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
2,162 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

We started at 11:00 am ish. Got to the river at 12:25. Rested there for a hour, then went back up. Ascent took 1 hour 39 minutes. We are a fit couple and we found this to be a challenge. Like idiots we left our water purifier and camelbacks at home. Boy they would have made this trek a bit less strenuous. The hike to the river is an accomplishment, not a new vista. You get that going down. Some very steep and muddy sections made the descent more difficult than others I have hiked. All in all a fun hike for those looking to be challenged.

backpacking
2 months ago

I was with a group of 8. Various fitness levels. Some were extremely sore. We backpacked down and camped two nights. Great camping by river. Amazing views but HOT! Trekking poles were very helpful. Take LOTS of water. We boiled a lot to hike out with.

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike down over 2000 feet. It is actually 2.5 miles one way. When you reach the bottom there is no where but back up. Carry twice as much water as you think you need. Red hill half way up is very hot. At the top a great sense of accomplishment or your happy you didn’t need to be rescued.

hiking
3 months ago

Bring lots of water, trail is hot (August), hiking stick is good to have on this trail. View is good, you’re down the canyon and hit the Waimea river. This is really a hard trail. Seen some wild goat. Awesome

3 months ago

Un très beau trail. Le retour peut être dur prévoir au moins 1,5L d’eau par personne.

hiking
3 months ago

It's difficult although it is amazing. We start around noon. There is no any others but three of us on the trail down and up. Two is early 50's and one teenage. There has few cover and I got sunburned on my shoulders. I would not hike down more than the tree lines if I had to do it again. I got bitten by mosquitos and out of water at last 0.5 mile (three bottles for two). 3 and half hours for two adults and 3 hours for teenage total. Good hiking boots, poles, plenty of water, really plenty.

4 months ago

Amazing!!!! This is a really hard and strenuous hike but the views are so beautiful. We hiked to the river and there is a nice swimming hole. So beautiful

hiking
4 months ago

Beautiful views but intense. It was 2.5 miles straight down and then 2.5 up up and then up some more. We saw several goats and lots of birds, waterfall from afar. If I did this again I would hike down a mile or mile and a half then turn back. I work out 5 days a week and am in good shape, this was challenging for me.

hiking
4 months ago

Extremely treacherous down and back up as you are literally walking on the side of a mountain with a 100’ drop-off. Going back up make sure you have plenty of water as you will definitely need it. Great hike for those wanting a challenge.

hiking
5 months 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
5 months 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.

6 months ago

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

hiking
6 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
7 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
8 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
8 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
9 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
11 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.

11 months ago

Loved this hike! Views are unbeatable!

hiking
Friday, November 10, 2017

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
Friday, November 03, 2017

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
Friday, October 20, 2017

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
Wednesday, October 04, 2017

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

Monday, October 02, 2017

hard in the knees and toes

Thursday, September 21, 2017

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.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Very hard but the view is beautiful :)

hiking
Monday, August 14, 2017

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
Thursday, August 03, 2017

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.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

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.

Friday, July 07, 2017

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

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