The Kukui Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes in Waimea Canyon. However, with 700 meters of elevation gain over 7 km, it is very steep and strenuous. You will be rewarded with sensational views of the canyon, numerous wild mountain goats and a refreshing swim in the Waimea River, which meanders through the valley. It starts at Milemarker 9 toward Kokee State Park. Roadside signs point to the Iliau Nature Loop and Kukui Trail.
We walk a short distance uphill from the road and start there with the Iliau Nature Loop, which forks into two directions right at the beginning. Both paths lead to the turnoff to the Kukui Trail after a few minutes. We take the shorter trail to the right and pass numerous Iliau plants on the plateau. This plant is unique to Kauai, it blooms only once and is related to the "silver sword" that grows in Haleakala Crater on Maui.
Afterwards, the Kukui Trail branches off to the right. Shortly after, we descend into a koa forest and on a dusty path down the steep and sandy slopes of the canyon. After only about 10 minutes of walking, a first viewpoint awaits us with magnificent views of the canyon landscape.
Due to this difference in altitude over a relatively short length, the trail is very strenuous and only suitable for experienced hikers. If there has been rain in the previous days, the trail is not recommended. The red canyon soil becomes like soft soap and it is almost impossible to walk this steep trail.
In the end, the trail leads through a forest and a former riverbed. When you see the toilet house and the picnic table of the Wiliwili camp, you have reached your destination. Shortly after, you can hear the Waimea creek flowing, which invites you to a picnic.