Waimea Canyon Lookout Sign in Waimea Canyon State Park Hawaii

Where is Waimea Canyon State Park

Located in the state of Hawaii, Waimea Canyon State Park is often said to contain the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The park’s most notable feature, the Waimea Canyon, received its name for the red soil that it is made of. In Hawaiian, Waimea means “reddish water.” The name most likely became associated with the canyon as its soil started to erode and run down the canyon walls like water. Waimea Canyon US State Park is a popular tourist attraction and receives visitation all year long. Other than the canyon itself, the park contains several other notable features such as a vast trail system, several waterfalls, and a wilderness area.

How Large is Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park covers over 1,800 acres and can be accessed from Waimea, Hawaii by Hawaii state road 550. Waimea Canyon is about 10 miles long and as deep as 3,000 feet in some places. The park’s most central and tallest peak is Mount Waialeale. The peak rests at an elevation of 5,148 and is the second tallest point on the island of Kaua’i. The mountain is also one of the wettest places on earth. Yearly rainfall on the mountain top averages over 370 inches of rain per year. A few strenuous hiking trails in the park descend into and then ascend out of the canyon.

Aerial View of Waimea Canyon in Waimea Canyon State Park Hawaii

Waimea Canyon State Park Weather

The temperatures in Waimea Canyon are rather inviting all year long. The hottest temperatures in the park occur in June, July, and August. These summer temperatures average between 60- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. The coldest temperatures in Waimea Canyon State Park appear in January and February and average between 45- and 60-degrees Fahrenheit. On average, the park receives over 120 days of rain per year. Yearly precipitation totals in the park average around 60 inches. Approximately 20 to 30 inches of this rain falls in the park in the months of December, January and February. Hours of sunlight in the park averages around 12 hours per day throughout the year. However, in June and July Waimea Canyon receives around 13.5 hours of sunlight per day.

When was the Waimea Canyon Formed

The Waimea Canyon was formed around 10 million years ago as the Waimea River carved itself through the layers of lava and basalt present in the area. Around the same time, the central volcano that sat atop the Waimea Canyon collapsed and was also dissolved by the Waimea River. The canyon’s moniker, “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” has consistently been falsely credited to famed novelist Mark Twain. However, the nickname didn’t really begin to be used to identify the Waimea Canyon until after John Wesley Powell, an American explorer, visited the island in 1869. 

Landscape View on Sunny Day in Waimea Canyon State Park Hawaii

Things to do in Waimea Canyon State Park

Visitors arriving at Waimea Canyon State Park will find endless opportunities to explore and learn about the region. List of Parks highlights the state park’s most popular adventures below:

Na Pali Overlook Trails

The various overlook trails in and around Waimea Canyon State Park start from a trailhead located on Hawaii State Road 550. The various trails that start from the trailhead include the Awaawapuhi Trail, the Honopu Ridge Trail, the Nualolo Trail, and the Nualolo Cliffs Trail. Each overlook trail found in the park is very strenuous and should only be attempted by in shape hikers who are equipped with proper equipment and adequate supplies.

Waimea Canyon Trails

Starting from the Halemanu Road, these hikes explore the inside of Waimea Canyon. These trails are dryer than most of the trails in the area. However, these trails provide hikers with a variety of experience levels a chance to interact with the park’s scenery. Trails winding into the Waimea Canyon include the Black Pipe trail, the Waipoo Falls trail, the Cliff trail, and several others.

Forest Trails

Nature enthusiasts will want to set aside a given amount of time to explore the Waimea Canyon forest trails. These trails explore the Kokee rain forest and give visitors the chance to see the variety of plant life found in the region. These trails also are great for birdwatching. In the winter months the forest trails are normally rather wet. The forest trails near Waimea Canyon include the Berry Flat Loop, the Faye Trail, the Kawaikoi Stream Loop, and several others.

Alakai Swamp Trails

The swamp trails near Waimea Canyon are the wettest trails in the area. A hiker’s pace can slow to as little as one mile per hour in the swamp. Hikers shouldn’t wear anything they are not fine with ruining as the Alakai gray mud will stain just about any type of clothing or footwear. The swamp sits in old caldera that was created by eruptions that occurred in the area over six million years ago. Swamp trails in the area include the Alakai Swamp trail, the Mohihi-Waialae Route, the Pihea Trail, and several more.

Wildlife Viewing

Waimea Canyon State Park and its surrounding area supports a variety of wildlife. The park is well known for the variety of avian species that hangout among the treetops within its boundaries. The forest trails are a visitor's best chance at spotting the area’s birds and wildlife.

Camping in Nearby Koke’e State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park does not operate its own campground. The closest campground to Waimea Canyon is located in and overrated by Koke’e State Park. Reservations for the state park’s campground can be made online through the state’s park system website. Reservations should be made months in advance.

Waipo'o Falls on Sunny Day in Waimea Canyon State Park Hawaii

When to Visit Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon is best explored during the summer. During the season, the island is blanketed in warm weather and sunshine. Spring and fall are also great times to visit Waimea Canyon State Park. Winter is the only time of year where visitation is not encouraged.  While a trip to Waimea Canyon during the winter would ensure visitors beat the crowds that flock to the park in summer, winter also brings seasonal rains that drench the park and leave most trails inaccessible.

Must Have Items to Bring to Waimea Canyon State Park

Every outdoor adventure calls for some packing and planning.  Our National Park Visitors Guide advises a trip to Waimea Canyon State Park is best enjoyed with these items listed below:

Water & High Energy Snacks

Water and snacks are always essential for any outdoor getaway. Hikers should bring extra water and high energy snacks like trail mix and beef jerky along with them to Waimea Canyon State Park. 

Sturdy Hiking Boots

To be prepared for the variety of trails that await them at Waimea Canyon State Park, all visitors should pack a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Hikers planning to brave the park’s swamp trails should bring an old pair of hiking boots they don’t mind throwing out after their trip.

Lightweight Rain Jacket

Rainstorms in the park are common during the winter months and at times unpredictable. Its best to bring a lightweight rain jacket with you to Waimea Canyon State Park even if the forecast is completely sunny and clear. A solid rain jacket can keep you comfortable on a rainy hike.

Camping Equipment

There are quite a few camping supplies visitors looking to camp at nearby Koke’e State Park will want to remember to bring with them. Obvious items include tents, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and blankets. However, campers will also want to bring flashlights, extra batteries, camping pillows, and other camping equipment. 

Layers of Clothing

Visitors planning to hike the various trails in and around Waimea Canyon State Park should wear a series of layers. Wearing a few lightweight layers will allow visitors to adjust to a variety of temperatures and weather related events. A sudden rainstorm can soak through several layers and cause a hiker’s body temperature to drop.


Wildlife enthusiasts shouldn’t venture to Waimea Canyon State Park without packing their binoculars. Visitors looking to identify various species of wildlife in the park may also want to pack a Hawaii specific wildlife field guide.

Red Dirt Falls Cascading Over Iron Rich Basalt Rock in Waimea Canyon State Park Hawaii

Where to Stay in Waimea Canyon State Park

Visitors looking to stay within Waimea Canyon State Park will find no options. The nearest campground to Waimea Canyon State Park is in Koke’e State Park. Reservations for the state park’s campground can be made online through the Hawaii Parks reservation portal. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel in the area should search for options in the town of Waimea or Pakala Village.

Food Near Waimea Canyon State Park

Visitors looking to spend all day at the park should bring all of their meals and snacks with them. The closest food to Waimea Canyon State Park is located in Waimea city. The city of Waimea contains various restaurants visitors can enjoy a meal at.

Waimea Canyon Lookout on Sunny Day Waimea Canyon State Park Hawaii

Airports Near Waimea Canyon State Park

The closest airport to Waimea Canyon State Park is the Lihue Airport. The airport is located about 25 mins away from the park. Individuals looking to visit Waimea Canyon State Park will need to book a flight from the Honolulu International Airport to the Lihue Airport. Both Southwest and Hawaiian airlines offer flights from Honolulu to Lihue.

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