Outlook on the Awa’awapuhi Trail, the sheer drops of the Cathedral Cliffs

In today’s post we go westwards to the sunniest and driest part of the Garden Isle of Kauai. A general rule of thumb and recommendation from locals we encountered, was to head westwards in times of rain or cloudy weather. The western side of the island gets the least amount of rain and tends to stay relatively sunny all year round. It takes approximately an hour to get to the town of Waimea from Ka’paa (eastern side of the island) via a car. It’s a beautiful road trip with beaches along the way, tall grass and the occasional look out as you drive on over to the western side of the island. One of the biggest landmarks out in the western side of the island is Waimea Canyon State Park. We liked it so much that we went twice so we could hike two different trails and do all the outlooks off of the State Park’s main road. I recommend arriving early to beat the crowds and the fog up at the peak lookouts, as parking tends to get quite busy and fog can obstruct views in the afternoon when the clouds rise up. There are quite a few unofficial lookouts along the roads, but be wary and don’t get too close to the cliff edges and explore with caution.

Apart from the Waimea Canyon State Park, there are a lot of beautiful coastline beaches that stretch for miles for everyone to enjoy. The most remote beach being Polihale Beach which exists at the very end of the road that traverses around the whole island. It’s a bumpy ride but you’ll be greeted with untouched sand dunes and Napali Coast cliffs with the rare person here or there as you explore this beach. Read on to see what other beaches and places are not to be missed on the western shores of Kauai!

Driving on sand at Polihale Beach
Endless miles of sand at Polihale Beach
Vitamin Sea & D please!

Must sees in the Western side Kauai:

  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Tonnes of hikes at this location but two not to miss are the Canyon Trail (3.4 Miles round trip) and the Awa’awapuhi Trail (6.2 miles round trip). The Canyon Trail is a moderate hike, nothing crazy but if you go on a wet day be prepared for a lot of red mud but some amazing views at every single turn! The Canyon Trail brings you to Waipoo Falls and you can do a bit of off road hiking if you desire. The Awa’awapuhi Trail on the other-hand, is quite boring throughout. It’s a little muddy and flat even but that end view.. is STUNNING. Now, to get the full effect I don’t recommend doing what we did, but we went past the barrier and climbed down on the ridge. With sheer drops on either side this is a very dangerous place but the Cathedral Cliffs leave a magical touch in the air as you stare out to the Napali Coast and wonder how Mother Earth even created it to be this beautiful. Also be sure to stop off at all the outlooks and even just anywhere on the 550 and take a photo, there’s plenty of shoulder space to pull over. The roads are super windy but a dream to drive on, never a dull moment in the Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Park.
  • Ishihara Market: A Japanese grocery store, this place has a lot of poke options which are cheap and delicious! They do sell poke bowls, but in the case they run out of poke bowls, you can buy bowls of rice with poke separate and it actually ends up being cheaper! We ordered the Ahi and Tako Poke, both were great, the favourite being the Tako Poke.
  • Waimea Beach: A pier and dark sand makes this beach unique in Kauai. You’ll often see people fishing off of the pier and the occasional beach comber. This beach was fairly quiet when we visited and it was the perfect place to stop and eat a picnic on the beach.
  • JoJo’s Shaved Ice: Right around the corner from Waimea Beach this shaved ice joint has THE best macadamian nut icecream on the island. So good in fact, the second time we went here we just ordered the ice cream straight up and skipped on the shaved ice!
  • Polihale Beach: I think I can confidently say that this beach is the quietest beach on the whole island. Not only is it the last thing standing at the end of the long road around the island, but it takes a laborious drive over the bumpiest road in existence to reach it. I highly recommend a Jeep but we managed to get through the 15 minutes of b-uuu–mppps in our economy rented car. The beach is so vast with pale sand and crashing waves you almost don’t want to disturb the peace. There isn’t a lot of shade at this beach so beach chairs and an umbrella would be the perfect companions to a chill day with the rolling waves. This beach is also part of the Polihale State Park in which you can choose to camp out on the western shore of Kauai.
  • Kekaha Beach: Also known as McArthur Beach, this beach is popular for boogie boarders and surfers as there is surf for miles. This is also a great place to watch sunset on the Western Coast if you’re not feeling as adventurous for Polihale Beach. We saw a lot of people with BBQs and their Jeeps out on the sand for full on family fun. Definitely pack a snack if you’re coming here as there are no restaurants nearby. Just like Polihale Beach, this beach offers up endless miles of sand for your exploration but exists besides the main highway so it’s not as quiet as Polihale.

Check out other parts of my Kauai trip below!

  • Part 1 – the North Shore
  • Part 2 – the Western side of Kauai
  • Part 3 – the East and South Side of Kauai
Explore at any chance!
Can you spot the helicopter?
Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of Kauai
Canyon Trail views
Looking out from the top of Waipoo Falls, it’s a 300ft plus drop right over that edge
Lower part of Waipoo Falls
Waipoo Falls
Large cliffs by Polihale Beach
Strolling along Polihale Beach with the Napali Coast as the backdrop
Waimea Pier
Playing at the Waimea Pier
Sun starting to set at Kekaha Beach Park
Sunset at Kekaha Beach


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