Waimea River Packrafting and Kayaking

Length: 10.5 miles/ 1 day, shorter runs possible
Class: III-IV (IV – V top 3 miles)
Gradient: 290 ft/mile top 3 miles, 95 ft/mile
Permits: Only Required for camping in canyon
Recommended Flows: 200 to 2000 cfs at Waimea, Kauai

Shuttle: 20 minutes/ 9.3 miles + 2.5 mile hike
Hike: 2.5 miles/ 2,240 elevation loss. 1.5 hours ends at Wiliwili Camp site administered by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Map of the trail
Season: Whenever it flows. More common in the Winter and Spring but can flow anytime of year.

Overview

The Waimea Canyon State Park is a popular tourist destination for those staying on Kauai. Luckily most people stay at the top of the canyon or take a helicopter tour. Even if the Waimea River isn’t high enough to run, the hike down Kukui Trail is peaceful and picturesque. The hike back up is challenging with minimal shade, high humidity and over 2000 feet of elevation gain in a little over 2 miles.

Don’t confuse this run with the Waimea River on Oahu which is popular with surfers.

Koai’e Stream – Lonomea Camp to Kaluahaulu Camp (after confluence with Waimea River) trail crosses the Waimea River to river right just below the Kaluahaulu Camp. Two more crossing below here.

Kaluahaulu Camp to Wiliwili Camp (intersection of Waimea Canyon trail and Kukui Trail)

Waimea River Flows for 2020

Current Waimea River Flows

Commercial Outfitters

There are no commercial outfitters that run trips on the Waimea River. Those looking to rent kayaks and take a nice paddle to a waterfall will want to check out the Wailua River Sate Park on Kauai.

Video: Packrafting the Waimea River, Kauai

Hiking the Kukui Trail

One of the highlights of this trip is the hiking down the Kukui Trail. The steep descent with varied terrain offers spectacular views of the canyon. The trail has minimal switch-backs and in places goes straight down the hill. It is possible to camp at the bottom of the trail next to the river.

Microspikes

The trail down to the Waimea River can get muddy. Many hikers in Hawaii like using microspikes for added traction on muddy steep trails like this one. When carrying a pack full of gear they make descending more controlled and less dangerous. Microspikes cost a little over $20 and pack easily.

The Descent

The hike into the canyon starts of with open terrain and ends in the forest. Once at the intersection with the Waimea Canyon trail it is possible to hike upstream or launch for this point and head down stream.

Kukui Trailhead
Early Hiking
Steep Section
Intersection Kukui and Waimea Canyon Trails
Waimea Canyon Trail/Road
Waimea River (low water)

Selway River near Lowell