Waimea Canyon, Hawaii

Photo by Frank Schulenburg

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

Imagine witnessing the immense beauty of the Grand Canyon, but on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean minutes away from the beach. Waimea Canyon State Park on the garden isle Kauai is an astounding travel destination that will leave you awestruck and perplexed to its origins amongst the island chain.

This geological marvel is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific with cliffs overlooking 3,000-foot plunges into 14 miles of winding valley gorges. The canyon is draped in wonderous colors formed from constant erosion of earthen red clay rock and framed by the island’s green rainforest flora. The state park acts as a critical habitat for endemic species including Hawaii’s endangered state bird, the Nene. 

You can drive up the winding 50-mile state park road to the Kalalau summit, overlooking the remote Napali coastline. The scenic drive to the summit offers numerous designated lookout opportunities to enjoy splendorous 180-degree views of the canyon and of Ni’ihau, the forbidden island. There are a multitude of trails for beginner and seasoned hikers exploring the canyon’s waterfalls, red clay mounds and rainforest wildlands. 

Expect to plan your trip around inclement weather as Kauai is recognized as the rainiest place on Earth. Time your trip up the canyon early in the morning for the best viewing opportunities, avoiding thick clouds that often roll over the mountains and obstruct views. You will never encounter anything like this state park anywhere else.