Epic Waterfalls

5 Must-See Gushers

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On an island that lays claim to one of the wettest spots in the world (Mt. Waialeale), it’s no surprise there are a myriad of magnificent waterfalls. Some are deep and plunging, others small and rippling. Some are so frequently visited, the idea of seeing them in solitude seems almost incomprehensible, while others are so remote they may be unknown to even Kauai’s most experienced trailblazers.

Kauai’s remoteness, even within the main chain, makes the island a natural magnet for rain clouds and ocean-generated moisture. As an island with peaks that reach 5,243-ft (Kawaikini) and 5,148 (Wai‘ale‘ale) and the sprawling high-altitude Alakai Swamp that serves as a natural slow-drip sponge, Kauai may be one of the most waterfall-rich places you’ve ever visited.

The Wall of Tears of Mt. Waialeale

Perhaps the best known and most important of Kauai’s waterfalls is the garland of water that falls like white, silk threads down the eastern face of Waialeale (literally rippling waters). The shape of this mountain (think of a baseball glove) acts as a perfect rain machine, catching warm wet air blown in from the ocean which, when it encounters the eastern flank of the mountain, shoots straight up over 3,000 feet where it encounters much cooler air and serves as a dumping point for enormous amounts of rain.

Ninety years’ worth of records (1912-2002) show rainfall atop Waialeale has varied from as little as 244 inches in 1993 to as much as 683 inches in 1982. The result of all this rain is, of course, a tremendous number of falls, all plummeting against a backdrop of deep, tropical green. This “Wall of Tears” will bring something to your waterfall-viewing portfolio you are unlikely to see anywhere else.

In order to marvel at the rippling waters of Waialeale, you are almost bound to visit by helicopter, which will buzz you in and out for a few brief awestricken moments. While there, you may feel as if you’ve left your body and ascended to another realm where earth, water and sky fuse in an ethereal state, but sublime symphony of green and white. Short of a helicopter tour, these falls are nearly impossible to see close-up.


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