Urban legend holds that Mark Twain dubbed Waimea Canyon as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific” upon first catching sight of her deep, colorful gorges. Whether or not the legend is true isn’t what’s important, because regardless of whether Twain uttered the comparison or not, Waimea Canyon legitimately lives up to its now-famous moniker.
The largest canyon in the entire Pacific, Waimea Canyon is 14 miles long, one mile wide, and plunges over 3,600 vertical feet to the rugged valley floor beneath it. Striated lines visible in the red and brown rock point to the multiple eruptions which first help sculpt the island, and the copious amounts of rains which fall on nearby Mt. Wai’ale’ale continue to sculpt Waimea Canyon deeper and deeper on their quest towards the sea.
The air is cooler up here than back on the beaches of Poipu, although any hikers setting out on the canyon’s 45 miles of hiking trails will quickly find themselves peeling off layers and feeling the warmth of the arid surroundings. On the strenuous Awa’awapuhi-Nu’ulolo Cliff trail—which actually runs on the outside edge of the canyon—there are parts where it seems you might actually be standing on the westernmost edge of the entire planet. Not a hike for those with a fear of heights, an easier bet is to drive past Koke’e State Park to Kalalau Lookout for a bird’s eye view into one of the most oft-photographed valleys in the state.
On an island already rung by natural beauty, a tour of Waimea Canyon only punctuates the fact that Kauai has been blessed by the wonders of nature. Even those who have visited Arizona’s Grand Canyon will agree that this gaping, silent gorge set stoically in the Pacific is the type of place which can humble you, move you, and make you feel small.
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