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Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai: Everything You Need to Know

The Kuilau Ridge Trail, located near the town of Wailua in Kauai, packs a lot of punch into just three and a half miles. This stellar hike takes you through a lush jungle, straight out of Jurassic Park, up to the spine of a mountain, with jaw-dropping views of the surrounding peaks and the Wai’ale’ale Valley. Here’s everything you need to know about the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the best easy hikes in Kauai. 

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Woman looking through the jungle at a mountain ridge in the background along the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai
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About the Kuilau Ridge Trail


3.6 miles

Elevation gain

682 feet

Man looking at a tree covered in vines along the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai, Hawaii


Easy to moderate


Good news! You can bring your furry best friend, but they must be on a leash. 

Trail map

Lush greenery and flowers with mountain ridges in the background along the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai, Hawaii

How to get to the Kuilau Ridge Trail

The Kuilau Ridge Trail is located here, about 15 minutes west of the town of Wailua or 25 minutes from Kapa’a, on the eastern side of Kauai. The road leading to the trailhead is generally well-maintained, but definitely is narrow and windy at times—so buckle up for a bit of a ride! 

Man opening the trunk of his car in the trailhead parking lot next to a bridge painted with a colorful mural near the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai, Hawaii

There’s a pretty small parking area, only holding a handful of cars by the trailhead and back near a colorful bridge. So if you plan on heading here on a weekend during your Kauai itinerary, I’d suggest getting here on the earlier side to ensure you snag a parking spot!

What to Expect Along the Kuilau Ridge Trail

From the trailhead, the path starts gradually climbing through the lush forests, with enormous primeval ferns, tropical flowers, and towering trees lining the trail. 

Despite the moderate incline, be sure to pay close attention on the trail—there’s lots of tree roots and large rocks, making the pathway uneven in certain areas, and it’s seemingly CONSTANTLY muddy (it definitely was next level muddy when my husband, Justin, and I visited and that seems to be consistent across lots of the reviews of AllTrails!). 

Man hiking along the Kuilau Ridge Trail with roots and vines along the pathway in Kauai, Hawaii

As you climb higher and higher along the trail, you’ll get peekaboo glimpses through the trees of the valley and surrounding layers of mountains. And at just one mile in, you’ll pop out on the ridgeline, where the views will just keep getting better and better.

Shortly thereafter (1.2 miles into the trail), you’ll reach a couple of picnic tables under a shelter. While this kind of looks like the end of the trail, it’s actually not! 

Woman walking down the left fork of the Kuilau Ridge Trail through lush greenery in Kauai, Hawaii

You can continue straight, which continues for a short bit until it dead-ends at an overlook.

In my opinion, this spot offers the best views on the trail, with expansive vistas of the impossibly green valley, Mount Wai’ale’ale, and layer after layer of the Makaleha Mountain Range (at least, on a clear day!). Just be careful, especially with little kids or dogs—there’s SUPER steep drop-offs here!

Layers of the Makaleha Mountain Range from the viewpoint along the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai, Hawaii

Alternatively, you can take a sharp right here and follow the path downhill for a bit. This portion of the trail doesn’t offer the ridgeline views, with dense greenery and ferns surrounding the pathway. 

To be honest, the trail ends kind of abruptly, with a sign indicating “End of the Kuilau Ridge Trail” once you reach a wooden bridge about 1.6 miles in. This is where the trail turns into the Moalepe Trail, which stretches along the mountain ridge for several more miles. 

Man hiking along a muddy pathway with tall brush on either side of the trail along the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai, Hawaii

If you’re like me and primarily hike for the views, I personally think you can skip the offshoot to the right after the picnic tables. But, if “finishing” the trail is important to you, it only adds about half a mile to reach the endpoint. 

When you’re done at the top of the ridge line, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead!

Tips for the Kuilau Ridge Trail

Be prepared for rain and mud 

This area is located in a rainforest, so, of course, it’s not unusual for it to rain, especially if you happen to be visiting Hawaii in winter. We actually visited the Kuilau Ridge Trail during Kauai’s “dry” season (April through October) and, if you can’t tell from our photos, still got to experience the rain and mud here firsthand!

Woman wearing a rain jacket along an overgrown pathway in the rain along the Kuilau Ridge Trail in Kauai, Hawaii

And, as mentioned above, the path is almost always super muddy, even when it hasn’t rained for a few days. 

So bring along a rain jacket (like this one for men and this one for women) and waterproof boots (these are the pair I have and love and these are Justin’s) to ensure you can stay (mostly!) dry on the trail. I’d also suggest packing some bug spray—it is a jungle, after all!

Wear long pants 

Although this trail is definitely well-trodden, it’s often overgrown. Accordingly, I’d recommend wearing long pants to protect your legs from the stabby brush on the trail. 

Budget more time in your itinerary than you think you need

The hike itself only takes a couple of hours, but, given that Kapa’a is one of the most popular places to stay in Kauai, the traffic getting to and around this area is sloooooooow.

Aerial view of Wailua Falls surrounded by lush jungle in Kauai, Hawaii

Additionally, there’s some cool pit stops that are worth stopping at while you’re in the area, like Wailua Falls, which famously were used in the opening credits of the 1970s show, Fantasy Island, and an overlook to the 151 foot tall ‘Opaeka’a Falls.

Even though it was raining while we visited the Kuilau Ridge Trail, we thought it was absolutely beautiful—and I hope you enjoy it as much as us! Do you have any questions about this hike? Let us know in the comments below!

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