Summary: The Awa'awapuhi Trail is located in Koke State Park on the island of Kauai. The hike is an out-and-back, super muddy 6.7 mile trail. In fact, it was so muddy, that at 4 hours, it took us a full hour longer than what most people posted on other websites. That being said, the mud just added to the experience so don't fight it - enjoy it! The reward for your efforts is an amazing view of Nāpali Coast at the turnaround point. This blog post is part of 7-part series related to our time in Kauai. See our itinerary page and additional blog posts for more information about the Garden Island.
What Gear You Should Bring. Kauai is called the Garden Island because of its lush, green landscape. What comes with that, of course, is a ton of rain. While we were lucky to avoid the rain the day we hiked Awa'awapuhi, we came prepared because the weather is never predictable here. We recommend bringing, in addition to the usual water and snacks:
(1) A rain poncho that can fit over your day pack. When it pouring rain, you will appreciate that the contents of your bag stayed dry;
(2) A lightweight rain jacket. Intermittent light rain is common and may not require breaking out the full jacket;
(3) Hiking sandals. Depending on the weather, the trail, like during our visit, may be SUPER muddy. We all use Keen hiking sandals and they're a lifesaver for trails like this.
Getting there. From Waimea, the drive is approximately 45 minutes up Highway 550. The Awa'awapuhi trail head is well-marked and will be on your left when you arrive. There is parking available at the trail head at no cost. We arrived at the trail head at 8:00 a.m. and were the first to arrive. This is a heavily trafficked out and back trail with parts of the trail being rather narrow. It was not until about 20 minutes into the hike back that we ran into our first group of hikers and the number of people increased from there. Having the entire trail to ourselves for the first couple of hours really added to the experience.
The mud. If you go after it has been raining, the first thing you will quickly experience is the mud on this trail. We say, don't fight. The trail is much too long and much too muddy to avoid it, so embrace the muddy experience and roll with it. That being said, there are some pretty slippery spots. Despite many, what we call "balance checks," we did manage some spills. Final tally: Dad (1); Mom (1); Kid 1 (3); Kid 2 (2).
Hiking. The hike itself, while pretty in its own right, actually has very little coastline views. Much of the hike is under the canopy (think: shade during hot days), with thick vegetation blocking any real views. There are mile markers on the path, which we admit, were off from our own GPS trackers. It could be that we started ours closer to the car, but we did notice that ours was roughly 0.3 miles ahead of Koke State Park's markers.
What Goes Down Must Come Up. One big fact you should know is that almost the entire first 1/2 until the turnaround point is downhill. So, of course this means that the entire second 1/2 is uphill. While we did actually see families with younger kids on the hike, we would say that this trail may be too challenging for the younger ones because of the "all up" second 1/2.
The Nāpali Coast Reward. After hiking nearly 3.5 miles through the mud, you are rewarded with a gorgeous view of the Nāpali Coast. At the lookout, the trail continues briefly to a second lookout point where, presumably, there is an even better 360 view of the coastline. We opted NOT to take the trail to the lookout. Because of the heavy rains the area had experienced the trail was much too muddy and frankly, it seemed like that portion should have just been closed off. The mud was super slick and it literally drops down off a sheer cliff in one section. There are plenty of pretty photos to take from the safety of the top of the ridge.
Return Hike: Now It's Time to Work. After a brief re-fueling we headed back up the trail. In some ways, the second 1/2 of the hike was faster and easier because navigating the mud is easier when you go up hill in our opinion. It is, however, more strenuous so be prepared to do some work. By this time too, we started to run into other hikers though we still lucked out in that most of the volume of other hikers came later when the trail was wider.
Waimea Canyon. On the drive back down the hill, we stopped to take some photos of the beautiful Waimea Canyon.
Afternoon Beach Recovery. After we completed the hike, we headed back to our Airbnb for a late lunch and a short rest. We then headed out again to spend some time at Kekaha Beach. As it was a very windy day we decided not to layout (hello sandy wind), but instead took a stroll on this beautiful beach.
Waimea State Recreation Pier. The final stop of the day was at Waimea State Recreation Pier. This brief visit included a walk down the Pier which provided an opportunity for some beautiful photos of the ocean and pier.