Kuilau Ridge Jungle Trail to Mt. Wai’ale’ale

This gentle trail is a nature lover's dream!

Quick Details

Lush Kauaʻi Trail to Amazing Views

The word kuilau (koo-E-lau) means “to string together leaves or grass.” Plant fibers were used for everything from thatching roofs (pili grass huts) to making large sails for ocean voyaging canoes (from the hala [tree] leaf), so one might imagine that this lush trail originally got its name from native Hawaiians gathering and utilizing natural resources from the area.

After a quick stop at the roadside overlook to observe ‘O’paeka’a Falls, we drive deeper into the island’s verdant trailhead. Our hike begins as a gentle climb up a wide, well-maintained trail. The trail is lined with impressive Sydney blue gum trees (Eucalyptus saligna), which can grow over 150 feet tall, and the occasional smatterings of albizia trees, massive in girth and height.

As we make our way higher, views of several mountain ranges begin to emerge. On overcast days, we’ll still be rewarded with densely green views of the heavily foliated gulches that dominate the foreground; their abundant native and introduced plant species offer much to discover. These plants include wild orchids, ‘ohi’a lehua blossoms, hala and the la’i or ti plant (a popular material for making hula skirts, among many other uses).

At our turnaround point, there is a large open area with covered picnic tables and expansive views of Kahili Mountain to the south, Wai’ale’ale Mountain and Mount Kawi to the west and the Makaleha Mountains to the north.

Back at the arboretum, we will take a short stroll in an area dense with the widely popular, often photographed, “rainbow eucalyptus” trees (Eucalyptus deglupta). Time permitting, we will have the option of taking a quick dip in a cool mountain stream and/or walking up a small hill to once again look towards the majestic Wai’ale’ale Summit, statistically one of the wettest places on earth (averaging over 450 inches of rainfall annually; subsequently fully or partially concealed by clouds much of the time).

Waterfall Swim Add-On:

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After a day of climbing, reward yourself with a cooling dip beneath a cascading waterfall. This add-on will add approximately 4 hours to the tour time. We also stop at one of several “ono” (tasty) local restaurants to refuel before continuing on to this final part of our adventure.

  • Chevron down Tour Highlights
    • Diverse array of impressive native and non-native tree and plant species, including monkeypod, albezia and “rainbow eucalyptus”
    • View 151-foot Opaeka’a Falls
    • Expansive views of Kahili Mountain, Wai’ale’ale Mountain, Mount Kawi and Makaleha Mountains
    • Opportunities for bird watching
  • Chevron down What to Know Before You Go
    • You must be able to walk on unpaved, uneven, and possibly muddy terrain.
    • The area has the potential to be rainy, so you should wear layered clothing and closed-toe shoes.
    • You may want to bring a towel, change of clothes, and slippers to change into after the hike.