Sightseeing in Wailua, Kaua‘i

waterfall in dense rainforest in Kauai
The majestic Opaeka‘a Falls. Photo © m-kojot/iStock.

Fern Grotto

The Wailua River’s Fern Grotto, a natural rock amphitheater where a dense forest of ferns hangs from the grotto, is a popular place to visit. An upriver tour run by Smith’s Kauai (3-5971 Kuamo‘o Rd., 808/821-6895, boats depart 9:30am, 11am, 2pm, and 3:30pm daily, $20 adults, $10 children 3-12) is the way to access it. A two-mile, 90-minute round-trip river journey takes you to the grotto. On the trip you’ll also be treated to a hula dance and Hawaiian music.

Kamokila Hawaiian Village

For a cultural experience, explore Kamokila Hawaiian Village (5443 Kuamo‘o Rd. along the Wailua River, 808/823-0559, 9am-5pm daily, $5 adults, $3 children 5-12). Kamokila means stronghold, and is Kaua‘i’s only re-created Hawaiian village. It was built on the site of an ancient royal village, the first of seven ancient villages in this valley. Village sites include the canoe house, the Outbreak movie set, a birth house, taro patches, a wood-carving house, the village lagoon, petroglyphs, medicinal plants, and a lot more. The village also offers outrigger canoe rides, hiking and swimming, access to Secret Falls, weddings, and a lu‘au.

Wailua falls plunging over the cliffside with a rainbow forming in the mist.
Wailua Falls. Photo © Kenneth Sponsler/123rf.

Wailua Falls

One of Kaua‘i’s most beautiful and easy-to-view waterfalls is the 80-foot Wailua Falls, which was featured on the opening credits of the television show Fantasy Island. Legend says the Hawaiian ali‘i would dive off the falls to prove their physical prowess, and commoners were not allowed to participate. Surrounded by wide-open pasture, it’s a beautiful drive up Ma‘alo Road to get to the falls. It’s about four miles to the end of the road, so you can’t miss it. The falls can be viewed from a lookout spot where there is a parking lot, which is a perfect place for a photo op. The lookout spot is the only place to view the falls unless you take one of the two trails down to the falls, but both are slippery and can be dangerous.

Smith’s Tropical Paradise

Smith’s Tropical Paradise (3-5971 Kuhio Hwy. 808/821-6895, 8:30am-4pm daily, $6 adults, $3 ages 3-12) is a 30-acre botanical and cultural garden along the Wailua River. On the property many plants are labeled, including an array of fruit and common island foliage as well as other plants that are rare and hard to find. There are two main buildings here; one is home to a luau and the other is a lagoon theater used for music shows. A path over one mile long leads you around the property. There is also a Japanese garden.

Opaeka‘a Falls

Two miles up Kuamo‘o Road are the 150-foot majestic Opaeka‘a Falls. The scenic lookout is on the right after the first mile marker and has a large parking lot and restrooms. The beautiful falls are easy to see and make for a good photo opportunity. Along Kuamo‘o Road on the way to the falls, look out for sacred heiau, such as the Poliahu Heiau.

Travel map of Wailua, Kauai, Hawaii

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