The Na Pali Coast on Kaua‘i’s North Shore is famed for its rugged and remote seclusion. The only way to reach Kalalau Valley is by foot, and most visitors only ever glimpse the first few miles of this incredible coastline. Unbeknownst to many, there is a unique way to see this beautiful natural wonder, from a completely different view point, Kalalau Lookout. Up here you get an unparalleled view of the razor sharp ridges that define the narrow valleys carved into the sheer Kaua‘i cliffs, scoured by centuries of heavy rains that have exposed the colorful layers of sediment that shimmer before you in vibrant greens, reds, and yellows.
High above the town of Waimea, beyond Waimea Canyon, at the back of Koke`e State Park, is the incredibly scenic Kalalau Valley Lookout. From here, some 4,000 feet above sea level, you have unparalleled views of the length of the Na Pali Coast as well as the enchanted Kalalau Valley far below. This isolated valley – accessible only by hiking trail or sea – was inhabited up until a century ago, with native Hawaiians practicing traditional fishing and taro farming in a small community there until 1920.
Visiting the Kalalau Valley Lookout
The best time to head to the Kalalau Lookout – the highest place on Kaua‘i accessible by road – is in the mid-morning, between 8 and 11am. Prior to 8, the sun has not risen high enough to light up the narrow fingers of the Kalalau Valley below. After 11am the cloud cover in the valley grows quite thick. While it is always worth a trip to Waimea Canyon and the lookout, don’t despair if you arrive and the valley looks socked in. If the winds are blowing out, from the land to the sea, the clouds will often sink into the valley, warm, and dissipate. So, with a little patience, you just might get the view you drove all that way for. NOTE: If the tradewinds are blowing steadily onshore, the reverse is true, and you are probably in for a hearty helping of cloud soup. Check the weather before you go to the Kalalau Valley Lookout, but go regardless! Koke`e State Park and Waimea Canyon have plenty to offer, even when visibility of the Na Pali Coast is less than ideal.
To get to the Kalalau lookout, take Highway 50 from Hanapēpē to Waimea, then turn right on Waimea Canyon Road at mile marker 23. The lookout is after the canyon, around mile marker 18. If you reach the end of the road, you can also enjoy the stunning views from Pu`u o Kila overlook.