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Wailua Falls on the Island of Kaua'i
Other Hawai'i Hubs of Interest
- The Octopus Whisperer of Kaua'i
A former resident of Kaua'i writes in admiration of his younger brother who has developed a reputation for being a skilled octopus fisherman. Even the wily cephalopod--one of the most intelligent sea creatures--can't elude this local Hawaiian.
- Childhood Memories of the Hawaiian Spiny Lobster
In Hawai'i today, the only legal way to capture lobsters is by hand. Hawaiian Odysseus fondly recalls a time when net fishing for lobsters was a cultural norm, not a prohibited activity.
De Plane, Boss, De Plane!
The high-pitched, elfish voice of Tattoo (played by French actor, Herve Villechaize), announcing the arrival of tourists to Fantasy Island, was an iconic hallmark during the popular series' run from 1978 to 1984.
Equally iconic was the visual image of Wailua Falls during the opening credits of that show. Resplendent in its idyllic Edenesque setting, the majestic and picturesque falls measures somewhere between 80 to 173 feet (depending on who's doing the measuring and how many bottles of island brew they've imbibed).
During my first 18 years of life, growing up on the oldest Hawaiian island of Kaua'i, I may have visited Wailua Falls maybe a couple of times. Sadly, it seems, when you grow up in paradise, you take even the privilege of that for granted.
So, it was with huge breathtaking and nostalgic emotions that I last paid homage to this lovely landmark in the latter part of 2010. Accompanying me at the time were my wife and adult children as well as members of my family of origin. My brother, Silas, captured the magnificent images shown above and in the lower right margin.
Wailua Falls is located just north of the county seat of Lihu'e. Malihinis, new visitors to the island, can take Highway 56 north out of Lihu'e to Ma'alo Road, Highway 583, on the right. After a 5 - 10 minute ride, you'll find the waterfall waiting for you at the end of the road.
Word to the wise--take a liberal amount of mosquito repellent with you. Just a few minutes outside of your car, and your neck, arms, and legs will have the telltale bumps caused by the bloodthirsty, vampiric insects.
Conveniently, there is a lookout located in relatively close proximity to the waterfall. While no hiking is required, there is a slippery, steep hike down to the bottom of the falls. The waterfall's pool is a 3/10 mile descent from the road.
The consensus of locals and tourists alike is that the best viewing time is early morning when the sun is shining on the water. You can see in the images to the right the magical result of water vapor kissed by sunlight--a beautiful, tropical rainbow.
Winning Entry for David Letterman's Top 10 Foolish Things to Do on Kaua'i
The falls can change dramatically depending on the amount of rainfall. While we were there, we saw a couple of brave souls walking out onto the top of the falls. This area is flat with channels cut into the rock from centuries of flowing water. Still, I can only surmise that the rocks are generously topped with algae, moss, and mud, thus creating a rather slippery surface.
Fascinated with the sight of these individuals cavorting at the top of the falls, I simultaneously thought of the possibility of unannounced and blitzkrieg-like flash floods that could, at any moment, come sweeping down the natural freeway to the falls. We were there at the height of the winter rainy season when such an occurrence would be the rule and not the exception. I continued to watch with ambivalence, astounded by the apparent courage of the individuals and yet mentally scolding them for engaging in such tomfoolery.
Then, all of a sudden, we saw a young woman emerge with her hula hoop. At the top of the falls, seemingly with no concern for impending danger, she began doing her own version of ancient Hawaiian storytelling.
Admittedly, I was somewhat appreciative of her derring-do as well as the free entertainment, but my brother, a local kanaka (native Hawaiian) to the core, had some choice words about her antics. I won't repeat them here, of course, but you can watch the YouTube video below that he posted soon thereafter, along with his editorial title.
Thankfully, there were no Garden Island headline-making waterfall fatalities that day. That said, however, this writer's stance is that a visit to idyllic settings like Kaua'i's Wailua Falls can be memorable, emotionally provocative, and soul-soothing without the element of dangerous or foolhardy behavior.
Many tourists have died in falls from the cliff heights as well as from no-warning flash floods. The deaths are devastating to the island community as well as the remaining family members back on the mainland. In the aftermath, long drawn-out civil suits against the State of Hawai'i and/or private individuals having some level of accountability for such deaths create unfortunate social, political, and economic tsunamis for all concerned.
Ultimately, life in the island paradise is best experienced as well as appreciated by utilizing good sense and a healthy respect for both the environment and the community.