as we though even with 40 pounds backpack.

hiking
6 months ago

Beautiful hike into the canyon, but I would not go all the way down to the river again. Stop at the the tree line (a little past the halfway point) as there are no views and you basically get whacked by bushes the majority of the time. We planned to have lunch by the river, but there were too many mosquitos so we immediately headed back up. We were glad to have good shoes and one hiking pole each to save our knees.

6 months ago

Loved this hike! Views are unbeatable!

hiking
7 months ago

Enfin une rando au calme à Hawaii. Enfin presque, il y a toujours des hélicoptères qui tournent, mais bon nous n’avons rencontré que 4 personnes. Descente avec des super vues des montagnes qui entourent le canyon. Baignade dans la rivière permet de se rafraîchir avant de remonter.

hiking
7 months ago

We’re avid hikers from CO and this one was pretty tough! Went down to the river, almost got trampled by a couple of goats, saw a ton of frogs, ate an orange off of an unexpected orange tree, went for a swim and then hiked back up! Round trip was a little less than 3 hours, and we were cruising. Super fun, definitely worth it!

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked this in October 2017 with my husband. Used a single pole for parts of this hike. Start early! Full sun on the way down and two downpours on the way up. Perfectly gorgeous colors regardless of the weather and a challenging but doable hike.

hiking
8 months ago

Great views and hike but definitely hard. Bring lots of water!

8 months ago

hard in the knees and toes

8 months ago

Beautiful views! I was dreading the way back up as we kept getting lower and lower. However the hike up wasn't as bad as I anticipated. My legs were shot after all of the descending. Bring bug spray for sure! Will not recommend to an inexperienced hiker.

9 months ago

Very hard but the view is beautiful :)

hiking
10 months ago

Nice views, intense hike. Super hot with long exposed stretches where the sun just bakes you. Bring plenty of water. We went through 2 liters each and were wishing we'd brought more.

hiking
10 months ago

This trail is very difficult. It's 2.5 miles down into the canyon and then 2.5 miles straight back up. The trail itself is very steep and uneven, but the views are spectacular! Definitely wear good shoes and bring lots of water. The best views are about halfway down so if you're not a super experienced hiker you can always turn around at that point. I would not recommend this for inexperienced hikers.

11 months ago

Sorry to say it, but this is not an easy trail. It is beautiful but you had better have the right footwear and be an experienced hiker.

11 months ago

What a hike!! Not for the weak, that's for sure!

hiking
11 months ago

Total smoker but well worth it. 2300 elevation on the way down- and you guessed it- 2300 elevation gain on the uphill. We were fortunate for a clear and dry day. Start early! It will save you on the heat and humidity for the return trip. Absolutely beautiful views throughout the entire hike of the canyon- but make sure to always watch your step. The river at the bottom was great to relax and snack for a bit. We did the trip in roughly 2 1/2 hours- bring lots of water and snacks (you will be hungry and in need of caloric intake I assure you) one of the best hikes I have ever done- for physical exertion and the views! Happy Hiking!

11 months ago

Great hike with beautiful canyon views and a nice swim at the bottom.

hiking
Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Unique canyon views through the hike, taking in the vastness of the Little Grand Canyon from below its walls. Look for the mile 8 road marker - there is no parking lot. Stick to the right at the start of the nature loop and look for that trail head sign to pop up quickly.
Red dirt stretches make it a dry day hike without exception. Coming back up wasn't as bad as I thought, in fact the downhill was tougher on my body. At the bottom, the river is a nice place to cool off and play on the rocks. Definitely bring bug spray for mosquitos near the bottom (when you hit jungle) and at the river. Well worth your time and effort!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stellar. Mostly exposed to the sun and incredible canyon views for the first half on the way down, then covered under trees until the end. Don't stop at the treeline though, because the wildlife is in the woods; I saw a herd of 14 wild goats cross the trail down there. The mosquitoes at the river were vicious though--I got a dozen bites within 2 minutes and turned right around as fast as possible!

hiking
Friday, May 19, 2017

Beautiful hike. This is very hard. The way down is hard because it's steep but the way up is much more challenging. We only saw 3 people the whole time. Great hike to see the beauty of the canyon.

Monday, May 01, 2017

This was AHMAZING!!! Lightly trafficked due to the intense uphill climb. I actually thought going down was more difficult due to technicality. Beautiful sights!!!

hiking
Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pretty difficult hike for beginners, aka me! Double knee replacement in 2015. Lot of elevation change, beautiful scenery, beautiful day. Will be better prepared next time, 4 1/2 hrs

hiking
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Great hike. The trail is washed out in places and you have to figure out the way. A little slippery too. The river was pretty and we had a great time. Very strenuous.

hiking
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Incredible views most of the way but a disappointment to end up at the river which has a swift current. Difficult getting back out but still nice views coming back. Loose gravel so a hiking pole would be recommended.

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