Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii (Waimea Canyon) Guide

Red Dirt Falls in Kauai is the perfect appetizer for a full blown trip to the stunning Waimea Canyon. It’s one of the easiest waterfalls to access and it’s also a unique experience that will surely leave an impression on you (and hopefully not a stain).

But where exactly is the waterfall and how do you access it?

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting Red Dirt Falls in Kauai.

What is Red Dirt Falls in Kauai?

Red Dirt falls (also known as “Red Sand Falls”) is a small waterfall located in Waimea Canyon that is famous for its bright red terrain and otherworldly appearance. Keep reading below to find out how to explore it!

You might also be interested in: Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure Helicopter Tour Review

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Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii

Where is Red Dirt Falls in Kauai?

Red Dirt Falls is located right off Waimea Canyon Dr. (State Hwy 550) in Waimea Canyon.

Once you hit the city of Waimea, it’s only about 10 minutes up the road and it will be on your left. Look for it near mile marker 23.

Here are some driving times to give you an idea of how long it will take you to get to the falls:

  • Princeville: One hour and 45 minutes
  • Wailua: 55 minutes
  • Lihue: 48 minutes
  • Poipu Beach: 42 minutes

You might also be interested in: Hoopii Falls Trail Review | Kauai, Hawaii (Amber Mine)

Why is the ground so red?

The first thought from many visitors is this looks like a waterfall on Mars.

You’re probably wondering why the ground is so red?

Well, let’s start with the name of the canyon: Waimea.

Waimea translates to “reddish water” in Hawaiian — something that the entire island of Kauai is known for.

Kauai is the oldest of the major Hawaiian islands and because of that it had the most time for its soil to oxidize. The volcanic rock rich in iron oxidized over many years resulting in the red color you see today.

If you want to get even more nerdy with it, the red soils you see in Kauai are “Oxisols,” the most highly weathered soil order found primarily in the intertropical regions of the world.

There are five suborders of Oxisols but the only ones found in the US are in places like Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Living in Arizona and exploring a lot of red rock areas, I’ve seen all sorts of different shapes of red landscapes.

But I don’t think I have ever seen a waterfall running through such a bright red landscape. So this is definitely a unique attraction and for that reason alone I think it is worth a visit. I was really happy we made a pit stop.

Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon — The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Exploring Red Dirt Falls in Kauai

As mentioned above, one of the major appeals of this waterfall is that it’s so easy to access.

In Hawaii, it’s not uncommon for you to have to venture up or down steep cliffs or to hike through miles of jungle to come across beautiful waterfalls.

But in this case, Red Dirt Falls is literally right on the side of the road so it does not get any more convenient.

If you’re not able to park and step out of the vehicle you could just admire the falls from the road by driving by very slowly but for the best experience you definitely want to get out.

You’ll find parking at a turn out area on the side of the road. There is room for several cars but during peak busy times it might fill up.

Most people probably do not spend a lot of time checking out the falls so chances are a spot would likely open up pretty quickly.

If you’re using Google Maps you can input: “Stream and Canyon Lookout.” If you’re heading up the canyon, the pull out will be on the right side as shown in the image from Google Maps below.

(There’s also some parking on the side of the road a little bit further up but use your best judgment when parking on the side of a curvy mountain road.)

After you find your parking spot you’ll need to cross the road and hop over the rail but that’s all you have to do. It’s basically like a 30 foot “hike” to the falls.

Just be careful when you hop over the other side of the road because the ground is pretty uneven. Just look for the least steep path and you’ll be fine.

Also, you have some decent views of the lower part of the canyon on the side of the road with the pull out so be sure to check those out.

Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii parking

This is definitely an attraction that small kids can also explore and we saw several families with small children hiking around the falls.

Some people enjoyed hopping around the stream, spreading their legs over the stream, and doing other things of a photo bombing nature.

But be aware that one good slip on this red dirt could really stain your clothes.

Instead of staining your clothes with the fall, there’s another way to wear Waimea Canyon as a souvenir.

Buy a shirt dyed with red dirt.

Yes, there are clothing items dyed with red Hawaiian soil.

The “dirt shirt” industry came alive after the island was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. That was the strongest hurricane on record to ever hit Hawaii and it also disrupted the filming of Jurassic Park at the time.

It flooded one of the  small screenprint shops and stained some of the white shirts red.

Rather than throw out the shirts, the business owners just ran with the idea of selling these shirts as souvenirs and eventually the idea took off. Pretty amazing.

You can search for these red stained clothing items online or check out Original Red Dirt Shirts at 4350 Waialo Rd, Eleele, HI 96705.

Related: Jurassic Park in Hawaii: Filming Sites & Tours Ultimate Guide

Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii

There’s really not that much to see at the falls which means that you can explore this waterfall pretty quickly. One visit could easily be done in about 10 to 15 minutes.

For that reason, I would not plan a trip all the way to the canyon just to see this unique waterfall.

Instead, I would consider this site to be just one of the several amazing sites to check out at Waimea Canyon, which is a pretty vast area also referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”

For example, when we visited Waimea Canyon we did a hike to Waipoo Falls and checked out the various lookout points.

Red Dirt Falls was actually the final side attraction of our visit (although I wished we had visited it early in the morning before it got busy there).

You can admire the falls from the base where you’ll see the largest part of a waterfall pouring into a small creek.

You’ll notice a sign stating the height of the waterfalls at 86 inches. The sign also refers to it as “Maninimalahini Falls” which is a name that I have not seen mentioned in many sources but it sure is fun to say.

Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii

You don’t want to jump in this water because it is quite shallow and it’s not a swimming destination.

It’s also probably a very bad idea to drink from the water here because of all of the metals in the ground that surely make their way into the water.

With that said, I was surprised to see how clear this water came out with it running through the red soil.

Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii

If you’d like, you can take the faint trail towards the top of the falls for a different perspective. You’ll even have a view of the ocean from the top of the falls.

Red Dirt Falls in Kauai, Hawaii

Based on everything I’ve read this is a seasonal waterfall.

We visited in January which was during the rainy season and as you can tell from the photos above, there was a steady flow of water. But other times it may be more of a trickle especially if there has been little rain.

Sites like these are great to visit after rain because a lot of times the moisture in the dirt causes the colors to pop a lot more.

Final word

Red Dirt Falls is definitely a unique roadside attraction. It’s a great way to get a close encounter with the unique soil that exists in Hawaii and also to check out such an otherworldly waterfall. If you were exploring the canyon then I would consider this a must stop considering how easy it is to view.

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