Located in northwest Kaua‘i above the impressive chasm of Waimea Canyon, Koke`e State Park is home to incredible native plant life and stunning views of the scenic Kalalau Valley on the Na Pali Coast below. Often a throw-in or bypassed entirely by visitors to Waimea, the park offers an incredible glimpse back in time to the pristine wilderness of these mountains, while showcasing the natural beauty of the island. Visitors can enjoy an informative museum with exhibits on the local ecosystem, flora and fauna, and the unique weather systems that bring so much rain to Kaua‘i (nearby Mt. Waialeale is one of the wettest places on Earth). Scenic overlooks and Kauai hiking trails ranging from short walks to day hikes to full excursions all allow visitors to explore the native forests and cliffside vantage points.
The End of the Road
The park is located at the end of State Road 550, after it travels through Waimea Canyon State Park. Above the canyon the road climbs even higher until it reaches a plateau at 4,200 feet. Koke`e State Park consists of 4,300 acres of mountainous terrain, covered in native forests of koa and ohi`a lehua trees. Indigenous vegetation makes this an ideal spot for bird watching, and the forests are home to numerous native bird species. While the road ends at the breathtaking Kalalau Valley lookout, along the way a charming lodge offers visitors a hot meal, information, and a chance to pick up souvenirs. Cabins and campsites are also available.
Koke’e State Park Hiking
The terrain here may be rugged and mountainous, but that just makes for better views. A series of well-maintained Kauai hiking trails allows hikers of all skill levels to explore the park and gain better vantages of the Kalalau Valley, Na Pali Coast, and Waimea Canyon. Here are some of the more popular:
Canyon Trail (1.8 mi) – Following the rim of the canyon and crossing the Koke`e Stream, offers incredible views of Waimea and Po`omau Canyons. Keep an eye out for wild goats!
Cliff Trail (0.1 mi) – A short spur that leads to the Waimea Canyon Lookout.
Iliau Nature Loop (0.25 mi) – Follows the road through native shrubland, with signs identifying various flora and fauna. Stunning views of Waimea and Waialae Canyons.
Alaka`i Swamp Trail (3.5 mi) – Winds through damp forests to the rim of the Wainiha Pali (pali is Hawaiian for “cliff”), with panoramic views of the North Shore. Great for birding, the trail is often muddy and wet, with boardwalks in many places to provide much needed traction.
Awa`awapuhi Trail (3.25 mi) – Winds through mesic forests on the edge of the Nu`alolo and Awa`awapuhi Valleys on the North Shore, dropping a quarter-mile in elevation in the process.