Waimea Canyon in Hawaii: The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

It was in 1866 that Mark Twain first ventured to Hawaii and gave the isolated paradise a paragraph in geography books. The institution that sponsored his travels was the Sacramento Union. He wrote 25 letters documenting his journey, which have become a rich part of Hawaii’s heritage. While he never quite made it to Kauai on his journey, t local residents are still eager to write him into their history, and legend has it that when Twain visited the Waimea Canyon he called it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Is the story true? Nope. Yet a dramatic folk hero is not required to see that the name was well ascribed.

The Waimea Canyon

Of course the Grand Canyon is massive – hence the name, but Waimea Canyon measures up entirely in both history and beauty. There is a combination of natural processes that have formed the canyon over the past 5 million years. First, natural rainfall from the wettest peaks on the earth and second, the islands’ most important volcano collapsed. Millenniums of calamitous events and steady corrosion have formed a canyon that rivals any in the world. From top to bottom, the canyon measures 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 ft deep. A mixture of red rock and green foliage makes the canyon uniquely tropical.

When you total up these facts, the canyon becomes a must see destination while in Hawaii. If you are an adventurous hiker, you can make the canyon your primary destination for an entire week. Otherwise a day trip should suffice. Either way, you should be aware that the temperature at the top of the canyon is usually 10-15 degrees colder than sea level. If you decide on the day trip be sure to go on a small hike to experience the canyon first hand. There are a variety of hikes to choose from. A personal favorite is the hike to Waipo’o Falls. The trail measures 4.8 miles round trip. It starts right by the Pu’u Hinahina lookout, which is between mile markers 13 and 14 on your way up the canyon. Normally the hike takes around 2-3 hours.

Waipoo Falls

You’ll come back telling stories that will make Mark Twain jealous. He will turn over in his grave knowing that he did not visit the most stunning canyon in Hawaii – The Grand Canyon of the Pacific!


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