Panoramic landscape view of Na Pali coastline in dramatic style, Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Best Kokee State Park Hikes, Kauai: Easy to Hard Trails – 2024

Spectacular views of Kauai’s inimitable Na Pali Coast! A trail winding along Kauai’s iconic Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific! Amazing, unique landscape of Kauai’s wetlands!

What do they all have in common? They are all Kokee State Park hikes!

Oddly enough, you can get this, almost holistic, picture of the island of Kauai by spending a day or two hiking through the different trails of the Koke’e State Park!

If you are an outdoor enthusiast visiting the island, hiking Koke’e State Park is definitely one of the top things to do on Kauai.

Hanalei Bay and lush tropical forest from Pihea Trail, one of the moderate Kokee State Park hikes, Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei Bay and lush tropical forest from Pihea Trail, one of the moderate Kokee State Park hikes, Kauai, Hawaii

Not as well known or popular as its adjoining sister state park, the Waimea Canyon State Park, Koke’e State Park is a more remote, secluded and rugged park on the northwest part of Kauai island.

Koke’e State Park is my favorite park to visit, just because my time in Kauai is usually only 3 days at the max, and spending a day at Koke’e lets me optimize my time.

Of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is unique in that it’s popular primarily for its rugged beauty, and you can best marvel at its many natural wonders by getting your feet dirty (often literally), and hiking its many trails.

But if you’re like me with only a couple of days, typically, on Kauai, you don’t want a laundry list of trails and hikes, you want the best!

The bulk of the best hiking trails in Kauai are in the Koke’e State Park, and throw in a few outstanding lookouts, and you have a day on the island you can really be happy with.

Up for an active adventure on the scenic Wailua River in Kauai? Discover the Secret Falls kayaking + hiking excursion on the east side of the island!

One of the more difficult Kokee State Park hikes, the Alakai Swamp Trail through the wettest parts of Kauai
One of the more difficult Kokee State Park hikes, the Alakai Swamp Trail through the wettest parts of Kauai

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Koke’e State Park

Probably the most underrated of Kauai’s 9 spectacular state parks, Koke’e State Park is my favorite because, though remote and secluded, it offers an extensive variety of trail terrain for nature hiking.

Ridge trails, swamp trails, rainforest trails and coastal view trails, you get them all at Koke’e State Park!

Na Pali Coast view from the Pihea Trail (to Alakai Swamp), two Kokee State Park hikes
Na Pali Coast view from the Pihea Trail (to Alakai Swamp), two Kokee State Park hikes

Koke’e State Park Directions

Take Highway 550 North from the town of Waimea on the south coast of Kauai. You will go past Waimea Canyon State Park and then come to Koke’e State Park.

Koke’e State Park Entrance Fee

Koke’e State Park charges an entrance fee of $5 / person (kids under 3 are free). You don’t need any reservations to enter the park.

Tropical forest from one of the Kokee State Park hikes, the Pihea Trail to the Alakai Swamp Trail
Tropical forest from one of the Kokee State Park hikes, the Pihea Trail to the Alakai Swamp Trail

The entrance fee applies for the Waimea Canyon State Park also, if you cover it on the same day.

Koke’e State Park Parking

Along with the entrance fee, you will also pay $10 / vehicle for parking, and that fee covers parking in any lot within the state park.

The parking fee is also valid in the adjacent Waimea Canyon State Park, if you visit on the same day.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Best Kokee State Park Hikes

Koke’e State Park offers many trails for hikers of different ability, from trails for beginners to trails for experienced hikers.

As you will see though, the harder the hike, the better the payoff, in terms of fabulous views, rewarding nature scenery and watching colorful, native forest birds.

The Kalalau Valley and the Napali Coast from the Pihea Trail, one of the moderately hard Kokee State Park hikes
The Kalalau Valley and the Napali Coast from the Pihea Trail, one of the moderately hard Kokee State Park hikes

But some trails, like the Pihea Vista Trail, allow you as a beginning hiker or a family with smaller kids to still experience some exciting views near the start of the trail. so don’t give up hope!

Best Easy Kokee State Park Hikes for Beginners

Some Koke’e State Park trails are reasonably flat and short, but still interesting enough for the beginning hiker or a family with smaller kids to hike and experience nature!

Pu’u ka Ohelo / Berry Flat Trail Hike (+ Water Tank Trail Hike)

Quick facts
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 3.2 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Kokee State Park Campground parking lot
  • Trailhead: Muhihi Road, Berry Flats trailhead across the street from the campground

Depending on where you park, you will start off on the Water Tank Trail, an easy forest hike that connects the Koke’e Road to the Berry Flat Trail loop.

On a relatively flat, easy loop trail, the Pu’u Ka Ohelo Berry Flat Trail hike winds through groves of beautiful California redwood trees and Japanese sugi pine trees, intermixed with native koa and Ohi’a trees.

Berry Flat Loop trail is a great hike for families with kids, no steep climbs or scary drops like on some of the ridge hikes. When we hiked it, the ginger flowers were blooming and the fragrance in the air was exhilarating.

The trail is named for the Ohelo berry plants that you will see scattered along the hike with pretty red berries and flowers.

Ohelo berries, endemic to Hawaii, along the Berry Flat Trail, one of the easy Kokee State Park hikes
Ohelo berries, endemic to Hawaii, along the Berry Flat Trail, one of the easy Kokee State Park hikes

Kaluapuhi Trail Hike

Quick facts
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip, out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes
  • Pet friendly: Yes
  • Parking: Kalalau Lookout
  • Trailhead: Past Kalalau Lookout

Kaluapuhi Trail is an easy, about 2 mile, out-and-back hike along a forest trail with minimal climbing. Great if you want to stretch your feet after admiring the spectacular Kalalau Lookout.

The Kaluapuhi trailhead to one of the easy Kokee State Park hikes on Kauai island, Hawaii
The Kaluapuhi trailhead to one of the easy Kokee State Park hikes on Kauai island, Hawaii

You can expect to walk on a sometimes overgrown trail, with exposed tree roots, through dense forests of California redwood trees, eucalyptus trees, and native Ohi’a and koa trees.

The Kaluapuhi trail is a popular hike for bird watchers.

The forest trail is fragrant in summer and early fall, when the aromatic ginger flowers bloom! We also saw many trees fruiting including strawberry guava and plums, delicious when ripe!

You can return on the road, but I recommend sticking to the trail since the shoulder along the road is a bit narrow.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

Best Intermediate Koke’e State Park Hikes

The intermediate Koke’e State Park trails offer hikers better views and nature scenery, but require longer hikes or hikes with some climbing.

Picturesque Waimea Canyon from the canyon rim on the Canyon Trail to Waipo'o Falls
Picturesque Waimea Canyon from the canyon rim on the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls

Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls Hike

Quick facts
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles round trip, out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 750 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes (older kids, toddlers will find this difficult)
  • Pet friendly: No
  • Parking: Pu’u Hinahina Lookout
  • Trailhead: Far end of the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout parking lot

Waimea Canyon is the most prominent geological feature on the small island of Kauai.

Haven’t explored the majestic Waimea Canyon yet, and have time only for one hike in Koke’e State Park? Then take Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls hike, which takes you along the edge of Waimea Canyon, with spectacular views of the canyon walls and the canyon valleys.

Waimea Canyon views along the canyon rim section of the Canyon Trail to Waipo'o Falls, Kauai, HI
Waimea Canyon views along the canyon rim section of the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls, Kauai, HI

The hike to Waipo’o Falls takes you to the top of the falls, and you get to see mini-cascading falls before the water tumbles over the cliff.

Want a full frontal view of this amazing waterfall? Head to the Waimea Canyon Lookout, and you can see the Waipo’o Falls in the distance across the canyon.

The Canyon Trail to Waipo'o Falls takes you to the top of this spectacular Kauai waterfall
The Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls takes you to the top of this spectacular Kauai waterfall

The first half of the hike is downhill through a dense rainforest.

Pihea Vista Trail Hike

Quick facts
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Distance: 2.3 miles round trip, out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 440 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes (older kids)
  • Pet friendly: Yes (on leash)
  • Parking: Pu’u o Kila Lookout (end of Highway 550)
  • Trailhead: Past Pu’u o Kila Lookout

The Kalalau Valley is the most scenic valley in all of Kauai, and the Pihea Vista Trail hike takes you along the rim of the valley, and you can see the Pacific Ocean, the Na Pali cliffs and the lush, emerald green, valley floor.

Spectacular Kalalau Valley from the Pihea Trail, a moderate Kokee State Park hike
Spectacular Kalalau Valley from the Pihea Trail, a moderate Kokee State Park hike

The trail ends at a spur, the Pihea Overlook, the highest point on the rim. While it offers great views, I thought the views along the way and the viewpoint near the start were much better.

But its just not the valley. The trail winds through a forest reserve, and is popular among bird watchers and nature lovers.

Even a short hike into the trail is worth it! If you have time, consider extending the hike into the Alakai Swamp Trail.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

Best Hard Koke’e State Park Hikes

The more difficult Koke’e State Park trails require longer trekking over more difficult terrain, either in the form of more climbing or wetter, muddier and slippery trails.

Tropical forest seen on the Alakai Swamp trail, one of the wettest places on Earth, in the Koke'e State Park on Kauai island, Hawaii
Tropical forest seen on the Alakai Swamp trail, one of the wettest places on Earth, in the Koke’e State Park on Kauai island, Hawaii

As mentioned earlier, these difficult hikes provide the best payoffs, and are well worth the effort!

Awa’awapuhi Trail Hike

Quick facts
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Distance: 6.2 miles round trip, out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 1,850 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes (older kids)
  • Pet friendly: No, dogs aren’t allowed
  • Parking: Near mile marker 17 on Highway 550

The Awa’awapuhi Trail hike is an interesting one: you start at an elevation of 4,350 feet, and almost from the start you are descending. But yet at the end you are still at an elevation of 2,500 feet, on a ridge top, with spectacular views!

Dramatic emerald green valley landscape from the Awaawapuhi Trail, a difficult Kokee State Park hike
Dramatic emerald green valley landscape from the Awaawapuhi Trail, a difficult Kokee State Park hike

The first half of the Awa’awapuhi Trail is through the Napali-Kona Forest Reserve, a jungle path through rainforest vegetation like fern, fruit trees, eucalyptus trees and tall grass.

About 3 miles in, the trail transforms into a rocky, exposed ridge trail that takes you to a viewing platform (with a metal railing) at the top of the ridge.

You get phenomenal views of the Na Pali coast with its sheer cliffs, the Pacific Ocean and the lush, green valleys of Awa’awapuhu and Nualolo far below.

Though you will see some brave souls venture beyond this point to further ridge tops, I strongly discourage you. The views are not that different, footing is treacherous, and the drop to the valley floor is a sheer 2000+ feet.

Be careful on the final section of the Awa'awapuhi Trail, Kauai
Be careful on the final section of the Awa’awapuhi Trail, Kauai

Save some energy for the hike back, all uphill and a bit of a slog!

Alakai Swamp Trail Hike

Quick facts
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
  • Distance: 7 miles round trip
  • Elevation gain: 330 feet
  • Family friendly: Yes (older kids)
  • Pet friendly: No, dogs aren’t allowed
  • Parking: Next to the Alaka’i Picnic Area. If you can comfortably drive off-road, then go up the unpaved dirt road to 1/4 mile north of the Na Pali Kona Forest Reserve entrance sign.
Alakai Swamp Trail, one of the more difficult Kokee State Park hikes
Alakai Swamp Trail, one of the more difficult Kokee State Park hikes

The Alaka’i Swamp Trail is different, unique kind of hike, taking you through high-elevation, swamp wetlands terrain, and areas that get the most rain on the island of Kauai!

You can expect a misty fog for the bulk of the hike, and the boardwalk over the swamp can be slippery.

The hike was interesting in a weird sort of way, with the water bubbling below you and other hikers emerging like ghosts through the fog!

The swamp scenery was unlike anything we had seen, and also changed as we hiked, with the second swamp distinctly different and we thought, better!

Alakai Swamp Trail, a hard Kokee State Park hike through unique wetlands terrain
Alakai Swamp Trail, a hard Kokee State Park hike through unique wetlands terrain

If it rains, the hike will be much harder, and you won’t get to enjoy the great view at the end (Kilohana Lookout).

Note, sometimes the clouds clear quickly, so be patient.

Bird Watching on Kokee State Park Hikes

For ornithologists, Koke’e State Park trails give you an opportunity to watch some amazing forest birds, endemic only to Hawaii.

While you can see birds on pretty much any of the Koke’e State Park trails, I have found the two best trails for bird watching are the Alaka’i Swamp Trail and the Pihea Vista Trail.

Common species you can expect to see on these trails are honeycreepers and flycatchers like the crimson and black i’iwi, black-beaked ‘apapane, yellow-green ‘amakihi and the brown and white ‘elepaio.

I'iwi, native honeycreeper, a forest bird commonly found in the Kokee State Park
I’iwi, native honeycreeper, a forest bird commonly found in the Kokee State Park

Use a good pair of binoculars, and look for movement in the trees, and focus on the flowering plants and trees that provide food for the birds, especially the honeycreepers.

Early morning and late afternoons are the best times to spot the native forest birds.

What Plants to See on Kokee State Park Hikes

Koke’e State Park showcases both the red and the yellow flowered native ohi’a lehua, Hawaii’s most iconic plant.

Beautiful flowers from the ohia lehua evergreen plant, an endemic plant found on the Canyon Trail to Wapo'o Falls
Beautiful flowers from the ohia lehua evergreen plant, an endemic plant found on the Canyon Trail to Wapo’o Falls

Native koa trees are also common in the state park.

As is typical with Hawaiian rainforests, you will see fern, tall grass, mosses and vines all over.

If you are hiking during the flowering season (usually summer and fall), you will likely smell the fragrant and pretty Kahili ginger flowers before you even reach them.

Colorful Kahili ginger flowers in Koke'e State Park
Colorful Kahili ginger flowers in Koke’e State Park

For the most part though, you will see non-native plants and trees, many of which were planted. Some common ones include California redwood trees, Japanese sugi pine, eucalyptus, and guava.

Map of the Best Kokee State Park Trails

The below map of the Koke’e State Park trails shows the main trails described above.

Hiking Gear Checklist

Many of Hawaii’s hikes are demanding, make sure you are well equipped and well prepared. Here’s what we typically take with us:

Tips for Hiking Koke’e State Park Trails

Check the Koke’e State Park website for any trail closures.

Hiking boots are a must, especially for the harder trails. Poles are optional.

Hiking boots advised on all of the Kokee State Park hikes, good grip on muddy trails
Hiking boots advised on all of the Kokee State Park hikes, good grip on muddy trails

Bring plenty of water and snacks, especially for the longer hikes and the ones that involve climbing.

Sunscreen and a hat are recommended for the ridge hikes. Ponchos or light rain jackets are advisable.

Most of the trails include a rainforest or jungle or swamp section. Use bug spray and mosquito repellent liberally.

Lush tropical vegetation on Pihea trail, a moderately difficult Kokee State Park hike
Lush tropical vegetation on the Pihea Trail, a moderately difficult Kokee State Park hike

Prefer early morning hikes, especially if views are involved. Clouds roll in late morning and early afternoon.

If it is cloudy and you are hiking, be patient. Clouds often clear quickly or part for short intervals.

Clouds rolling into the Kaluapuhi Trail late morning on a Kokee State Park hike
Clouds rolling into the Kaluapuhi Trail late morning on a Kokee State Park hike

Expect no cellphone service, download all the maps and other information you will need.

Some trails are not well signposted, so downloading maps from AllTrails or a similar app is useful.

The Best Kauai Tours

Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?

Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)

Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)

Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)

Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)

Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour (super popular, less expensive than a heli tour, large bubble windows for flightseeing!)

Renting a Car in Kauai

The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.

Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Kauai car rentals now!

Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle

Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!

This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Kauai now!

Where to Stay in Kauai

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Kauai vacation rental on VRBO now!

Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!

Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast from Kalepa Ridge Trail, one of the best Kauai hikes in Kokee State Park, but currently closed
Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast from Kalepa Ridge Trail, one of the best Kauai hikes in Kokee State Park, but currently closed

More Kauai Travel Inspiration

Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!

If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.

Planning to split a week between Kauai and another island? We have a 3 days in Kauai itinerary article you must read to help flesh out what you would like to see and do!

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei and Kauai’s scenic north shore, the best things to do in Poipu and Kauai’s south shore, and the most exciting things to do on Kauai’s Coconut Side or east side.

Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.

Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.

We also have visitor’s guides to popular parks like Waimea Canyon State Park, which protects the namesake canyon, nearby Kokee State Park, and the remote but beautiful Polihale State Park.

Also check out the ultimate guide to visiting Haena State Park on Kauai’s north shore, and a full guide to hiking the epic Kalalau Trail.

Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight. We also have an article on everything you need to know to visit Secret Falls Kauai on an exciting kayaking and hiking tour.

Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.

And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!

Hiking enthusiasts will want to read our article on the best hikes in Koke’e State Park: the trails here are some of the best hikes in Kauai!

We have detailed trail guides for the most popular Koke’e hikes, from the scenic Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls, to the epic Awa’awapuhi Trail, challenging but very rewarding!

Also discover the best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park, and the best hikes on Kauai’s north shore.

We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.

Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.

Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore!

We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches, and an article on the best Kauai south shore beaches!

And if you love watching the sun go down in a burst of color, be sure to read our article on where to go for the best sunsets on Kauai!

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Learn about the must-do hikes in Kokee State Park in Kauai, Hawaii! Spectacular views, native plants and flowers, and the chance to get up close to the island's rugged beauty.

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