Waipo’o Falls: Third Times a Charm

After the last couple weeks of beaching and reading, I am glad to report that I finally got back to the canyon. This time, I accompanied temporary new friends who were island hopping from Oahu. My college friend put me in contact with one of her graduate school friends. The new friend and two others are interns for the summer on Oahu for the National Park Services and took the weekend to check out Kauai. They were kind enough to include me on their adventures. 

After a night of meeting up for drinks, the next morning they picked me up in my dream car, a red Jeep Wrangler. Unzipping the windows, we hit the road. We weaved our way up the canyon road, leaving the heavy heat that has moved into the island, at the bottom. With 4-wheel drive perks, we bumped along the dirt road to the trail head to Canyon Trail which leads to Waipo’o Falls.

Previously, I tried to do this trail on my birthday and I had to park on the main road and walk the 3/4 miles to the start of the trail. However, there was a split in the path and I overlooked the sign with the arrow and went the wrong way. That day I never made it to the trail head, because after walking a mile in the wrong direction, it started pouring and we gave up. (The “we” here is me and this dude I was on a first date with! I clearly crushed the first impression, taking us down a dirt road that turned out to be residential with homes along the way. Classic me.)

A sign with an arrow

This time, we came upon the fork and immediately a big sturdy sign said “Waipo’o Falls” with a very clear arrow to take the road to the right. Either I was overcome by dorky nerves on the first date and overlooked the obvious sign or… or the big, green plants overgrew the sign and just recently it was cut back, making it obvious. I’m going to trust in the latter explanation, because the former just makes me look dumb. 

A very fitting license plate.

Unfolding myself from the backseat, we got ourselves in order with sunscreen and proper shoes. Lathering up, a kind Grandpa and his granddaughter emerged from the trail to the right. This trail I was also familiar with from the second attempt at going to the falls a few days after my birthday failure. That time I once again parked at the road, walked to the trailhead, going right instead of left. Once I came to a spot with parked cars, I knew I was onto something. But there was another option to go right or left. With a sign covered in graffiti and stickers, I took a shot at going right and ended up a mile back at the Puu Ka Pele Lookout point. Beautiful but not the falls I was looking for.

Anyways, the friendly Grandpa and his cute granddaughter carried a big net and mentioned trying to pick mountain plums. With her squeaky voice, the little girl captivated us with the story of shaking the tree but no plums falling down because it was the end of the season and too many others knew of the grove. After letting his granddaughter shine with her story telling, he confirmed the trail to go left and then left. 

Down the trail we go

Once we got going, the four of us cruised down the trail. Chatting along the way, it felt like minutes before we emerged from the forest cover onto what felt like the edge of Mars. The red dirt rock extended out and then dropped off, nothing but Canyon views to the bottom. After listening for the bleat of a goat not to be heard and snapping a photo, we picked up the trail again. Immediately, we heard the bubbling and gurgling of the water and intercepted groups of other hikers. Careful to find our footing down to the edge of the water, we all took our moments to breath deeply and appreciate where we found ourselves. At the top of a waterfall. 

The cool water invited me to baptize myself to nature, a tradition from the days of hiking with my family. This time, as I leaned my head down, touching the top of the cool water to my forehead, all I could think was, “Thank you Mother Nature for making simple things profound.” 

The four of us poked around the falls a bit, documented the moment, and then headed back towards the car. It was a successful day spent hiking, swimming, and rounded out with mango margaritas back at my house. All in all, after two attempts at the falls, I am grateful to have finally gone down the right path.

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