Kauai's Alakai Swamp Trail - Unveiling Koke'e Hidden Wonders

The Alakai Swamp sits at around 4000ft and is known as the highest swamp in the world.

Post updated: August 24, 2023

The Alakai Swamp Trail in Koke’e, Hawaii is one of the most unique and inspiring hiking trails in the world. Located on the western slope of Mt. Waialeale, Kauai, this trail takes you through a lush and pristine rainforest, across a boardwalk over a vast swamp, and up to some of the most stunning views of the island. It's a truly enchanting experience that transports you to another world.

We parked our car and started from the Pu’u O Kila Lookout, which is the trailhead for the Pihea Trail. The total distance is about 7.8 miles long round trip with an elevation gain of 1300 ft. The first mile of this ridge trail we enjoyed stunning views of Kalalau Valley below us.

Pu’u O Kila Lookout

The trail then turned right and quickly descended, taking us along a boardwalk through a dense forest of native trees and plants, such as the ohia lehua and the hapu'u fern.

Descending Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp Trail

As we hiked deeper into the forest, we heard the songs of native birds and smelled the fragrance of the lush rainforest before coming to a signed intersection in the boardwalk. If we were to have stayed straight on Pihea Trail, it would of taken us to the Mohihi-Camp 10 Road and ultimately to the Kawaikoa Camp and Sugi Grove Campsite. The Mohihi-Camp 10 which is an alternative starting point for this hike. However, it is a steep dirt road that is 4x4 only and best done in dry conditions, neither of which we had.

Pihea to Alakai Swamp trail intersection

Making a left we were now on the Alakai Swamp Trail and the joyous leisurely boardwalk continued. We then crossed the gurgling upland Kawaikoa Stream before ascending again...this time to the mystic swamp.

upper Kawaikoa Stream

The Alakai Swamp itself is a breathtaking sight to behold. The boardwalk that runs through the swamp allows you to walk above the dense vegetation and see the unique plant and bird life that call this area home. The swamp is one of the most important ecological areas in Hawaii, providing habitat for rare and endangered species like the Hawaiian gallinule and the carnivorous plant, the sundew. As we journeyed through the spiraling mist and observed rays of light bursting through at random, we couldn’t help but be consumed with the appreciation of how sacred of a place the Alakai Swamp is.

Alakai Swamp Trail Wooden Boardwalk

The trail continues up to the summit of Waialeale, the highest point on Kauai, where we were hoping to be rewarded with panoramic views of the island and the surrounding ocean. Unfortuntately for us, we only got the inside view of a gray cloud. Pressed for time, we were unable to wait for it to clear, so we turned back the way we came and headed for the parking lot. Even without the view, the sense of accomplishment we felt after completing this challenging hike is unmatched, and the memories and experiences we gained along the way will stay with us for a lifetime.

Boardwalk across Alakai Swamp Trail

But the Alakai Swamp Trail is more than just a beautiful hike. It's a reminder of the importance of preserving our natural environment and the fragile ecosystems that exist within it. It's a call to action to protect these areas for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. It's a symbol of hope and a reminder that even in the face of adversity and destruction, there is still beauty and wonder in the world. So, if you're looking for an inspiring and unforgettable hiking experience, the Alakai Swamp Trail in Kokee, Hawaii is not to be missed. Lace up your hiking boots, pack your camera and plenty of water, and prepare to be amazed by the natural beauty that surrounds you.