Accessible Hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Hiking in Waimea Canyon in Kauai is one of the best outdoor activities on this wonderful island. In fact, Waimea Canyon is considered the top attraction on the Hawaiian island, or at least in the top three (along with Hanalei Town’s old-time Hawaiian market and the soaring cliffs of Napali Coast). There are many different hiking trails scattered around Waimea Canyon, ranging from easy to very, very challenging — but what is arguably the best view in Waimea Canyon is very accessible even for physically challenged travelers. This is Kalalau Lookout, with views of Napali Coast and the Pacific Ocean. Accessible hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai is more than worth the drive.

Accessible Hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai (Jennifer Miner)

This view is accessible by car from the main road up to Kalalau Lookout

Anyone who has ever traveled with their family knows that the joys of happy company and strengthened familial bonds are often complicated by other family members’ varying travel wishes and desires. In my family’s case, one of my daughters is incredibly gung-ho (in fact number one on her bucket list is cage diving with sharks — help me!) while the other is decidedly less adventurous. This daughter is a very happy traveler, but she’s timid regarding outdoor adventure and she gets afraid of heights at times.  One of our family travel compromises was to start our Waimea Canyon hiking day with the accessible Kalalau Lookout experience.

Accessible Hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai (Jennifer Miner)

Younger daughter is gung-ho for any and all travel adventures. Big sis, not so much

Rental cars are needed; there’s a very long drive to the top of Waimea Canyon here. The road is paved for its entirety, though, and as long as it’s not a very rainy day, visibility is never a problem along the winding path up. There is a parking lot, and a  cement ramp to the viewing point. I saw a couple travelers in wheelchairs make their way to the ramp, and appreciate the view. The railings along the ramp here also make it a safer place to take young children, as the other hiking trails are unguarded with occasionally steep and sudden drop-offs. Kalalau Lookout’s accessible hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai is a wonderful feat. The view is iconic, and along with view from the ocean of Napali Coast, is among the most renown views of the island.

Accessible hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai for this view (Jennifer Miner)

Bam! There she is, the jaw-dropping beauty of Kalalau Lookout

There are a couple of trails just off Kalalau Lookout in Waimea Canyon; swing north, and they become immediately apparent. It’s a testament to the beauty of the area that hikers here go slowly, gawking at the ocean to the east and valley to the west. We’re elevated here, and some clouds are below us. Hikers even walk right through some errant clouds, posing as fog, along the hiking trail. Now, Kauai is the rainiest of the Hawaiian islands, so travelers should get up and go early in case it’s clear in the morning and rainy in the afternoon. The views and hikes are spectacular. I try not to be hyperbolic, but I truly believe that a vacation in Kauai isn’t complete without at least a minimal hike in Waimea Canyon.

Excited to go hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai (Jennifer Miner)

Catch her if you can. Hiking trail in Waimea Canyon

Even travelers to Kauai who aren’t big fans of hiking should get out of their comfort zones and explore Waimea Canyon; it might convert them into outdoor adventure lovers! Proof in point: my older daughter, who as I said approaches new experiences like these with trepidation. Initially she asked, “how much will I see, if I stay in the car?”  Yeah, right. When that didn’t work and she begrudgingly walked up the first, short and well-paved accessible hiking pathway, we got to see her face light up at the sight of Kalalau Valley and the ocean beyond. On a clear day, the scents of ocean breezes and the thick verdant scent of the forest combine with the wide open views of the lush green valley, red cliffs and azure ocean to almost overwhelm the senses.

Accessible Hiking Waimea Canyon, Kauai (Jennifer Miner)

Big sis found her gumption; she and her dad hiked up cliff and mocked us weaklings down below

It’s a magical moment in travel and parenting to see our kids step up to their boundaries, love what they see, and raise those boundaries to new levels. She went hiking with us almost every day for the remainder of our vacation in Kauai. She even dared her more adventurous sister to go off the trail with her a few days later, tromping around in a rainforest. She wouldn’t have faced her fear and discovered her own bravery if it weren’t for us starting slowly, with accessible hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai.

Family hiking in Waimea Canyon (Jennifer Miner)

All together now, family hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai. Looks like a lunar landscape

17 Responses to “Accessible Hiking in Waimea Canyon, Kauai”

  1. 1
    Goldie says:

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  2. 2
    CC says:

    Hi there friends, its great paragraph on the topic of educationand entirely defined, keep it up all the time.

  3. 3

    Love this – since I often travel with my wheelchair. How much of the trail is accessible? Looked like some of those photos were definitely not on accessible trails. Thanks!

    • 3.1
      Jennifer Miner says:

      Jessie, great question! The Kalalau Lookout is 100% accessible. There is a paved parking lot, with a ramp that leads to the lookout, with railing. There are some more paved and sort of flat paths around the lookout, but that ends pretty quickly (this is because there are a lot of elevation changes all around this part and the rest of Waimea Canyon). Kalalau Lookout is the photo that I captioned “Bam” here, it’s truly a knockout. :)

  4. 4
    Adam says:

    That view from the lookout is amazing! Sounds great that it’s an accessible hike as well – nice find!

  5. 5

    I always love a good hike! It seems Hawaii has the best scenic hikes, your pictures look amazing! I hope I can visit Hawaii one day. Great post!

    -The Southern Adventurer

  6. 6
    Karon says:

    Past ready to get to Hawaii, and explore all these great spots you have highlighted on The Vacation Gals!

  7. 7
    Penny Sadler says:

    I’ve been to Kauai and Waimea Canyon and thought it was spectacular. The great thing about the rain is lots of rainbows!

  8. 8

    I’ve hiked across the Canary Islands and wowed at the views. Kauai looks just as spectacular. Would love to do some serious trekking there.

  9. 9
    Daisy says:

    That view is gorgeous. I can’t remember Hawaii that well, since I haven’t been since I was very young. We’re going on a hiking trip to Nepal this fall, and I really enjoy hiking trips, so I will definitely add this to my “list of places to hike”.

  10. 10

    You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. Such is the impact of traveling and you find always a new story to hear about and great experiences to share. Thanks for sharing this informational piece of information.

  11. 11

    I did this hike a few years ago and it still glows in my mind. Good advice here and beautiful photos!

  12. 12

    Amazing view and photo! Thanks for sharing this great hiking spot. It’s wonderful to know that hiking Waimea Canyon is accessible to all – even my 70 yr old mother would like it and she is scared of heights too!

  13. 13
    Christina says:

    Looks like a fabulous destination and one I will have to put at the top of my list for next year. Thanks for the great photos.

  14. 14

    Looks absolutely stunning!!! Think it would be manageable with a four-year old and a baby in a pack?

    • 14.1
      Jennifer Miner says:

      Bethaney – the accessible parts of the path are completely manageable with a backpacked baby and a toddler. There are a lot of less structured paths with no handrails elsewhere in the park, so be sure to keep your 4-year old close. :)

  15. 15

    Sometimes you fall into the trap of just thinking of beaches when Hawaii comes up, but this post is doing a great job of reminding me of all the majestic mountainous beauty the islands truly posses. Did you ever see the movie The Descendants, Kalalau Lookout looks like it was the background for one of the primary scenes. Great post and here’s to family trips.

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