Nonou "Sleeping Giant" Mountain trail
The towns of Wailua and Kapa'a in the eastern portion of the island of Kauai lay in the footsteps of Nonou Mountain Range, better known as “Sleeping Giant”, for the figure of a laying down person it resembles when looked at from a certain angle. The name was derived from an old Hawaiian legend about a giant who helped Hawaiians in building a heaiu (temple) for their chief. It took him 14 days to complete the job and after he finished it, the locals threw a luau in his honor. The giant ate so much he fell asleep and never woke up.
Today, Nounou Mountain stands as guardian of the east shore and the most iconic landmark of this part of Kauai.
Considered one of the best hikes in the Kapa'a area, the Nounou Mountain trail leads to a highest point in the ridge, right at the “forehead” of Sleeping Giant. The endpoint can be reached from three separate trails and we've chosen the path closest to our vacation rental, which in various trail maps is labeled the East Nonou Mountain Trail (FIY, the other two are called West Trail and Kuamo'o-Nounou trail) It's a 2 miles each way (4 miles round trip- 6.5 km) trail with around 1200 ft (365 m) of elevation gain. The trail climbs the mountain with a series of switchbacks with opportunities to see the East shore of Kauai and the surrounding landscape. There is a sheltered picnic area with tables at trail's end ,but you can continue a little more to get to the actual peak of Nounou. At this point the trail gets narrower with steep drops on each side, so use your own judgment. Do not attempt to hike past the picnic area in rain as it make the path extremely dangerous.
Below is a Google map you can use to get to the trailhead. There is a small parking lot so get there early.
As with any hike in Kauai, Nounou Mountain Trail can be slippery when wet. Please stay on trail (one nice lady warned us about a false trail people made that lead to, hidden amongst tall grasses, edge of a ridge). There are sections where part of the trail collapsed, so be careful. Wear hiking boots and take hiking sticks with you. It rains often in this part of the island, therefore rain gear is essential.
Nounou Mountain hike is a great half-day hike in the East side of the island and we truly enjoyed it. It was our first hike on the island, which happened to be a great choice as it is a good primer for more challenging trails Kauai has to offer.