Hawaii June 04, 2019
The One Park In Hawaii With Waterfalls, Temples, A River, And Geological Wonders Truly Has It All
From cascading waterfalls and the inviting turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean to lush rain forests and mountain peaks, breathtaking natural beauty abounds on the Hawaiian Islands. And nowhere will you find more breathtaking scenery than within Hawaii’s countless incredible parks. With more than 50 state parks, waysides, recreation areas, monuments, and historic sites, there are countless Hawaiian parks to choose from, but this one is easily one of the greatest. With waterfalls, cultural sites, temples, a river, and even a magical fern grotto, Wailua River State Park is a place of endless natural beauty, and you must experience it for yourself.
First off, the namesake of this picturesque park: the Wailua River.
At 20 miles long, the Wailua River is Kauai’s largest and longest river, as well as the third river in Hawaii. It is the only navigable river (by boats larger than kayaks) in the Aloha State, and was once the sacred capital of ancient Kauai and the birthplace of island royalty.
You won’t want to visit this state park without checking out Wailua Falls.
Surrounded by lush, emerald flora and red dirt cliffs, and cascading 80 feet into a deep, sparkling pool, Wailua Falls is as picturesque as Hawaiian waterfalls get. Unlike many of Kauai’s waterfalls, Wailua Falls is easily accessible so you can ditch your hiking boots for this excursion. The parking lot practically overlooks the waterfall, and it is easy to appreciate its magical beauty up close.
Opaeka‘a Falls is quite the stunner as well.
Located just north of Wailua Falls, Opaekaa is another Kauai waterfall that you can simply drive to. The 151-foot waterfall cascades over basalt from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago and is surrounded by lush, tropical flora. Opaekaa translates to "rolling shrimp" in Hawaiian, supposedly named because the stream was full of shrimp at one point.
If you’re up for a little adventure, Uluwehi Falls is a must-visit.
Often known as Secret Falls to locals and visitors alike for some unknown reason (the waterfall is in no way a secret, at least not anymore), the journey to this remote waterfall is a popular day adventure and includes a kayaking trip and hiking trail.
There are also plenty of cultural sites found within the Wailua Complex of Heiau, a National Historic Landmark.
The Wailua Complex of Heiaus is one of the most important archaeological site complexes in the Aloha State, with components spanning all phases of Hawaiian culture. Most of the heiau and sacred sites within the complex are associated with Hawaiian rulers, legends, and events that have played an important role in the culture of our islands are of traditional significance to contemporary Hawaiians of native descent.
The two most well-known temples found here are the Poli’ahu Heiau...
At more than an acre in size, the Poli’ahu is believed to have been constructed by the Menehune in the 1600s or 1700s, though it could have been earlier than that. It has been suggested that Poli’ahu might have been a laukini heiau dedicated to the Hawaiian god of war, Ku. Luakini heiaus are often associated with human sacrifice as well as offerings of fish and other animals.
...and the Hikinaakala Heiau.
Translating to "rising of the sun" in Hawaiian, Hikinaakala offers phenomenal sunrise views. In ancient Hawaii, dawn was celebrated here with prayers and chants. The walls were believed to be six feet high and up to 11 feet wide, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the traditional Hawaiian religion was abolished, many rocks were taken away. Only the heiau’s foundation stones remain today.
Nearby, you’ll even discover the royal birthstone, Pohaku Ho'ohanau, and the Pohaku Piko, a ceremonial niche for a newborn child's umbilical cord.
Expectant mothers of royal lineage would travel here to deliver her child, and legend states that if the child was destined to be a great chief, the sky would fill with thunder, lightning, and a downpour of rain. When the storm cleared, a rainbow would appear with one end indicating the spot of the child’s birth.
In addition to these four heiaus, the Wailua Complex of Heiaus is home to a place of refuge, ancient petroglyphs (pictured below), and a bellstone.
This reddish basalt boulder was intended to be "drummed" with cobbles, and when struck, would produce a hollow sound so it could be heard across great distances. The bellstone was used to announce important events, including the approach of chiefly or religious processions or royal births.
And last, but certainly not least, is the ethereal, always-enchanting Fern Grotto found deep in the heart of Wailua River State Park.
Located off the Wailua River, this natural lava cave was formed millions of years ago and is home to various native Hawaiian plant species as well as colorful, exotic plants, that come together to make visitors feel as though they have entered a tropical rainforest. There are two options for reaching this marvelous slice of paradise — you can either rent a kayak and take the two-mile trek down the river by yourself or take a tour offered by Smith’s Kauai. After your journey by water, all that is required is a short five-minute walk to an up-close-and-personal view of the stunning geological wonder.
So, what are you waiting for? Whether you love chasing waterfalls or learning all about Hawaiian history, you absolutely must plan a visit to the incredible Wailua River State Park as soon as possible.
Address: Kapaʻa, HI 96746
Have you ever experienced the beauty that is Wailua River State Park? If so, share your experiences and opinions in the comments below, then
click here to learn all about “The 28-Mile River In Hawaii That Features Countless Jaw-Dropping Cascades.”