Waimea Things to Do
Things to Do near Waimea on Kauai
Waimea, much like many of the other towns on the Hawaiian islands, was once the home of sugarcane plantations, a bustling industry in the state’s past. Now, Waimea is a peaceful retreat for many visitors, offering a glimpse into a calm tropical island life. If you’re wanting to see a sliver of Waimea’s foray into the sugarcane industry, look for the Waimea Sugar Mill, which is now decommissioned but was originally built in 1884.
Waimea isn’t necessarily the scenery that Hawaii is most known for, but that’s what makes it an essential stop during your trip to Kauai! Mountains and volcanoes, lush greenery, and patches of oranges and reds within the famous Waimea Canyon. If you’re an avid hiker, you can make the most of your time in the Waimea area by stepping foot onto the Kukui Trail.
Directions to Waimea
Since Kauai is a fairly small island, getting to Waimea means that you can fly into a number of airports. The furthest, but most commonly used airport is the Lihue Airport, which is located on the other side of the island, yet still in the southern half where Waimea also exists. Other airports that are closer to Waimea include the Barking Sands Airport and the Port Allen Airport.
If you’re arriving onto the island through the Lihue Airport, start your journey to Waimea by heading southeast on Ahukini Road toward Hoolimalima Street, where you will then take a left onto Ahukini Road. From there, after just over a mile, turn left onto Highway 56 South, continuing onto Highway 50 West when you come to it. After about 23 miles, you will arrive in Waimea!
A Brief History of Waimea
There’s a lot of history beneath the surface of Waimea. Did you know that Waimea is where Native Hawaiians’ first contact with Europeans took place? In 1778, Captain James Cook, a British explorer, landed in Hawaii for the first time in what is now known as the town of Waimea. There’s even a statue to commemorate the explorer’s expedition to and on the island.
In addition to Waimea’s place in Hawaii’s discovery by the British, the area was also the home of Russian Fort Elizabeth, where a defeated Hawaiian king attempted to form an alliance with Russia and begin to take over the islands as his own. Unfortunately for King Kaumualii, the plan didn’t come to fruition as the new king, King Kamehameha found out and stopped his plans.
Waimea Canyon is a state park on the island of Kauai that is commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, according to Hawaii State Parks. The park is a stunning collection of the world’s most incredible natural formations: waterfalls, colorful rainbows, tropical greenery, and, of course, incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. Get your camera ready!
To get to Waimea Canyon from the town of Waimea, head north on Highway 550 for approximately 10 miles, where you will eventually turn right to remain on the same highway. Continue straight until you see your destination on the left.
Polihale State Park
Polihale State Park offers its visitors a quieter, more serene experience than some of the island’s other beaches. Because of this, many people choose to spend an entire day among the waves here, and there are even camping sites and park facilities available for longer stays. The beach itself has large sand dunes. If you’re looking to swim here, it is possible but only in the Queen’s Pond due to strong ocean currents. We recommend visiting this beach during the sunset for an extra memorable experience (but, of course, the scenery is beautiful at any time of day).
This park is a little further away from Waimea, but we promise that it’s worth it. Your drive will take you around the southwestern corner of the island along the coastline. Take Highway 50 northwest, taking a slight right onto Kao Road, continuing straight onto Kiko Road. Quite quickly, you’ll want to take a left onto Lower Saki Mana Road.
When you’re on the island surrounded by the ocean it would be a crime to not enjoy the delicious fresh seafood around - and what better way to do so than with fish tacos from Island Taco! Island Taco serves fish tacos with fillings such as wasabi seared Hawaiian tuna, blackened mahi-mahi, cilantro-lime tofu, classic taco, and slowly Cooked Kalua Pork for those who don’t enjoy seafood as much. To make it that much more authentic, Island Taco makes its own tortillas fresh in-house.
Island Taco is found right in the heart of Waimea, around the corner from Hapokele Park along Highway 50.
Do you love shrimp? Then the Shrimp Station is a must! Enjoy shrimp cooked in endless different ways in a casual dining environment. Choose from dishes such as fried shrimp and chips, cajun shrimp, sweet chili garlic shrimp and so much more. There’s even a shrimp burger! Plus, you can top off your delicious meal with some ice cream to finish off the night.
Shrimp Station’s location is super convenient to visit if you’ve had a long day exploring the island and you’re looking for something close by and delicious. Just like Island Taco, Shrimp Station is found right in the heart of Waimea, around the corner from Hapokele Park along Highway 50.