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Awa’awapuhi Trail, Koke’e State Park, Kaua’i
The Awa’awapuhi Trail is one of a few trails in Koke’e State Park that provide some awe-inspiring views of the legendary Na Pali Coast on Kauai’s west shore.
- Trailhead: Mile marker 17, Hwy 550 (Kokee Rd) – Open in Google Maps.
- Length: 6.5 miles; 3-4 hours.
- Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous. The trail starts at 4,100′ and descends to 2,500′. The slick mud can add a degree of difficulty to the steep terrain.
- Usage: Hikers. Entry into Koke’e State Park is free.
- Best Time for Photography: Late afternoon will give you the best light on the cliffs of the Napali Coast.
- Trail Info Current: Dec 7, 2016
- Further Reading: Kauai.com
Awa’awapuhi Trail Narrative
There are a number of trails in Koke’e State Park that lead to remote vistas of the pristine Na Pali Coast. The Kalalau Trail is perhaps the most famous, but this actually starts at sea level and is done over a few nights.
Up at the top of the cliffs, the Nu’alolo Trail is almost eight miles and tricky due to the terrain and hazardous drops. The views are fantastic though. This trail is often closed during heavy rains. The Honopu Trail is only four miles but the vistas aren’t considered as good. A compromise between these two is the Awa’awapuhi Trail.
The Awa’awapuhi Trail is just over 6 miles round trip and “safer” than the Nu’alolo trail, though the mud adds a degree of excitement.
Going up Waimea Canyon and into Koke’e State Park, the trail starts at a small parking area right at mile marker 17. If you don’t have a hiking stick (it’s advisable), you may be lucky enough to find one in a pile at the start of the trail. The beginning of the trail is mostly flat but very muddy after rains. After a few undulations in the terrain, you’ll start your descent to the viewpoint right above the Awa’awapuhi Valley.
The Awa’awapuhi Trail is under jungle canopy the entire way (except the very end) and provides excellent protection from the sun. Because of this though, the trail doesn’t dry as quickly during rainy periods. Descending the 1,500 feet was actually more difficult than the climb up, due to the slickness and lack of footholds. Yes, gravity helped more going up than it did going down.
The trail takes you past a variety of vegetation, and the park has installed small wooden signposts in the beginning of the trail indicating the Hawaiian names of these plants. You’ll see some plants that look oddly out of place considering what you’ve just hiked through, and that’s some very tall grass creating a tunnel for the trail. This grass indicates the end of the trail.
Once you get into the open, you can descend to a small rocky perch with some great views of the valleys on both sides. Careful! The rock here is soft and crumbly, and the drops on both sides would hurt more than just a little.
This trail should not be done in flip flops. You’ll slide all over and/or twist an ankle. Keens worked, but I’d say this would be the minimum footwear. Hiking shoes would be best, so long as you don’t mind getting a little mud on them.