The Honopu Ridge trail is the last trail at the top before the Kalalau lookout in Koke’e State Park. One reason why you will want to do this hiking trail is due to the beautiful views it provides of the Na Pali Coast and Honopu Valley.
The reward is worth the trip since it’s a tough trail that can take some hikers up to 5 hours to complete but others as short as 3 hours. Ensure that you do the trail on a day when the sky is clear, otherwise, you may run into clouds that can impede the stunning views.
Honopu Ridge Trail Details
The Honopu Ridge trail is an out-and-back hike that is around 4.4 to 5 miles round trip. It has an elevation gain of up to 1600+ feet. It’s a challenging trail and takes an average of 3 to 5 hours depending on if you take breaks or not and how long you want to look at the views.
The trail is easy to follow but also not maintained, as well as other hikes in Kauai. There are fields of overgrown ferns, so you may want to wear long sleeves and pants for this section to prevent scratches. Since it’s not maintained, it may not always be too clear where the main pathway lays, so be on the lookout for signs from other hikers like ribbons, and ensure you always stay on the main path.
How To Get To Honopu Ridge Trailhead
From Kaumualii Hwy, 50, head up the winding state 550/Waimea Canyon Rd for 17 miles. You will find the small dirt parking lot on the left. The designated parking lot can hold about 4 cars, but there is parking along the same side of the street.
There are no restrooms at the Honopul Ridge trailhead, but the Kokee Lodge grounds do have public restrooms that you pass on your left while driving to the trail.
Honopu Ridge Trail Hike
The first ⅔ of the trail is shaded, and the last ⅓ is fully exposed to the sun. The Honopu Ridge hike to the end is all downhill with sections of steep, loose red dirt or muddy if it’s recently rained. Hiking sticks can help in these sections, or just get on your bottom and slide down for easier control. You’ll actually see many dirty backsides of others from doing this.
Definitely wear hiking shoes or even slip on micro spikes for better control of the loose dirt. Bring plenty of water since you will find you need most of the water to head back up. There are steep sections going up that take a lot of leg strength, and the strong sun/humidity can zap your energy. Keep drinking water, even if this uphill is only 2 miles but a tough 2 miles.
The trailhead is not marked, but you can see the fence. Just follow the trail with the fence to your right. There are some ribbons tied on trees to follow.
After the fence ends and you start emerging out of the shaded forest, you’ll see the very blue waters of the Napali Coast on your right. It’s one of the most beautiful sights you can see in Kauai.
If clear, you can see Ni’ihau Island on the left far in the distance. Once you climb down one steep hill and head up another you’ll reach the flat Ridge. Here, you are fully exposed to the sun, but there is one tree that offers shade to many to enjoy a nice water or lunch break. The lack of shade along the Honopu Ridge Trail is one of the many reasons why it’s important to bring and wear sufficient sunscreen.
The view looks down at the Kalalau Valley, cliffs, and where a waterfall might be flowing. Hikers can also see many helicopters in this area and boats below. There is the small beautiful and secluded white sandy Honopu beach to admire, and you can have a view of the peaks above Ke’e, the north shore.
Now as you start back up again, it’ll be steep and hot. It’s a good idea to cool down and drink plenty of water before then.
Once you are back in the forest, the shade feels like a blessing. Take time to stop and enjoy the green forest growth, mostly the new fern growth of the Fiddlehead. The fence will be on your left, and use it to follow the rest of the path. The trail can get busy, and it’s narrow so be careful when stepping aside for others to pass. Remember, hikers should yield to those going UPHILL.
My advice, keep a cooler inside your car with full bottles of cold water. Otherwise, stop at the Kokee Lodge/Cafe down the road a few miles away or back to Waimea for delicious shaved ice.
There is one more spectacular must-see stop before heading back down to Waimea. The famous Kalalau lookout. It’s just a short drive to the top, and it’s worth adding it to your itinerary.
Drive as far as the road takes you. There is a parking lot there as well as public restrooms and a walkway with a couple of picnic tables. Best of all, travelers can see a view of the Kalalau Valley and the Napali coast.
You will surely recognize this famous view from many photographs posted online, but it’s so much better to view it yourself. Like most places in Kauai, photos don’t always do it justice. It’s just something you need to experience and see in person.
Written by: Debra Bowyer