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Where to hike in Kauai to one of the wettest spots on the planet

Where to hike in Kauai to one of the wettest spots on the planet
The wheelchair-accessible Puu O Kila overlook in Kokee State Park provides sweeping panoramas of a lush valley stretching to the Pacific Ocean. (Jay Jones)

While most people head to Kauai for sun and sand, hikers who head into the interior of the island will find themselves in one of the wettest places on Earth.

Mount Waialeale in the island’s interior receives an average of 450 inches of rain each year, which accounts for its lush vegetation and plentiful waterfalls.

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A sign in Kokee State Park, right at the end of Highway 550, points visitors in the direction of Mount Waialeale.
A sign in Kokee State Park, right at the end of Highway 550, points visitors in the direction of Mount Waialeale. (Jay Jones)

It usually makes it onto lists of the world’s wettest spots, which include Mawsynram and Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India; and Lloró, Colombia.

Located roughly in the center of the island of Kauai, the 5,140-foot peak is recommended only for experienced hikers. Hikers follow a rugged trail that begins at the end of State Highway 580 and leads to the base of the mountain.

Outfitters such as Kauai Hiking Adventures provide experienced guides to lead half-day treks. Moderately-fit people can still see the mountain from a trail deep within Kokee State Park.

While Waimea Canyon is a popular destination for tourists to Kauai, many people head back down the mountain without having seen the sights at Kokee State Park, just a few miles up the same highway.
While Waimea Canyon is a popular destination for tourists to Kauai, many people head back down the mountain without having seen the sights at Kokee State Park, just a few miles up the same highway. (Tor Johnson / Hawaii Tourism Authority)

The park is only a few miles farther up the highway from the crowded and popular overlooks of Waimea Canyon.

You can’t miss the Puu O Kila lookout because the road dead-ends at a parking lot. A fairly steep, paved ramp leads to scenic views down into Kalalau Valley, with the ocean-hugging Napali Coast beyond.

The lookout is the trailhead for the Pihea Trail, much of which consists of a boardwalk. It and connecting, posted trails afford outdoor enthusiasts little-visited sites.

Locals advise visiting the Puu O Kila lookout between 8 and 11 a.m. for the best views and less chance of rain.

Kokee Lodge, left, and Kokee Museum are located just beyond mile marker 15 along Highway 550.
Kokee Lodge, left, and Kokee Museum are located just beyond mile marker 15 along Highway 550. (Hawaii Division of State Parks)

Information about the trails is available at the Kokee Museum. The turnoff to it and Kokee Lodge is just beyond mile marker 15 on the highway. Campsites at the park cost $18 a night for out-of-state visitors.

Info: Kokee State Park, Kokee Road, State Highway 550, Kekaha

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