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What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

Philadelphia...
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What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)? My husband and I booked an economy sized car during our stay in Kauai coming up in a few weeks. I have read that the roads are long/curvy/windy going to Waimea Canyon and the roads are 2-laned with no shoulder. Is it safe to drive roundtrip to Waimea Canyon from east Kauai in an economy sized car? Or is the expectation to have a 4WD? I appreciate any wisdom the TripAdvisor world can impart! :)

philadelphia
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1. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

We drove it today. We had a jeep but any car will be fine. Guard rails and plenty of space.

California
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2. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

An economy car is just fine--no need for a 4WD. Not a bad drive at all.

pzp
Kauai, Hawaii
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3. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

I just drove it this morning. Any car will do. The road is in good shape. There are a few tight curves on 550. Just take it slow going downhill.

Birmingham, Alabama
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4. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

Put it in low gear going down or you will be smelling the brakes! I have done it in various regular cars no problem.

Kauai, Hawaii
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5. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

A Mazda, RX-8, with 240 HP, Six speed transmission, and road racing suspension is realy great. We down sift into lower gears and rarely touch the breaks going down the mountain, where the automatic transmission rental cars are riding their brakes all the way down .

Waimea Canyon road is super fun for driving, the road is windy, but the legal speed limit is only 25 mph, and easily handled in small economy cars, which we rented for out 12 years of visits, before moving over and shipping the RX-8.

The only problem back in the old days that we had with a rental car was the rutted pot holed section of the road near the very end......that entire section now has been totally graded and repaved and is in excellent condition today. We hit a water filled pothole and blew a tire, and bent the rim, of the rental car. No worries, I changed the tire, and then took it to Denny's Repair shop in Hanapepe, where they straightened out the rim, and put on a new tire. We were not the only victims back in those days , but now no problem at all.

As mentiioned, any car will easily be able to drive waimea canyon road, the road condition is great, and no problem when going up......what we do see, is that most drivers do not down shift to low gear going down and we see brake lights of rental cars in front of us riding their brakes all the way down. Good tip by the poster who suggested lower gears, We have often wondered if their brakes were going to burn out from the heat and friction of constant riding , but they all made it to the coastal road.

Actually, a smaller car would probably be easier to drive on the road, as it will handle the curves much better than a higher weight many door full sized beast of a rental car.

We actually enjoy driving Waimea Canyon Road, up and back down. It is a beautiful drive, plus the overlooks for views of Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley. Totally enjoyable.

One additional tip. Generally if you look up at the mountain from your accomodations or as you are driving the coastal road and planning to go up there......if you see thick dark clouds covering the ridge, save your time, it is going to be raining, and at the higher elevation, thick low visibility fog from the clouds. You will not see anything from the overlooks, no view, the trails will be wet and muddy, and in our opinion, not really a safe situation.....might want to go to plan B and drive up on a sunny day.

We leave early, around 8:00 am, or so, from Lihue, to be up at our trailheads and hike to the vistas by about 10:30 or so.....many times later in the day the clouds come rolling in and views can be obscured......

bring those cameras, as the photo opportunities will be post card picture perfect. Another idea, we took one of Erica's photos, and had it enlarged on to a canvas..... very large.....of the Kalalau Valley.....beautiful and still hangs on our condo wall. Back home , your wall mounting might just stop friends in their tracks it is that impressive.

Edited: 26 April 2014, 15:44
Philadelphia...
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6. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

Thank you all for your responses! This was the first time I posted a question on TripAdvisor as I usually just read through previous posts. So awesome to have all of your responses to refer to..thanks again!

California
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7. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

We drove it all the way up to Koke'e in a rental that I swear was scotch-taped together. Really stripped. We had no problem.

Golden, Canada
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8. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

Drove it last summer in a Nissan Versa Note with no trouble whatsoever... all the way to the last parking lot at Koke'e... this is not a bad drive so pretty much any vehicle could make it. If you stick to the first option you reach, which is Waimea Canyon Road, there isn't even any downshifting required. In my books a mickey mouse drive.

Edited: 27 April 2014, 00:00
Oregon
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9. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

We have been to Kauai 7 or 8 times, never felt a need to get any more than an economy car. And it works fine. we have gone up to Waimea Canyon maybe half the time. We own a 4WD only time we use the 4WD drive feature is in snow.

To me 4WDs are for winter weather and unpaved rural roads. or very steep roads.

Santa Rosa...
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10. Re: What kind of car is needed to drive to Waimea Canyon (Kauai)

Keep in mind there are big tour buses heading up that road every day . That should tell you that it's really an easy drive. Any type of car will do. Any hazardous road conditions you may hear about the road up to the canyon are greatly overrated, imo.

Edited: 27 April 2014, 03:48