Sightseeing along Road 550
and the Pihea Trail

August 1997

Road 550 leads up from sea level into the mountains. If you don't like hiking, the overlooks along the street offer some of the best views on Kaua'i, and you don't have to walk for more than five minutes. If you like hiking, Road 550 leads you to the trailheads of some of the best trails on Kaua'i. It took us about six hours to enjoy the viewpoints of Road 550 and do a short hike on the Pihea Trail.

The weather in this mountain area is determined to a great amount by Mount Waiale'ale, which is the "wettest point on earth" according to precipitation statistics. Clouds form around Mount Waiale'ale due to trade winds every day, and it is raining a lot, while people are sun-bathing at the Pacific coast 30 miles south of it. Weather along Road 550 is chaotic in a way, and it depends on your luck what your photos will look like.

Iliau Nature Loop is the first viewpoint that you approach from the south. A short walk leads through an area where the rare Iliau plants occur, and you can have a look into Waimea Canyon. The Kukui Trail into the canyon starts here.

Waimea Canyon Overlook is one of the outstanding viewpoints along Road 550. Take your time and enjoy the beautiful sights into the canyon.

Kalalau Lookout is another viewpoint with excellent sight on one of the most beautiful valleys at the Na Pali Coast. Sunshine lighted the valley and the Pacific Ocean was incredibly blue. We returned for a second look a few days later, but we did not get a second photo, as clouds obscured the landscape completely.

A flock of Nene geese landed on a lane near Kalalau Lookout. The Nene goose is the national bird of the Hawaiian State, and these animals were nearly extinct, but their number is increasing now. They are unique in breeding within the hostile environment of the volcanic areas. It seems that they are more frequent on Kaua'i than on the other islands.

One of them posed for a photo. Don't feed them, as it attracts them to the streets, where they are endangered by cars.

Road 550 ends at Pu'u o Kila Lookout, and the Pihea Trail starts here. Although we could not hike all the trail, we enjoyed the opportunity to see more of the Na Pali Coast on a short hike of about one and a half hours.

Most sections of the trail were very easy.

It leads along the border of the Alaka'i Swamps, and we could have a look on this unique landscape. We left the Pihea Trail to get up to the Pihea on a short side trail. If you continue on the Pihea Trail, you can reach the Alaka'i Swamp Trail.

The last few meters up to the Pihea Lookout were steep. Roots of trees served as handles, it rained and the reddish mud stained parts of Carola's white T-shirt. A permanent stain, as we learned later, when we realized that the "Dirt Shirts" that were sold in the boutiques are stained with the same colors, just more uniformly in a professional way. The views from the cliff were worth any effort.

On our way back on Road 550 we finally stopped at the Pu'u Ka Pele Lookout to complete our collection of viewpoints, but now Mount Waiale'ale and its clouds were stronger than the sun. We could not see very much and returned to the hotel.