Kalalau Valley, Kauai
I have made many trips to the island of Kauai and have hiked most of the trails. The trail to the Kalalau Valley Overlook crosses the wettest part of the islands and it’s almost always raining there. I waited for a rare dry morning to hike up the Kuilau Ridge Trail. The trailhead is located about a hundred yards east of the first stream crossing in the arboretum. At the end of the pavement, a wide trail gradually climbs an old jeep road. It’s a 1.75 mile walk and an elevation gain of 760 feet to the end of the Kuilau Ridge Trail. A quarter-mile up the trail, the views through openings in tall groves of koa trees reveal dramatically-spiked peaks to the west. Along the trail are forests of false staghorn ferns, guava trees, and many colorful tropical flowers including bird-of-paradise and wild orchids.
Exotic types of eucalyptus and koa grow along the ridge above the trail. There are patterns everywhere and many opportunities for close-ups of banana leaves, wild ginger, and countless other tropical plants. Up there is the wettest spot on Earth with an average annual rainfall of 451 inches. Water can be seen pouring down vertical walls on the distant cliffs. The trail climbs a few switchbacks to several more spectacular viewpoints where I could see to the east and the west. Then the trail narrows and crosses a knife-edge ridge between two deep valleys. At a point two miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses a footbridge over the Opaekaa Stream which eventually drops over Opaekaa Falls. A sign on the bridge marks the end of the Kuilau Trail, a good place to turn around. I filled the whole day with photographing everything I saw, my favorite image was this sunset over the Kalalau Valley.
There are so many spectacular landscapes, lush jungle trails to breath-taking views, and waterfalls crashing from volcanic peaks that you must visit Kauai. Use Photograph America Newsletter issue #079 - Back to the Islands: Kauai/Molokai to help you find all the best photo locations. Follow the online reports of flight restrictions or quarantines on the airline you will be using. Good Luck.
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Notes and images from Bob Hitchman.