Best Hikes on East Side Kauai

Gazing at the view on top of Nounou (Sleeping Giant) Mountain Kauai

Nounou Mountain (Sleeping Giant) Trails: In the heart of Kauai’s east side, popularly called the Royal Coconut Coast, is the Nounou Forest Reserve where easy, moderate and more difficult routes ascend to the top. From there hikers see a 20-mile stretch of coastline between the Hoary Head mountain range west of Lihue to Anahola on Kauai’s north shore. The view extends 15 miles inland to Mt. Waialeale, at 5,148 feet, a dominant feature of Kauai. The trails vary in length from three to four miles round trip and are called Kuamoo Trail (easy), Nounou East Trail (moderate), and Nounou West Trail (difficult). The State of Hawaii provides a central source of Kauai trail information called the Na Hele Trail System. Nounou Mountain trail information is found by clicking on the trail numbers 32, 33 and 34. Driving time to each trailhead is about 10 to 15 minutes from the Royal Coconut Coast (Kauai’s Wailua to Kapa‘a corridor).

A small stream at the Kuilau Ridge area, Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve on Kauai, Hawaii, after a rainstorm.

Kuilau Ridge Trail: This 2.1 mile old road, turned trail, gently guides you up to 640 feet to a glorious view of the Makaleha Mountains. At the beginning of the path you’ll catch glimpses of Kawaikini and Mt. Waialeale, the wettest place on earth, to the west. The Makaleha Mountains are to the north. Even though your view for the first part of the trail is blocked by the ridge, you are treated to a smorgasbord of native and non-native plants from guava to the hala tree. This is a great trail for families and many local families bring their young children up here for a picnic on the weekends.  Originally constructed as a road to combat a fire in the area, the Kuilau Ridge Trail is wide and well maintained (although it can be quite muddy if it has been raining). After your hike, you can go for a swim at the Keahua Arboretum which is a short walk from the trail head.  Make sure to use the brush near the sign at the beginning of the trail to remove debris from your boots before and after your hike to help prevent the spread of invasive plants. The Keahua Arboretum is in the Lihue Forest ReserveSource:

Rainbow Eucalyptus at the Kehua Arboretum Kauai

Keahua Arboretum: Hiking around this delightfully cool and magical place is easy, gentle and fun for all ages. Enjoy picnic tables, cooling off in the arboretum’s stream, and the quarter mile hike around the grounds. Rainbow Eucalyptus and Mango trees provide cooling shade. Located at the end of Kuamo’o Road (Hwy 580) past Opaeka’a Falls.





Couple at end of Secret Falls Trail Hike, Wailua River. Credit, Kicka Witte

Secret Falls Hike (and kayak): Take a kayak trip up the Wailua River, turn north on a tributary just before the Fern Grotto and on the north river bank, paddle up a short way and park your kayak (tie it off well) on the left. Follow the stream-side trail, until just before it crosses another small stream, turn up the trail and hike to Secret Falls. Organized kayak and hike excursions are provided by Kayak Kauai or Kayak Adventures, based in Wailua.

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