For a downloadable PDF version of this guide CLICK HERE!
Most people that experience the Blue Hole don’t actually step foot in it, but view it from the window of a helicopter. The Blue Hole is surrounded by miles of thick rainforest, mountains, and rivers, which makes it one of the most remote places on Kauai. It is also one of the most difficult places to reach by foot. Seeing the Blue Hole’s 3000ft high wall of waterfalls, sprinkling life into the canyon makes the struggle getting there worth the time and effort. Also, helicopters are expensive!
Time Required: 8-10 Hours
Location: 8 miles west of Wailua
Distance: 7.5 miles (12km) round trip from the dam
Highest Elevation: 1950ft (633m)
Elevation Gain: 1500ft (450m)
Difficulty: 10/10 – Difficult route finding, boulder hopping, wet slippery trail.
Season: Year Round
Additional Requirements: N/A
From Lihue: Take the HI-51 N, it will turn into HI-56 N, after about 4 miles you’ll come into Wailua. Take your very first left after the bridge in Wailua onto Hwy 580/Kuamoo Rd. Follow Hwy 580 west for 5.5 miles until you reach the Keahua Arboretum (Route marker #1 on the driving map). Beyond this, the road becomes unpaved, muddy and quite bumpy. Shortly after the Arboretum, the road continues up a small hill until you reach a Hunter’s Check Station/’Power Line Trailhead’ (Route marker #2 on the driving map). The road will fork here, take the left fork. Follow this road downhill and you will come to two stream crossings. The first stream has a concrete bottom and is safe for any vehicle, the second is not. We didn’t have a 4WD vehicle so we parked in-between the two streams and walked from there (Route marker #3 on the driving map). Continue on the road and you’ll reach a T intersection (Route marker #4 on the driving map) where you should take a right. Follow this road until you reach another stream. This stream might be impassable for a car and vehicles without 4WD. If you have a 4WD vehicle, continue across the stream, if not, this is where you will park and begin the hike.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking shoes that can get wet! Make sure your shoes are broken in prior to tackling this hike to prevent unexpected blisters. You could get away with running shoes but having extra grip on the rock surfaces will definitely come in handy!
- Water: This hike is long. Be sure to bring enough water for 8-10 hours of physical exertion. Bring water purification tablets if you want to refill in the streams.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike as well as a light lunch for when you arrive at the Blue Hole. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice.
- Weather appropriate clothing: There is a very high chance it will rain. Bring a rain coat. Check the weather forecast and plan accordingly.
- Sunscreen:If it is sunny and you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can greatly improve your hiking experience.
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- Headlamp/Flashlight: This hike is long and the trail is difficult to follow. Make sure you bring a light in case you make a wrong turn and the hike takes longer than planned.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Shoes: If you approach this hike with the thought that you will keep your shoes dry/clean, you are mistaken. The sooner you accept that your feet will get soaking wet and muddy, the sooner you can march up and down the river instead of prancing around the bushes to keep your feet dry.
Slippery Rocks:When rock hopping up and down the river, be aware that rocks are deceivingly slippery. Some rocks may look like they’re dry and have grip but they can fool you. This would be a very bad place to sprain an ankle.
Flash Floods:Heavy rains can cause flash floods in streams and rivers. If there is flooding and fast-moving water, attempting to cross streams and rivers can be very dangerous and potentially fatal.
Route Finding:This trail is very difficult to follow and it is easy to get lost. Always tell someone where you are going in case something goes wrong.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary:The overall idea of this hike is to follow the river as far as you can until you reach the base of Mount Waialeale. In order to accomplish this, you will have to rock hop along the river, climb up a waterfall, through a gate, down some ropes and then you’ll reach the Blue Hole.
We were driving a Nissan Maxima and were unable to cross the final stream which left us walking from route marker #3 on the driving map to the trailhead. From where we parked you must hike to the T-intersection (Route marker #4 on the driving map) where you take a right and followed the muddy road to a yellow gate. Follow the road through the yellow gate and travel another 1.5 miles to the Jurassic Park gate (Route marker #5 on the driving map).
This gate may look like two telephone poles, but it is a significant mile marker. A half mile past this and you’ll reach a dam/weir where the hike begins (Route marker #1 on the adventure map).
You may notice other vehicles parked here.If you have a 4WD vehicle, you can save a considerable amount of time by driving this portion.
From the dam, make your way upstream on the right/north side of the riverbed. Trails will appear and disappear from the river side, take them when possible but don’t allow yourself to get so far into the jungle that you cannot see the river. Hunters use these trails and have diversions leading them away from the stream, so be careful not to get too far from the river. After 2600ft (800m) on the right side of the river, hop over to the left/south side of the river and follow that trail. You will cross a small stream to reach the right bank of another river where the river had forked. Don’t worry as these river forks will all meet up and converge into one river again. When in doubt, follow the fullest option upstream and that will keep you pointed in the right direction.
2 miles from the dam you will come to a large waterfall (Route marker #2 on the adventure map). This is a great place to swim, cool off and clean yourself up (the “cleaning yourself up” might be more worthwhile to do on the way back). This pool is fed by three streams, a large one to your left, the middle stream that feeds the waterfall, and one off to the right. In order to remain on the trail to the Blue Hole, you want to make your way to the top of the waterfall and follow the middle stream (the one that feeds the main waterfall). There is a trail to the left of the waterfall that will take you up. It is not very noticeable.
After the waterfall, the trail will be marked with blue ribbon. At this point, these trail markers should be followed, and they will take you along the south (left) side of the middle stream to the Blue Hole. In 0.6 miles (1km) the stream forks, take the left fork. If there are no trail markers in sight, walk along the left/south side of the river bank until you see a trail marker. Eventually the stream will become impassable and the trail markers will be what lead you up and around these impassable parts.
The trail will rise and take you along the gorge where you can look down at the stream below. Eventually you will come to a waterfall with pig fence across it. The pig fence has a gate (Route marker #3 on the adventure map), go through it.
From this point on you will be surrounded by large canyon walls. Follow the rough trail as it veers left deep into the canyon. Eventually you will hit the back wall, also known as the Blue Hole! Soak in the views as you are standing in one of the most beautiful places in the world. The return trip is just as challenging as the trek in, so be sure to leave yourself enough time to hike out before sundown.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU
Thank you for choosing Epic Trip Adventures as your guide. We are committed to continually updating our guides to be as relevant and accurate as possible. If you have feedback to improve this guide please leave it in the comments below.
We also want to hear about your Blue Hole adventures. If you have stories, pictures or even a link to your own adventure video please share them below!
Have fun out there!