Find out about the 3.6-mile Kuilau Ridge Trail near Kapa’a, Kauai, that goes out and back. Most people think it is a moderately hard route. It takes an average of 1 hour and 43 minutes to finish. This is a popular place to hike, ride horses, and mountain bike, so you’ll probably see other people while you’re out exploring. The trail is beautiful and can be used at any time of the year.
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The whole family can spend a fun day together on the beautiful Kuilau Ridge Trail through the Hawaiian rainforest. This Kuilau Ridge Trail starts at the Keahua Arboretum parking lot on Kuamo’o Road, which is only 15 minutes by car from Wailua.
Length: 3.6 mi
Elevation gain: 666 ft
Route type: Out & back
Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Horseback riding, Mountain biking, Running, Forest, River, Views, Waterfall, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Muddy, Over grown
Hike the Kuilau Ridge Trail
check out our video
We decided at the last minute to look on Google Maps for a hike near Wailua that we could do before it got dark. Just past Opaeka’a Falls, the Kuilau Ridge Trail looked great. It’s only a 2-mile trail that goes out and back, and it’s easy for hikers of all skill levels.
I hiked all over Kauai for more than a month and wrote down everything I did. The Kuilau Ridge Trail is one of the 15 best hikes on Kauai, in my opinion.
It’s a nice hike that takes you close to the middle of Kauai and gives you great views of the central ridges of the lush rainforest on the island.
The hike is 3.6 miles round-trip, and if you have access to two cars, you can combine it with the Moalepe Trail to make one long one-way trip. But we’ll only talk about the Kuilau Ridge Trail here, since we only went to the small wooden bridge that marks the end of one trail and the beginning of the other.
The Kuilau Ridge Trail is one of the best easy hikes on the island. It is a great way to spend two hours. It’s short, but the views are great from the start because you’re already so high up from the drive. A small, muddy path winds around the ridge for two miles, going in and out of the woods.
On the Kuilau Ridge Trail, the trees and plants are from another planet. Huge ferns cover the ground level of the forest, and as you walk along the path, huge trees tower above you. It’s a classic hike in Hawaii that makes you feel like you’re in Jurassic Park.
The Kuilau Ridge Trail is rarely used weekdays, you can always see the “Sleeping Giant,” a rock formation. If you’re lucky, you can also see Mt. Waialeale, the rainiest place on earth, when the clouds part for a short time.
Waialeale is a shield volcano, and after Kawaikini, it is the second highest mountain on the island. The name comes from the Hawaiian language and means “water splashing” or “water running over.”
Most of the year, you can’t see the top of 1569-meter Waialeale because clouds cover it. It has steady, humid northeast winds that meet the steep northeast side of the mountain, which has an average slope of more than 110%. This makes upslope winds, and the rain that falls from the sky is called “upslope rain.” This is how the Wailua River was made, which also flows into Wailua Falls.
Because the weather is so consistent, it rains more than 300 days a year, with rain falling every day on a very small area. The northeast side of Waialeale is one of the rainiest places on earth because of this, and the volcano is full of mysterious waterfalls.
The Kuilau Ridge Trail goes through eucalyptus forests and other types of trees, such as guava, hala, and ohia lehua. After 1.75 miles, you come to a picnic area in a beautiful meadow with great views of the Sleeping Giant. The Kuilau Ridge Trail ends soon after that in front of a wooden bridge.
Here, you can still take the next Moalepe Trail (1.25 miles to the parking lot or 2.75 miles to Olohena Rd.) or walk back the way you came. On this trail, it can and will get wet.
Hiking Tips For the Hike the Kuilau Ridge Trail
Once you’re on the Kuilau Ridge Trail, you’ll see small paths going off to the side, but you should stay on the trail. If you brought a lunch, the one-mile mark is a great place to stop and eat it. The grassy area has a picnic table and a forest of ohia trees, which are native to O’ahu and often have bright red flowers on them.
When you’re done here, the Kuilau Ridge Trail goes to the east and starts to go down in a switchback. After a short climb, you’ll have a beautiful view of Nounou Mountain, also called “The Sleeping Giant.” Can you find his chin?
The Opaeka’a Stream is crossed by a wooden bridge a little further down the trail. A fork is coming up, and you need to go left into a group of ferns and eucalyptus trees. Your goal, a beautiful view of Kapehua’ala, the highest peak in the Makaleha Mountains, is just up ahead.
Directions To the Hike the Kuilau Ridge Trailhead
To get to the Kuilau Ridge Trail trailhead from Lihue, take Highway 56 and turn left right away onto Highway 580. Drive for 8 miles until you get to Keahua Forestry Arboretum. On the right side of the road, there are two places to park. Once you’ve parked, walk back down the road to the right, where the trail head is.
Hike the Kuilau Ridge Trail Review
The whole Kuilau Ridge Trail had a mysterious, “rainforest” feeling to it. We talked a lot about how the plants and views were all different. Even though we couldn’t see the ocean, this trail had beautiful views the whole way. I would tell anyone of any age to go on this beautiful green hike.
We hiked the Kuilau Ridge Trail in a downpour, which was funny and kept things from getting boring. According to other reviews, the trail is wide and not too steep. We had to bushwhack through some bushes, which scratched our legs and made them look red. So you should wear long hiking pants if you have them! You have to walk through a dense forest to get to Kuilau Ridge.
From the ridge, you can look all around and see the beautiful mountains. The path is often muddy, so you should wear shoes that can handle that. There are some nice picnic benches near where you park at the trailhead and along the trail itself.
Nearby Trails to Hike
Power Line Trail
Find this 10.1-mile trail that goes from one place to another near Kapaa, Kauai. Most people think of it as a moderately hard route, and it takes an average of 4 hours and 59 minutes to finish. This trail is a great place to walk, hike, and watch birds, and you probably won’t see many other people while you’re exploring.
The trail is beautiful and can be used at any time of year. We allow dogs, but they have to be on a leash.
Length: 10.1 mi
Elevation gain: 1,906 ft
Route type: Point to point
Dogs on leash, Hiking, Walking, Bird watching, Views, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Over grown
Muddy, slippery, and generally pretty bad footing, except for the climbs, which aren’t bad at all. I wouldn’t suggest this hike to someone who wants to have a good time. However, if you can find your way through the tall grass where the trail has disappeared, you can use this path to get to the top of the ridge.
So, if you need to get up there for work or whatever, this trail will get you there. I just went up and down from here, but I’m not sure if the views are worth the effort to get up there. At the trailhead, there is a sign that says, “This trail is not maintained.” That is not a joke. In many places, you have to squint to guess where the trail is.
This 5.0-mile trail near Kapa’a, Kauai, goes out and back. Most people think of it as an easy route, and it takes an average of 2 hours and 11 minutes to finish. This is a popular place to hike, ride horses, and mountain bike, so you’ll probably run into other people while you’re out exploring. The trail is beautiful and can be used at any time of year. We allow dogs, but they have to be on a leash.
Length: 5.0 mi
Elevation gain: 711 ft
Route type: Out & back
Dogs on leash, Kid friendly, Hiking, Horseback riding, Mountain biking, Running, Views
We were the first ones out this morning, so we encountered a lot of spider webs that were in our way. The track was easy to follow and gradually climbed uphill, and it contains a lot of wild flowers. Near the trail’s end, there are some really spectacular views and greenery.
Find out about this 5.2-mile out-and-back Kauai route. It takes an average of 2 hours, 31 minutes to accomplish this trip, which is generally regarded as difficult. Since hiking is highly popular in this region, you can run into other hikers while doing your exploration. The route is lovely to explore at any time of the year.
Length: 5.2 mi
Elevation gain: 984 ft
Route type: Out & back
Hiking, Forest, River, Views, Waterfall, Wildflowers, Wildlife, Bugs, Muddy, Over grown, Rocky, Scramble
Awesome adult jungle gym trail, slick and muddy, with a few brook crossings. Must be able to bend down, or lift knees high. There are numerous enjoyable obstacles, but they are not suggested for those who are not very flexible. A great track that is not too difficult to follow leads to a waterfall and its pool.
Things to Do When You Hike the Kuilau Ridge Trail
Kauai’s Hindi Monastery
The front outdoor grounds of the monastery, up to the river lookout and archway, is open to freely visit from 9 to noon. All are welcome to meditate under the awesome banyan tree, explore the large information panels in the Banyan Mandapam which tell about our monastery and the Hindu religion, and browse through the many publications and Hindu religious supplies in our Mini-Mela visitor center. A self-guided tour is available for this area. Download the map or pick it up along with an accompanying booklet at the entrance which gives you a basic introduction to the monastery and its areas of service.
Rules of Conduct
Inside Kadavul Temple, guests should ideally sit cross-legged, but never with legs stretched out towards the Deity. No video or photography is allowed of the inside of the temple. If you are not sure how a temple functions or what “puja” is, learn more. You can also watch the first ten-ish minutes and last ten-ish minutes of this video to get a sense of puja.
Food and Diners Near the Kuilau Ridge Trailhead
Sleeping Giant Grill
440 Aleka Pl, Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746-1420
OMG. Amazing!!! We were staying close by and ordered a salad from here for takeout for our first go…just craving something healthy. The ginger soy dressing is completely addicting! An absolute must try. Returned tonight for fish tacos, and these people know what they’re doing!!! No words to describe the deliciousness. Love that it’s BYOB and an actually affordable way to enjoy a night out.
Lava Beach Club
420 Papaloa Rd, Kapaa, Kauai, HI 96746-1449
Due to its proximity to our hotel, we had two dinners and two breakfasts here, and were happy with each meal. Breakfasts are very filling, and a good variety. Dinner variety is not as wide, but we enjoyed each dish we ordered. Nice to sit on the beach and dine. Music one night was pretty loud, but we weren’t close to the singers, so OK. Obviously we liked it to eat there four times.
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