Your family loves to hike, so your Kauai plans have to include getting out into the lush mountainous areas to hit the local trails. When you’re choosing the trails and paths you want to try, the legendary Sleeping Giant catches your interest. Beautiful views, multiple challenging routes and a connection to ancient Hawaiian legends make the Sleeping Giant Trail in Kauai a must-try adventure during your vacation.
Spotting the Sleeping Giant
The Sleeping Giant is a natural formation found on Nounou Mountain in an area called the Royal Coconut Coast on the east side of the island. The shape of the mountain resembles a huge sleeping figure, which can be seen from the nearby town of Kapa’a.
Local legend tells the tale of the figure, a hard-partying giant who imbibed a bit too much at a gathering and lay down among the hills to sleep off his overindulgence. According to locals, the giant continues to sleep there today.
Hiking the Sleeping Giant Kauai Mountain Trails
There are three Nounou Mountain trails of varying difficulty, and because the three Sleeping Giant trails connect midway up the mountain, you can begin at any trail and still reach the peak. All three Sleeping Giant hike trails are out-and-back hiking trails, so you retrace your original journey on your return.
Before you start your hike up the giant’s head, pack some food and water for the journey and let the concierge know where you’re headed. You might also want to use sunscreen and bring a hat to protect your face from the sun. A light jacket can keep sudden downpours and hungry insects at bay.
The Three Sleeping Giant Trail in Kauai
The Kuamo’o Nounou Trail
Your little ones are eager to try out their new hiking boots, and your adventurous teen wants to take a selfie at the peak of the Sleeping Giant’s chin for her social media, so you consult your trail maps and plan a trip up the Kuamo’o Trail. The trail takes you up to an elevation of 680 feet as it winds through tropical rainforests, crosses a large pasture, takes you into a stand of bamboo and travels along a wooden boardwalk, letting you glimpse various types of terrain during your walk.
The Kuamo’o Trail is the easiest of all the trails up Nounou mountain, but it only goes partway up. Luckily for your active teen, this trail meets up with the west trail, so she and your spouse can use that trail to continue to the top while you and the little ones head back to the picnic area for a snack before you all make the return trip back to the trailhead. The shaded forest, filled with guava trees and Cook pines, provides protection from the sun.
At a total of 4.8 miles up and back, it might take you a few hours to make the full trek, but the hike is a fairly easy one. During the rainy season, this trail can get muddy and slippery, so wear appropriate footgear to handle the mud or choose a different trail if you prefer a drier route. The trailhead for Kuamo’o Trail is found on Kuamo’o Road.
The Sleeping Giant West Trail
If you’re traveling with active hikers who are always up for a challenge, you might opt for the Sleeping Giant West Trail, the most difficult of the three trails up Nounou Mountain. People who hike regularly should be able to handle the rapid elevation gain of the west trail without much difficulty, but beginning hikers may want to choose one of the other two trails instead and forgo the peak.
Gorgeous flowers adorn the cliffs along this trail, and the steep route takes you directly up the chin of the giant. The Nounou west trail is short, just under 2 miles, but with an elevation gain of 800 feet in that short distance, it’s fairly steep. You may need to hang onto branches or scramble over boulders as you pull yourself up certain sections of the trail. Amazing views of both the east and west sides of Kauai greet you at the top overlook, making the climb completely worth the effort. Plus, you can stop to rest at one of the picnic shelters near the intersection of the two other trails and enjoy a scenic lunch on the giant’s chest. The West Trail starts at a trailhead on Kamalu Road.
Particularly ambitious hikers might bring a flashlight and head up the path before dawn to catch a romantic Kauai sunrise from the top overlook.
The Sleeping Giant East Trail
If you and your spouse are proficient at hiking but want a trail that balances easy and hard terrain, the East Trail might be your best choice. The Nounou East trail is considered a moderate-difficulty hike. The 3.4-mile trail heads up the east side of the giant’s face and ends at a picnic shelter on the giant’s chest, an elevation of 960 feet from the trail head. The East Trail meets up with the West Trail about halfway through, so you can continue on to the peak if you want. Turning left at the place where the trails cross gets you to the top overlook, and a small side trail at the top leads to a wind tunnel where breezes blow through an open cave.
The East trail leads you through a dense forest. The lush vegetation and bird watching are the big draws. There are also plenty of photo ops at trail switchbacks along the way, including vast ocean and coastline vistas as well as sweeping views of the Wailua River, Mount Waialeale and the Hoary Head Mountains. Start your hike on the East Sleeping Giant Trail at the trailhead on Haleilio Road.
Hiking in Kauai is a must-do adventure that will get you in touch with nature. Whichever trail you choose to reach the peak of the majestic Sleeping Giant, start your journey at Koloa Landing Resort, the best Kauai beach resort. Call 808-244-6600 to book your private villa today.