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Awa’awapuhi Trail of Waimea Canyon – the Magical Eel Valley

Awa’awapuhi Trail of Waimea Canyon – the Magical Eel Valley

Awa’awapuhi Trail is located in the beautiful Waimea Canyon, on the west side of the island of Kauai. Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Awa’awapuhi Trail is a spectacular hike within the Waimea Canyon, with the most stunning view of the Na Pali coast at the end of its 3.25 mile hike to the lookout. The trail is moderately difficult, and people that are physically fit would enjoy this hike. It’s 6.5 miles round trip, a one way in and same way out trail; no chance of getting lost.

View to Awa'awapuhi Valley at the end of Awa'awapuhi Trail in Waimea Canyon
View to Awa’awapuhi Valley at the end of the trail

Ancient Hawaiians named this place Awa’awapuhi because there was a Puhi, a giant freshwater eel, named Kuna, who arrived here to search for a new home to settle in. Kuna swam around the island of Kauai, along the Na Pali cliffs and valleys, and decided to explore this part of the island with magnificent cliffs. Kuna decided to go inland, and burrowed his way through the valley, and in between the cliffs. His body imprinted the curvy road that lies in the valley below. Soon enough, the eel was exhausted and fell asleep in the valley.

While it was sleeping, a large group of Hawaiians came upon the giant eel, and tried to wake it up by poking at it. But there was no reaction. They thought that the eel was dead, and decided to make a meal out of it. The Hawaiians worked together and tried to curl the eel up in a circle to fit it into a cooking pit, but Kuna was too stiff to move. Then, they gathered firewood and rocks on both sides of the eel, and set it on fire. Suddenly, the giant eel woke up to the pain of the burning fire, and became so angry that he ate all the surrounding people.

After this catastrophe, Kuna decided to move on and returned back to the ocean, leaving his giant curvy shape forever in the Awa’awapuhi valley. Today, you can still see the parallel line of rocks used to burn the eel, and the “Eel BBQ Pit” depicted in a circular shape that is known as Ka-Lua-Puhi.

Trailhead and sign of Awa'awapuhi Trail
Trailhead and sign

We drove to Awa’awapuhi trail by car, and stopped by Koke’e Natural History Museum to get a free trail map. After we passed the Koke’e Museum, the Awa’awapuhi Trail was on the left side, and was marked as trail fifteen (15), just after trail seventeen (17) on the right side. Once we turned left, there was ample parking available. The trailhead was easy to find –  there was a clear sign. Do not leave any valuables in the car as break-ins happen.

At the beginning of the trail, there were many free hiking sticks piled at the entrance. Pick one up for safety, and use it to support you on the muddy and slippery grounds. The weather in Waimea Canyon is hot and humid, and the grounds are usually wet and muddy. Wear sturdy shoes with traction and grip for stability. It’s also a good idea to bring your tracking poles. It’s downhill on the way there, and can get slippery.

Bring plenty of water, and a sandwich. Enjoy the moment when you arrive at the end of the trail and sit down with a delicious sandwich and drink, to refuel before you hike your way back up.

Rubbing shoulders with native plants on Awa'awapuhi Trial
Rubbing shoulders with native plants

During the six mile, four hour hike, I saw abundant variety of native plants. There were wild guava trees and pear trees. I ran into cute little baby wild boars, saw colorful roasters on top of a pear tree eating pears, and met mountain goats waiting on the cliff at the end of trail. Most of the hike was in the forest, well shaded from the sun. There were signs pointing to native trees and mile markers. Downhill on the way there, and uphill on the way back. The trail was not crowded. Most of the time, we were alone.

Helicopter touring Awa'awapuli Valley
Helicopter touring Awa’awapuli Valley

The air was fresh and sweet, and the trail gave a great leg workout. At the end of the trail, I saw a spectacular view of the Na Pali coast, waterfall, and saw the helicopters flying into the valley. The stunning view was worth every effort.

A red Cardinal at the end of Awa'awapuli trail
A red Cardinal at the end of the trail

At the end of the trail, you will see the majestic Na Pali coast and stunning valley with Jurassic Park mountain peaks that looked out to the endless blue ocean. It’s lush and beautiful. To the left, you can walk all the way down for a closer look at the waterfall and the Awa’awapuhi valley. You will see helicopters coming every ten minutes, flying into the valley towards the waterfall. But be careful, this side of the lookout is downhill, windy and has slippery little rocks. To the right, another lookout was on higher grounds. Equally amazing and beautiful.

The lookout to the left at trail end
The lookout to the left at trail end

The end of Awa’awapuhi trail is beautiful beyond believe. It’s exactly what you would expect from Waimea Canyon and more. The deep valley, and Jurassic park mountain peaks, and the blue ocean makes this hike the most rewarding of all hikes I have ever done.

The lookout to the right at trail end
The lookout to the right at trail end

More Kauai Hikes

Hiking Kalalau Trail to Kalalau Beach – Personal Experience and Advice to Potential Hikers


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