The Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon, is also the gateway to one of the best birdwatching areas on the island, Koke’e State Park.
On our way to the area, we stopped at Kauai Coffee Plantation to try their coffee and tour their estate, though we missed the official tour because we found a pair of gold-dust day geckos. These colorful, jewel-like lizards are one of the many introduced species that have found their way to the island.
The road to the canyon is fairly steep and winding, though the views from both sides of the drive are stunning, including views of Ni’ihau and several roadside waterfalls.
Once we were done enjoying the canyon views, we stopped at the Koke’e Lodge for lunch, planning to hike from the Pihea Trail to the Alaka’i Swamp Trail. The outside of the gift shop has a rough map of the trails with a summary of trail conditions. The previous day, a lone hiker had slipped on the Canyon Trail and fell down the slope, breaking her leg. We had met a newlywed couple on our flight the previous day who had been held up by the hullabaloo and wound up running out of potable water at the end of their hike, instead drinking from one of the streams. I declined to comment to them about the chances that they may have ingested Leptospira or Giardia. Needless to say, though Kauai has a lot of great hikes, preparation is key.
Because we had arrived in the afternoon, we had to wait almost 20 minutes for a parking spot to clear up at the Pihea trailhead. Once we started walking, the crowds of people huddled at the viewpoint thinned to only about a dozen on the trail itself.
The first part of the trail was wide, dry, easy to traverse. When we hit the treeline, it started raining. We remained excited, elated even. The views were great, with drifting waves of fog rolling over the coastal hills of the Na Pali coast. Then, we hit the first scramble, the second, the third. These almost-vertical rises had footholds etched into them which suggested a path upwards, though the slick sheen and squelch of wet earth meant that halfway through the second scramble, we were covered in mud from the knees down.
After what seemed like ages, we reached the promised boardwalk, whose rotted boards rose and fell with each step, occasionally with decayed steps hanging like moss on the downhill sections.
As the forest around us started to grow dark, we adjusted our goal- we just needed to get to the Alaka’i Swamp Trail, not walk the whole thing. Heck, we still had a half dozen scrambles to descend before we could get back to the easy section of the trail.
Though we didn’t get to see all the wildlife in the area because of our abbreviated hike, we were able to enjoy the time together and the easy drive back to the condo for the evening.