The majestic Wailua Falls is a tropical oasis seemingly out of a fantasy (in a way, it is, having served as the opening sequence for the popular 1970’s TV show Fantasy Island). With twin falls plummeting 85 feet into a shimmering pool below, the falls are found on the rain-soaked flanks of Mt. Waialeale near the convergence of the forks of the Wailua River. This incredible natural wonder is easily accessible and not to be missed during your stay on Kaua‘i. Parking at the scenic overlook offers incredible views of the falls, which usually appear as twin cascades but can combine into a single cataclysm during periods of high flow. At times, during periods of very heavy rainfall, triple falls are visible. For the best views we advise going early in the morning to dodge the crowds. As a bonus, you can also catch a glimpse of a dazzling rainbow thanks to the morning sun shining through the spray and hanging mists.
Wailua Falls is near the end of the South Fork of the Wailua River, just before it converges with the North Fork at Fern Grotto. The majestic falls are powered by the more than 400” of rainfall that fall on the mountains every year. While the height of the cascade can be variable based on the amount of rain, it is not 200+ feet as reported in some guidebooks. From the drop-off to the pool it is closer to 85’, still a daunting height when you consider ancient Hawaiian boys would jump from the falls to prove their manhood (this is now illegal and definitely not safe, so don’t get any ideas). The pool is 30’ deep and a popular swimming spot, though strong currents near the base of the falls should be treated with caution.
While not illegal, the county highly discourages anyone from hiking to the collecting pool at the base of the falls, it is one of the more dangerous waterfall hikes Kauai. If you do opt to make the trek, know that the first trail (closest to the parking lot) should be avoided due to steep, muddy, and treacherous conditions. The second trail, a little further down the road, is longer but less steep, making it a better choice (though still not an easy hike, and one we do not recommend).
The falls are located in Wailua River State Park, just a short drive from Līhu‘e. Located above the town of Hanamaulu, it is a 1-hour drive from Princeville, 15 minutes from Līhu‘e, and 40 minutes from Poipu. Take Kuhio Highway (HI-56) to State Hwy 583 (at mile marker 1). Follow to the end of the road where the parking lot awaits.
Wailua Falls is easily accessible and offers incredible views. Guided waterfall hikes kauai and tours to the base of the falls are available, for those who wish to get close up but don’t feel comfortable hiking the muddy trails on their own.