Wailua Falls: Up Close and Personal With Kauai’s Popular Waterfall

Wailua Falls is one of the most popular and most visited sites in Hawaii. It is undoubtedly an itinerary staple for any first time visitor to Kauai. Why? Because it’s a spectacular waterfall that can be easily accessed and viewed. The view of Wailua Falls can be seen from the official lookout point at the end of Maalo Road (Highway 583).

There is no official trail down to the base of the waterfall. Keep in mind that two women died while trying to hike down to the nearby Opaekaa Falls in December 2006. In March 2012, the state reached a settlement with the families of the two hikers in the amount of $15.4 million. The lesson here? Do not attempt to go to the bottom of the falls and definitely stay away from the top and don’t be this guy

View from the top of Wailua Falls. This is what you see at the lookout. Pretty spectacular.

View from the top of Wailua Falls. This is what you see at the lookout. Pretty spectacular.

Powerful.

Powerful.

Double barrel falls.

Double barrel falls.

The 80-foot-tall Wailua Falls (some report that it is 170+ feet tall) is known for its signature double-barreled drop into the south fork of the Wailua River. In ancient times, the waterfall was known as Waiehu, “spraying water” (Wichman, 2008). If you’re old enough to remember the 70’s/80’s love drama, Fantasy Island, then you’ll recall the opening credits which prominently featured a fly over of view of Wailua Falls. Off course, the falls is also steeped in ancient lore. It is said that the last king of Kauai, Kaumuali’i, jumped off of Wailua Falls for sport (Wichman, 2008). Another legend says that Pele’s sister tricked a river gatekeeper by throwing boulders across the top of the falls to allow free access to all.

“Just above the falls there was a row of large rocks across the stream used as stepping stones. Before there were rocks, Wailua, a mo’o, lived beside the river. She owned a long wooden plank that she would strech acorss from one bank to another is she were paid a toll by the traveler. If she felt cheated, she would shake the plank when the traveler reached the middle and dump him over the falls. Pele’s sister, Hi’iaka, came to this crossing on her way to Haena. She asked Wailuato throw the plank across and the mo’o refused at first but finally did as asked. Then as soon as Hiiaka had reached the halfway point, the mo’o tried to turn the plank over. Hiiaka regained the shore safely and killed the mo’o. Then she threw large rocks across the river so she could step safely across. (Wichman, 2008).”

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3 comments

  1. The falls are only 80 feet high. The 170+ description comes from an idiot selling a guidebook with exaggerated information in it

    • Thanks for the update, Dan! Post has been corrected. There are so many different heights listed for this waterfall on the Internet, Wikipedia alone offers two heights – 113 feet and 173 feet!

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