Waimea Canyon, on Kauai's West Side, is described as "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Although not as big or as old as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, there isn't anything like this geological wonder in Hawaii. Stretching 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and more than 3,400 feet deep, the Waimea Canyon Lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, rugged mountain peaks, and deep valley gorges. The grand inland vistas go on for miles.
The canyon was carved thousands of years ago by rivers and floods that flowed from Mount Waialeale's summit. The lines in the canyon walls depict different volcanic eruptions and lava flows that have occurred over the centuries. The canyon is protected by the Koke'e State Park which encompasses 4,345 acres of land and has 45 miles of trails that run through the canyon and the nearby Alakai Swamp. Kokee State Park is covered in forest, wild flowers and hiking trails making it an excellent spot to see native plants and colorful Hawaiian forest birds. As we were driving along Waimea Canyon Road, we saw several 4x4 trucks parked on cliffs and in the forest where it was clear people were hiking. Some of the park's hiking trails lead to views of Waimea Canyon, others wind through wet forests with sweeping views of valleys opening up to the North Shore. We didn't do any of that as we were still exhausted from the Na Pali Coast craziness. If you're a big time hiker, though, I imagine you might argue that it would be fun to trudge through uncut forest risking life and limb climbing up and down 3,400 ft of canyon walls into pure nothing-ness. Send me an email and let me know how that works out for you.
Getting there is simple, as with pretty much everything on Kaua'i. You take the major road (Kuhio Hwy) west. Turn right on Waimea Canyon Rd. Drive 40 miles. There are no gas stations along the 40-mile road, though, so be sure to fill up before starting this trip.