Enjoy hiking to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead on this 5.2-mile out-and-back trail near Kapaa, Kauai. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 hrs 31 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. Getting to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead is accessible because the trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime.
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,
Want more ideas to round-out your hiking trips to the Hawaiian Islands?
A lot of great ideas are in these posts!
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- The Wiliwilinui Hiking Trail: 3 Important Reasons To Visit
- The 4 Great Ualakaa Trail Hiking Options
Hiking to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead
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Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead is an adventure in the jungle ending with a waterfall on the island of Kauai. You’ll get dirty on this hike, but you won’t be sorry. The out-and-back trail is 2.6 miles long and follows a stream the whole way. At the end of the hike, there are several amazing waterfalls to see.
More of a bushwhack than a trail is a better description of hiking to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead. It is basically a user route up the Makaleha Stream to a two-tiered waterfall in the lush Makaleha Mountains. If you don’t get lost, which is a possiblity, the distance isn’t that far, but the hiking is hard because you have to cross a lot of streams and go through a lot of thick brush. For hikers who are fit and willing to try new things, however, the scenery and atmosphere give an unforgettable sense of Kauai’s backcountry.
Reaching Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead is perfect for people who can boulder, weave through roots and vines, and deal with muddy and mossy rocks. As you walk toward the falls, the trail winds around a stream and through lush plants. After you cross the first river, you’ll find yourself in a bamboo forest with a huge Albizia tree. If you follow the tree’s roots uphill for 20 yards, you’ll find a small world of bamboo plants on top of a hill. Back down to the river, you have to go down a steep, muddy slope. Once you reach the river, you have to cross it several times as you go upstream. There are two main drainages in the upper part of the river.
The drainage to the right leads to a waterfall with a swimming hole, but the basin to the left is the main drainage, so pay close attention to the weather. If it’s raining hard up in the mountains, turn around and go back right away, even if the drainage to the right isn’t getting higher.
In the past few years, this river has been the site of several helicopter rescues. Many times, experienced hikers have been in the right-hand drainage, where it was only lightly raining, relaxing and having a picnic. When they returned to the confluence, they found that the river, which had been calm before, was now a waist- or chest-high freight train rumbling down the valley and blocking access further downstream. Don’t risk spending a long, cold, and miserable night on that small piece of land between the two streams during a flash flood.
Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead is not a trail that is kept up. Instead, it is a way for hunters to get up the river valley. To go upstream, you will have to walk through parts of the river and cross it several times. Locals call these shoes “tabis.” If you want to hike here, it’s recommended you wear them so you don’t slip and hurt yourself on the wet rocks.
If you are not used to hiking off the trail, reaching Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead can be hard and challenging in many places. The path goes over the river a lot, and sometimes it just disappears. There is a lot of jumping from rock to rock, walking through the stream bed, and bushwhacking through thick vegetation, but it is well worth the trouble.
A magical bamboo forest is one of the best parts of the hike to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead. Even cooler are the views upstream of the steep cliffs and waterfalls of the Makaleha Mountains. At the point where the Makaleha Stream meets a big branch that comes in from the left, you can see one of these possibilities.
From there, go upstream to the right to get to Makaleha Falls, which is a two-tiered waterfall that crashes down through a gorge chute. In the plunge pool, there is a swimming hole.
Those who can handle the bushwhacking and route-finding can get a great taste of Kauai’s backcountry on the hike to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead. They can also take lots of pictures of the jungle and whitewater.
Tips For Hiking To Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead
★ You can park at the water tanks at the end of Kahuna Road north of Kapaa.
★ Bugs can be a problem along the Makaleha Stream, so you might want to bring some bug repellant.
★ Include a first-aid kit and warm layers in your daypack in case you get hurt in the wild.
★ Give yourself enough time to get it done (3 or 4 hours). The round-trip distance is only three miles, but many hikers end up covering a lot more ground because they get off the most direct path.
★ You must wear shoes with good support and grip, ideally sturdy hiking boots.
★ A trekking pole could be very helpful, but there are likely to be parts of the trail where you’ll need both hands to climb or clamber.
★ Remember that if the water level in the Makaleha Stream rises quickly, you might be stuck there longer than you thought.
★ There are many side paths and dead ends. The trick is to stay as close to the stream as you can.
★ At the double-decker waterfall, you might see people climbing up the rocks or jumping off the cliffs, both of which are, to say the least, dangerous.
Directions For Hiking To Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead
At the end of Kahuna Road, north of Kapaa, there are water tanks where you can park. After you park, you walk past the water tanks and down a dirt road until it ends. Keep going past where the road ends. Don’t go down the small path on the right that leads to the water tunnels. You have to cross the stream to the left of the road, about 40 yards from the road. If you look across the stream, you’ll see an opening right next to an old concrete bridge. Since the trail isn’t kept up, there will be times when you get off track. If you stay close to the stream, you won’t get too lost. You’ll have to cross the stream more than once. There are big rocks that you will sometimes have to climb over. Because it rains a lot in this part of the country, the track can also be muddy at times.
Hiking To Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead Review
You have to see Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead. It took us a second day to really get into this jungle and enjoy it. On the first day, we wore water shoes, which I don’t recommend because we slipped and fell a lot and moved much more slowly. The next day, we wore our hiking boots, which made a huge difference if you don’t mind crossing streams in them. We saw people do it barefoot and in flip-flops, so it’s really up to them. You can use the bamboo canes to help you stand up, but watch out for the fuzzy ones. If you touch or grab them, you will get a patch of splinters that is hard to get out.
We do a lot of hiking in the high country, and this one was hard. If you like mud and monkey bars, it will be fun. There were a lot of high knees and low squats, as well as several creek crossings. Don’t worry about getting wet early, because you’ll be wet the whole time. Slow down, pay attention, and be sure of your footing. Take a lot of water!
Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead is one of the best hikes. 4:30 minutes RT, which includes 30 minutes at the waterfall. The whole trail was wet and muddy, and you had to cross rivers 5 or 6 times. Some parts of the trail require you to climb over, under, or around fallen trees, branches, rocks, bamboo, and boulders. The trail was mostly clear, but when it wasn’t, we hit the river and found it again, either on the same side going upstream or on the other side going downstream. Wear shoes with good grip because there are a lot of rocks, roots, and mud that are slippery. BEAUTIFUL! The payoff was well worth the work. Bring a pair of shoes and a change of clothes to wear on the way home.
Nearby Hiking Trails to Makaleha Trailhead
Kuilau Ridge Trail
Check out this 3.6-mile out-and-back trail near Kapaʻa, Kaua’i. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 1 h 43 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.
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,
Trail is muddy. Got caught in a downpour on the way up, was not a problem, in fact it produced a beautiful rainbow! As long as you have good shoes and are committed to being very dirty, this trail is mind blowingly beautiful!! Definitely don’t recommend going past the end of the Kuilau Trail (there is a sign at the end). Extremely deep mud with no view for at least the mile that I did.
Explore this 5.0-mile out-and-back trail near Kapaʻa, Kaua’i. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 2 h 11 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. Dogs are welcome, but must 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,
Trail was easy to find, room for 6-8 cars, got there at 0800 and saw only 2 people. Trail follows old road on ridge between 2 fairly awesome canyons with a scattering of viewpoints. Went in 2 miles or so before entering misty, foggy conditions. Made for an excellent hike, though a little slippery at times. Hiking poles helped. Well worth a couple hour hike with lots of stopping to enjoy the sights and sounds.
Hoopii Falls Trail
Head out on this 2.4-mile out-and-back trail near Kapaʻa, Kaua’i. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 53 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.
Length: 2.4 mi
Elevation gain: 196 ft
Route type: Out & back
Dogs on leash, Hiking, Forest,
Park at the park & then walk across to Kapahi Rd (says no outlet). You’ll walk down the road a bit & the entrance to the trail head is kinda hidden on your left. Trail was a nice little trek, no difficult, kinda muddy so wear hiking shoes, and the waterfalls were great! Lots of pretty flowers along the way!
Hike to Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead Things to Do
As you get closer to the Keahua Arboretum, the view starts to change. Cool mountain air, roads lined with trees, and big grassy fields are a nice change from the hot, sunny air at the beach. The University of Hawaii grows both native and non-native plants in the Keahua Arboretum, which serves as an outdoor classroom for students and other people. You can cool off in the cold mountain spring water and eat lunch at one of the park’s many picnic sites.
Families from the area and tourists come here to picnic, hike, mountain bike, ride horses, or just cool off after a long day at the beach. Here is also the start of the 1.5-mile section of the Na Ala Hele Trail System that leads to the Moalepe Trail: the Kuilau Ridge Trail. This is an easy hike that will take you through a eucalyptus forest, past native shrubs and vines that swing, and give you a great view of the inside of Kauai and Mount Waialeale.
The Fern Grotto is one of Kauai’s natural wonders. The grotto, which was made millions of years ago, has ferns growing upside down on its roof. Native Hawaiian plants and colorful tropical plants from other parts of the world create the atmosphere of a rain forest. The whole tour takes 1 hour and 20 minutes one way and back again. During the plantation era, the ferns that make the grotto famous started to grow. Right above the grotto, a basin for storm water was built. Water that leaked through helped maidenhair and Boston sword ferns grow.
Kela’s Glass Gallery
Visit Kela’s Glass Gallery in Kapaa to see the best glass art on Kauai. Kela’s has moved to a new spot across from the Kapaa sports field. There, they sell glass made by American artists, 15 of whom are from Kapaa. The owners are proud that they don’t sell anything from outside the country. I went there the other day and was blown away by how many things they had.
As I walked through the gallery, I was amazed by all the different kinds of glass art. There are also platters, bowls, paperweights, vases, candles, and perfume bottles made of glass. Mimi, the owner of Kela’s Glass Gallery, also makes jewelry that changes color. Each piece of jewelry has glass charms that change color based on the background. Here are two necklaces that look the same, but one is on black and the other is on white so you can see the difference. A unique concept, you have to admit.
Food and Diner Locations Near Makaleha Falls and the Makaleha Trailhead
4-1613 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
In the past few years, food trucks have become a lot more popular and gourmet, which has made foodies everywhere very happy. Even though their kitchens are small, places like 808 Grill can make world-class food. Don’t worry about the styrofoam to-go box; what matters is what’s inside.
Other food trucks try to have a long list of options, but 808 Grill keeps things very simple. There are only a few main dishes and a few tasty starters. You won’t have to spend 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do. You can just get one of each thing if you have to. If you do that, we strongly suggest going with friends, not so you can share, but so you have more hands to carry everything.
This place was great, and the owner is friendly and nice (she answered all our questions with a smile). We had the ribs, and they were so good that they fell off the bone. The sauce they came with was great. The best green beans I’ve ever had were those. The prices were fair as well. You should definitely stop for lunch.
4-1638 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
When we stopped at Jimmy’s on our way back from a bike ride, we had a great time. Great view of the water, tasty craft cocktails, a good selection of beers, a great lunch menu.
I got the best service on the island at this place. Amazing, fast, and friendly wait staff. The drinks were great, and the fish and chips were the best I’ve ever had. Because it was so good, we went there twice in 5 days.
Jimmy’s grill was great in every way. We got two burgers. The bacon on them was good, the burgers themselves were tasty, and the fries were fine. Order a side of ranch; they made it themselves and it was very good. And it was a great place to be. Local music and the moon rising over the beach made me feel like I was in Hawaii. So much fun to be right next to the beach without making a big deal about it. The wait staff was so kind and helpful. They kept checking on us and made sure our drinks were full and that we liked what we were eating. When the people and food are this good, it’s one of the easiest things to rate 5 stars. I’d suggest coming here and getting one of their specialty drinks, which were all pretty tasty.
Sam’s Ocean View Restaurant Kapaa Kauai
4-1546 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaʻa, HI 96746
Samantha Reynolds owns Sam’s Ocean View Restaurant + Bar, which is on the water in Kapaa and is one of the best places to eat there. Sam was born in South Africa. When she was young, she moved to the United States with her family. Sam is an American citizen and has lived and worked in the US, South Africa, and the UK before moving to Kauai in 2013.
Sam has made a beautiful Ocean Front Restaurant on Kauai, a place where people can get together for great food, drinks, music, atmosphere, and fun. It is one of the Ten Best Restaurants in Kapaa, on Kauai, HI.
Sam’s Ocean View Restaurant + Bar is known for its great food, drinks, and views of the ocean in Kauai. Sam’s Ocean View is one of the ten best restaurants on Kauai, according to both locals and visitors. Come to the Best Kauai Restaurant for lunch or dinner and enjoy island-fresh foods made just for you every day, from the garden to the table. You’ll love every bite.
We were seated quickly and had a great view of the ocean through open windows. It was getting dark, but we could still see the ocean. A flame dancer was practicing his art on the beach. The food was tasty, and the drinks were made just right.
I strongly suggest making a reservation, especially on Mondays when most of the other restaurants in the area are closed and this place has to fill the gap. Right away, we were given seats. There were six of us. The waiter was nice and helpful. I asked for the mini Wagyu burgers. They were great. The beers were served quickly and were cold. Great view of the sea. Met Lonnie Jordan of the WAR band. You know a place is good if celebrities go there to eat. Overall, it’s a nice place with good food and good service. The best dinner I ever had on the island!
Oh! Almost forgot. The 2 Ways Of Hiking To Makaleha Falls via Makaleha Trailhead is muddy and very muddy.
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