About Wailua Falls
From what I could tell, I recalled the opening sequence to the TV show “Fantasy Island” featured this waterfall. It has got a gorgeous double-barreled drop on the South Fork of the Wailua River with a reported height of 170ft (which is higher than the 80ft I think is widely reported in the literature).
Regardless of its height, we think of this waterfall as a drive-to waterfall and definitely worth a look. In fact, we liked this waterfall so much that it even made our Top 10 List of Hawaiian Waterfalls.
However, it wasn’t until after we left Kaua’i did we remember that there were unofficial ways of getting to the bottom of the falls. So we weren’t tempted with this option, but I heard that it’s steep and can be prone to injury (supposedly people have died trying in the past). We can’t say more about this, however, since we didn’t do it. Besides, we thought the views from the top were good enough.
I had read that the top of Wailua Falls is flat, with channels carved into the erosion-resistant pahoehoe lava rock from centuries of water flow. It was said that ancestral Hawaiian male warriors tested their bravery by leaping (often to their deaths) from the top of the falls. Even today the dirt paths to the top are treacherously lethal scrambles. This has led the state of Hawaii to prohibit further access by erecting closure signs and barricades. We even saw a memorial left by a mother who lost someone over this waterfall.
The moral of the story is that if you’re entertaining the notion of doing a little more with this waterfall than just driving to it, please do be cognizant of the risks and hazards involved. There are some mistakes you just don’t come back from (let alone learn from).
We pick up the driving directions from the turnoff at State Highway 583 (Ma’alo Road; just north of the one-mile post on the mauka or mountain side of the road) in Lihu’e. This turnoff was 1.4 miles west of the Hwy 51/Hwy 56 junction along Hwy 56 or about 1.8 miles north of the Hwy 58/Hwy 50 junction by the Costco along Hwy 56. Continuing on Hwy 583 (a recently improved two-lane road), we drove north about four miles until it dead ended at the Wailua Falls car park.