It’s my opinion that this missed view is even more spectacular than the Waimea Canyon itself!

Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai is an obvious activity for visitors and residents. It’s social media ratings will confirm that.

Waimea Canyon LookoutBut what many fail to know is there is an even more impressing, site (in my prejudiced opinion) just up the road from The Grand Canyon of the Pacific, as Mark Twain is quoted as calling it.

Sunday, on a whim, and after having a delicious Bubba burger (his way!), we decided to drive up to see the canyon. We were in Poipu, the weather looked good, so we thought we’d take advantage being so close by.

As is the case on most of the Kuhio Hwy, the scenery is beautiful. There are two routes to choose from once you arrive in Waimea. We took and favor Hwy 550.

Picture perfect day.
Picture perfect day.

I found the road to ascend gradually as it climbs from a sea level elevation to 3400 feet at the canyon lookout.  Hwy 550 was in really good condition but it’s narrow in places.

The Waimea Canyon Overlook is amazing. It is so hard to believe a canyon of this magnitude has been carved out of an island this size. At first glimpse, it really does remind you of the Grand Canyon, but in reality, if you have seen the Grand Canyon, it pales in size and scope. Waimea Canyon is 10 miles long and 3600 feet deep.

A shot from one of the pullouts
A shot from one of the pullouts

The Grand Canyon is approximately 277 miles long, over 6000 feet deep, and up to 18 miles wide – almost as wide as the island of Kauai itself (25 miles).

Despite that, Waimea Canyon is stunning. From the lookout at the parking lot, we took pictures most commonly seen. I thought the pictures taken from the lookouts just up the road offered the most interesting views. There were pullouts near each and only accommodate 2-3 vehicles.

View from the lookout
View from the lookout

Here’s the picture they miss

So what is the picture many miss? It’s the one just up the road! I mentioned the pullouts that provide some spectacular angles looking back down the canyon.

We had seen and read about the need to keep going … but sometimes it wasn’t exactly clear where! That there was a picture of the Napali coast and by the looks of these pictures, I had to see this.

Napli - Kalalau Vally - Kauai, Hawaii
Napli – Kalalau Vally – Kauai, Hawaii

There are very few places in the world as impressive as the Napali coast mountains.  Just 20 or so minutes farther from the canyon lookout, was Pu’u o Kila Lookout and from there you can view the most missed opportunities on the island. I would say this is the most beautiful view accessed by vehicle on the island is Pu’u o Kila Lookout.

At first, we came to Kalalau Lookout and thought this was what we were looking for. And it had the view of Kalalau Valley we were looking for … but a mile farther is the Pu’u o Kila Lookout that offers the jaw dropping view so famous in pictures from Kauai. I’ve read comments that call this the most beautiful view in the world.

This stop was a perfect cap to a great afternoon drive. We felt very fortunate to have such a cloudless day and perfect temperatures. It was a cool 70 degrees while back at sea level temps were in the upper 80s.

Things to Remember

* Watch your step! Please understand there are dangerous areas at the lookouts – those being the edge of the cliffs. It is perfectly safe if you stay in the designated areas. I recall the Ranger at the Grand Canyon telling us this Wonder of the World was no place to clown around – people died there. There was even a book written about a good number of those who failed to respect the fact they were standing near such dangerous inclines. These island areas are no different.

* Put your cell phone in airplane mode/turn off your wifi. This will extend your battery life!

* There are no gas stations on the drive so fill up in Waimea if need be. The RT mileage from Waimea will be 40+ miles.

* Take it slow coming down. If you aren’t used to driving mountainous roads, just keep in mind to control your speed coming down the road, particularly going into turns or through narrow lanes.

* Watch for wildlife :-] We didn’t see them this day, but there are goats and pigs you may see … we did see the Kauai chickens – keeping it true they are everywhere on the island!

Truthfully, if you only came and saw the Waimea Canyon, it is still worth planning on your tip. And it still would have been a great drive for us on Sunday. Getting to see and photograph what I believe is the most missed view on the island of Kauai is a super bonus.

We talk about this excursion in Episode 3 of the Podcast Kauai Talk. Listen to that here – 003 Kauai Talk.