Taryn's Wreckreation Guide: 6 Great Hikes on The Garden Island

By: Ryan Castle

January 4, 2017

Finally.  I've done something interesting enough and worthy enough of an appearance on Taryn's Wreckreation Guide.   Big day!

I had the opportunity over the holidays to visit one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Close your eyes and picture paradise. You’re probably picturing a beach or forested mountain on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. Quite literally. The reason you picture a place that looks like Kaua’i is because that image of paradise has been beaten into your skull your whole life. The exotic island King Kong is from? Kaua’i. Gilligan’s Island? Yup, the fictional SS Minnow crashed on the very real Moloa’a Beach on the Northeast corner of the island. Tropic Thunder, Avatar, South Pacific, Jurassic Park and World? You guessed it friend, Kaua’i.

While Kaua’i isn’t roaming with dinosaurs it is overrun with their descendants. Chickens. They’re everywhere. The Hawaiian Islands are a master class in introduced species. From pineapples to pigs, someone brought them there at some point and they thrived. In the case of the chickens they were a food source for the Polynesians brought over on canoes many centuries ago. There were no predatory animals on Kaua’i until the domestic house cat so bam - Chickens everywhere. I don’t care how deep you find yourself in nature. Hike miles to an exotic waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It’s just you, your special somebody and this jerk singing you the song of his people while you eat your Cliff Bar.

I hiked most days on the trip. If you’re going to Kaua’i, you have to go hiking. It’s essential. Get up early, breakfast, hike, lunch, beach, dinner, many beers interspersed throughout, sleep, repeat for as many days as you can get away.

Here are 6 of my favorite hikes from the trip. There are hundreds of miles to hike on the island. If you go I encourage you to explore as much of them as you can. Pick your own favorites and tell me why I’m wrong.

Anaina Hou Community Park

The Anaina Hou Community Park is a non-profit, privately owned working farm and mahogany plantation that’s open to the public for hiking. It’s a nice, flat, five mile loop with great mountain views, wide open fields and a very cool historic stone damn situated in what looks like the Garden of Eden. Great for running! I hope you don’t mind mud. Mud is not unique to the park though. I’m sure this island is in fact made of mud. Based on my experience Kaua’i is exclusively wet red clay with the consistency of creamy peanut butter stacked high from the ocean floor all the way up to Kawaikini Peak.


Hanakapi’ai Falls

Hanakapi’ai Falls is nestled four miles in from the entrance to Napali Coast State Wilderness Park. The first two miles is on the famous Kalalau Trail followed by two more up the Hanakapi'ai creek to the falls. While it’s only an 8 mile round-trip be prepared to put in a little work. It’s more technical, lots of big rocks, several creek crossings and (again) mud. Ankle deep mud. I did see a local (I assume) walk past me in a bikini about 3 miles in… That’s it. Not even shoes. Mind = Blown. This hike offers the best views on the island. The Napali Coast is stunningly beautiful to put it simply. Worth the trip.


Sleeping Giant

There are a few ways to get to the top of Sleeping Giant outside Kapa’a. We took the “long” way which was still only a couple mile fairly easy jaunt up the mountain. There’s a picnic shelter at the summit. Have a snack and enjoy the view of Kapa’a and the Pacific Ocean below. Go Sounders!


Uluwehi Falls (AKA Secret Falls)

You’ll have to rent a Kayak to get to this one. The trip starts from the marina near Lydgate Park on the Wailua River. Kayak rentals are relatively cheap. $60-$80.  They’ll even load it on your car. Don’t expect a lot of instruction. I basically got a “Here’s a map. Have fun. Be back by 5pm.” The paddle up the river took about 45 minutes. Very calm water. You’ll hardly know you’re on a river at all. I recommend going early. Tons on guided tours go up the river and do the short hike to Secret Falls. After about 10am you’ll wonder why it’s called Secret Falls since it’s apparently a secret to no one.


Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and rightfully so. Stand on the rim of this 3,000 foot deep scar on the land and you’ll know why. The canyon and the small town of the same name are on the dryer west side of the island. It’s downright baron compared the lush green the rest of the island enjoys. Stop and take in the view at the Puu Hinahina Lookout at about mile marker 13 then hike the Canyon Trail.


Keahua Arboretum

This one is super easy and short with great views. If you have little ones, a hangover or are just feeling lazy this is a hike for you. There’s a picnic shelter about a mile and a half up. This is the only hike that we didn’t see many people. Nice and quiet. If you continue beyond the picnic area for a few miles you can connect with the Powerline Trail that cuts 11 miles straight through the island. Be forewarned: It’s not maintained. Very muddy and overgrown. From what I hear nearly impassable in places, but you have fun.