Waimea Canyon in Hawaii | Debbi Marquette Photography

November 4, 2022

Waimea Canyon in Hawaii

Waimea Canyon in Hawaii is nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Like the Grand Canyon, it was formed by erosion from a river, the Waimea River. But the colors are very different. Waimea Canyon has a kaleidoscope of red, brown and green. You see waterfalls and frequent rainbows. Located on the island of Kauai, Waimea Canyon drive and Waimea Canyon lookouts provide stunning views of the canyon. If you are looking for beautiful Hawaii or Kauai photography, the drive to get to the canyon has some incredibly scenic areas. Kauai is one of my favorite islands in Hawaii. It has everything — mountains, beaches, ocean, rain forest, sea cliffs and canyons. Capturing Waimea Canyon photos, even with your cell phone, is a must do for your Hawaii vacation.

Getting to the Canyon

There are many tours that you can take to get to the canyon. Although the road is winding, it is an easy drive. There are a few lookouts on the way up and you don’t want to miss them. Because you can stop at every lookout on the way up, as well as past the canyon, the drive is worth doing yourself if you are able to. There are rental car agencies at the airport and if you arrive by cruise ship, the rental car agencies will pick you up at the port and bring you to and from the airport.

You will find two ways up the canyon – Waimea Canyon Drive or Kokee Road. Both roads meet before the canyon so take either one. My husband and I took Waimea Canyon Drive and it was a scenic and easy drive. Take the time to go into each of the pull offs you see. Each one shows a different view of the canyon, unique views and you will capture great Kauai and Hawaii photography.

Main Lookout

While there are three main “official” lookouts, there are a few other pull offs on Waimea Canyon Drive that only a few cars can stop at that also get extraordinary views and Waimea Canyon photos.

The main lookout on the rim of the canyon has a large parking lot. You also get fantastic views from many angles. If you have a camera that takes panoramic pictures, use it here.

Waimea Canyon.  The beautiful view looking into the Canyon.  Kauai, Hawaii.
Waimea Canyon. The beautiful view looking into the Canyon. Kauai, Hawaii.

Pull Off

A little further down the road is a small pull off. You can see this waterfall in the first picture above in the left 1/3 of the picture. This lookout is almost directly across from the waterfall.

Waimea Canyon waterfall on Kauai, Hawaii.

Kalalau Lookout

The Kalalau Lookout looks down at the Lalalau Valley. You can hike to the valley from the Kalalau Trail. This is a pretty famous valley. The valley and the coast served as the backdrop to many movies: the original “King Kong”, “Mighty Joe Young”, “Jurassic Park”, and “Six Days Seven Nights”.

At 4000 feet, this is also the highest elevation most people reach on Kauai by road.

Kilalau Lookout at Waimea Canyon on Kauai, Hawaii

Waimea Canyon Lookout

My personal favorite lookout is Pu’u O Kila Lookout. Not only do you see a view of Kalalau Valley, you see the Napali Cliffs. The Napali Cliffs are pretty famous, but if you haven’t heard of them you can see pictures and read more here. This canyon lookout has stunning Kauai photography views for canyon photos and well worth your time to continue past Waimea Canyon to see.

This is your last stop on Route 550 before you head back down. It is often cloudy in the morning and you may have to wait for the clouds to lift to see the view.

Pu'u O Kila lookout at Waimea Canyon on Kauai, Hawaii

Tips for Driving Waimea Canyon Drive

  1. Leave early in the day and allow time for the pull offs. They all provide slightly different views.
  2. Fill up with gas before you go.
  3. Bring food and drinks.
  4. If it is rainy or a drizzle, it will be cloudy at the top. Plan for this trip on a nice day if you can. If you do see clouds, wait a bit. The weather changes often.

Waimea Canyon is worth the drive for both Kauai and Hawaii photography as well as beautiful Hawaii scenery. If you aren’t comfortable driving, then take a tour there. The tour does not give you the flexibility of staying at each location as long as you want, but it is still worth it. Kauai is beautiful and this is well worth your time to go.

Thanks from coming along with me to Waimea Canyon on this Hawaii photography journey. You can see other things to do on Kauai in this blog post.

Debbi Marquette Photography is located in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.  Debbi is  an award winning and published  travel, landscape and bald eagle photographer specializing in artistic, authentic, and memorable landscape and wildlife photography.   She travels frequently, lives near the mountains and constantly has a camera in her hand to capture photographs so others can see the beauty of our world.

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