Hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii

Note to my fellow wanderers: This guide was written from my first-hand experiences. I try my best not to over-glamorize any location I travel to because I want HappyWander’s content to be as authentic as possible. My goal is to provide you real information so that you can have the best possible adventures wandering the world. Enjoy!

Awa’awapuhi Trail is a popular out and back hike located on Kaua’i’s Northwest side. This hike takes you through the woods in route to a beautiful overlook of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re looking for insights about this hike, read my full Awa’awapuhi Trail hiking guide below.

Overview of Awa’awapuhi Trail

Located in Koke’e State Park on the Northwest side of the island of Kaua’i, Hawaii, Awa’awapuhi Trail is a day hike you may be considering. In this section, I’ll review all the details about Awa’awapuhi Trail.

Awa'awapuhi Trail Map

This is a map (via alltrails.com) of the route I did.

Here is a 3D map of Awa’awapuhi Trail to show you the kind of terrain nearby, as well as the final payoff of this hike, an epic view of the ocean:

Awa'awapuhi Trail 3D Map

Where to Park

I parked at the Awa’awapuhi Trailhead, which is marked below:

There aren’t a ton of spots, maybe 15-20 total, so it’s best to arrive early in the AM or have a few other hikes in the area marked down and pass by this parking lot to see if there’s a spot available.

Distance Traveled

According to Alltrails.com, I traveled close to 6 miles, although it felt like more.

How Long Does it Take to Hike?

I arrived at around 12:30 PM and finished at around 3:30 PM, so it took a little over 3 hours. I was going pretty quickly on this hike, especially uphill on the way back. If you’re not in good shape, I’d imagine this one would take significantly longer than 3 hours.

Elevation Change

According to Alltrails.com, you climb nearly 1900 feet of elevation. This hike is almost all downhill on the way out, and almost all uphill on the way back.

hiking Awa'awapuhi Trail in Kaua'i, Hawaii Elevation

Awa’awapuhi Trail elevation profile (via alltrails.com)

Difficulty

On the way down, this hike is a breeze. On the way back, you’ll most likely be hating your existence and wishing you were not on this hike. It’s not a difficult hike, but it will test your endurance and mental strength on the way back as it’s nearly entirely uphill.

Overall, I’d give this hike a 7 / 10 in difficulty.

Permits

You don’t need any permits for this hike.

Cost

There is a $10 fee per car and $5 fee per person to enter Kokee State Park if you are not a Hawaii resident. I was a little confused looking for ticketing online, but you pay once you park in any of the main parking areas next to observation areas or trail entrances. I actually didn’t see a kiosk in this parking lot, I paid in one of the observation areas a mile or so north of this hike location.

When to Go

You can go to Awa’awapuhi Trail year round, even in the rainy season (like I did) in December. Like any of the trails in Kaua’i, it’s better to go when it’s not raining or didn’t rain heavily the day before. The trail was in good shape when I went, and not muddy.

Recommended Gear

Hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail will take you at least 3 hours to do, so it’s a good idea to plan accordingly. I’ll highlight the gear that I brought, as well as additional gear that might benefit you:

  • Layers: Depending on the weather, I’d recommend wearing layers. I wore shorts and a t-shirt because the weather was in the high 70s. If you do go and it starts to rain, you may want a light raincoat that can also be used as a wind shield.
  • Hiking backpack with straps: If you don’t have a backpack with straps, I recommend you get one. They aren’t too expensive on Amazon. Your shoulders and back will thank you later. This hike, while not difficult, still has some ups and downs that can pay your body a toll without the proper gear.
  • Portable charger: If you take a lot of photos / videos like me, you’ll want to bring a portable charger for your phone. I also use the alltrails.com app to navigate so having enough battery is important.
  • Water bladder: If you want to save on weight and also help your backpack be more balanced than carrying a big bottle of water in your bag, a water bladder is important. I personally use a 3L water bladder that lasted this hike and the 2nd hike I went on nearby.
  • Hiking shoes: Hiking shoes that are waterproof will benefit you if you go in on this trail. Some places were a bit muddy, and the terrain is very rocky, which can hurt your feet over time if you wear tennis shoes. It’s a good idea to wear hiking shoes for this hike.
  • Snacks: Who doesn’t like snacks? While hiking, even on a short hike like this, you burn lots of calories. My personal go-to’s on this hike were: Honey roasted peanuts, gummy bears, protein shakes, and protein bars. I don’t usually stop for lunch while hiking, so snacks are a must-have for me.
  • Bug spray: I didn’t experience bugs on this hike, so this wasn’t really needed. However, you may want to use some just in case.
  • First aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring Band-Aids, a bandage, and some cut cleaning items. I have needed band-aids in the past from slipping on rocks, but I did not on this hike.
  • Sunscreen: While most of this hike is under trees, you will be in the sun in the last section of the hike, which is where the views are. You’ll likely spend some amount of time here.
  • Flashlight: If you go anytime near sunset, I’d recommend having a flashlight.

Nice to Have Gear:

Here are a few items that would make your Awa’awapuhi Trail hiking experience even better:

  • Shoe impact insoles: These can help as you traverse hard rocks along the way.
  • Phone tripod: If you go alone or with a group and want great pictures, a phone tripod is key. I use one on every hike I go on.

The Play By Play: My Route Hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail

So what’s it like hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii? In this section I will discuss my experience on each part of the hike and share photos and videos of my adventure.

Starting on the Trail

Right after you exit the parking lot, you’ll enter the woods. It’s relatively flat for a bit, then starts to descend slowly.

Awa'awapuhi Trail head starting point

Once you’re in the woods, everything will pretty much look like this for the first mile or two:

After about a mile, you’ll notice that you start to descend at a faster rate. Half way through the hike, there are a couple cool dirt hills you can climb up to get a few views of the Pacific Ocean in:

You’ll continue descending for another one to 1.5 miles down. Once you start walking through the wheat field, you’ll know you’re almost at the very end of the hike, the observation points.

After you’ve made it through the wheat fields, you’ll see some people stopping at an observation point. I recommend looking to your left and going down further if you’re physically able to (it will get your heart pumping on the way back up). These are the views once you go down to the end:

Here is what it looks like going back up to the main observation point (it is quite a cardio test):

On the way back for the last 3 miles, it will mostly be uphill. I truly hated the last 3 miles of this hike and tried to do it as fast as possible.

After Hike Dinner

On the same day I hiked the Awa’awapuhi Trail, I also hiked Kalepa Ridge Trail (which was an epic hike). After both of these hikes, I went to Puka Dog in Poipu Beach to watch the sunset. I ordered a Beef Puka Dog with Hawaiian mustard and Pineapple sauce. It was quite a nice treat!

Puka Dog in Poipu Beach, Kaua'i Hawaii Photo

I was still hungry, so I wanted to check another dinner place off my list. When I got home, I then went to El Taco Feliz and had the Mahi Mahi tacos and a quesadilla.

El Taco Feliz in Kaua'i Hawaii

I was quite hungry after these 2 hikes!

About My Experience Hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail

Overall, hiking Awa’awapuhi Trail was okay. I was not feeling this hike. In fact, I wanted to get off this hike as soon as possible once I learned how mundane it is in the woods. The views at the end were indeed great, but for the amount of work to get there (especially on the way back) there are other hikes I’d recommend above this one.

Favorite Parts

Here are a few of my favorite parts of hiking Kalepa Ridge Trail:

Ending Views:

The Pacific Ocean / Na Pali coast views once you get out of the woods after about 3 miles are beautiful. I spent about 15-20 minutes in this area, which is the reason so many people hike this one.

Least Favorite Parts

Here is my least favorite part of this hike:

The rest of the hike:

Besides the views at the end, this hike was BORING for me. It goes through the woods with very few if not any views until then.

Recommendations After the Fact

Now that I’ve done this short hike, I’d recommend that:

  • You prepare yourself for basically no views for 3 miles until the very end
  • You bring plenty of water, the 3 mile hike back is pretty strenuous and long
  • You are physically fit. The first 3 miles downhill are a breeze but I saw quite a few people struggling on the way back up

Overall Score

Awa’awapuhi Trail was just okay for a Kaua’i hike. This trail is also packed with people, maybe because it received a high score on alltrails.com of 4.7 / 5? I give this hike a 5 / 10, which is generous. There are many other amazing hikes on Kaua’i, I’d skip over this one and go to Hanakapi’ai Falls Trail, Kalepa Ridge Trail, or Sleeping Giant Trail.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Kalepa Ridge Trail in Kaua’i, Hawaii

despite the low score, I’m still glad that I hiked Awa’awapuhi Trail. A lot of the information I saw online talked about how great this trail was. It just wasn’t my favorite hike, but I urge you to get out there and see it for yourself!

Happy wandering to you!

Anthony Bart
Author: Anthony Bart

Hello! Welcome to HappyWanders! My name is Anthony, I'm on a mission to live a life full of adventure and to help you to do the same. As an ex-corporate worker and current entrepreneur, I've been working to design a life with more time for adventure and less time for the 9-5 grind. If you're ready for an adventure, you're my type of person!

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